Sunday, October 06, 2019

Not Guilty!

Károly Huszár / Charles Puffy.

US 1926
Harry Sweet; DCP, 10’
regia/dir, scen: Harry Sweet.
supv: W. Scott Darling.
photog: Otto Himm.
cast: Charles Puffy [Karoly Huzár], Elsie Tarron, Harry Lorraine, William Franey, Merta Sterling, George Ovey, James Donnelly, Joe Young.
prod: Universal/Bluebird Comedies.
copia/copy: DCP, 10′ (da/from 16 mm); did./titles: ENG.
fonte/source: Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio-Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA.
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
European Slapstick - Prog. 2 Next Stop Hollywood
Musical interpretation: José María Serralde Ruiz, Frank Bockius.
Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian by Underlight, 6 Oct 2019

Steve Massa (GCM): "Karoly Huzár, born in Budapest in 1888, was a busy European stage and film actor. After going to Hungary’s National Actors’ Society School, he made his professional stage debut in 1905. From then until the early 1920s he was busy performing in all kinds of legitimate theatre and cabaret. His ticket to the movies came from his popularity as the star of a series of “Pufi Huzár” (“Pufi” means “Fatty” in Hungarian) stage sketches, which led to them being made as one-reelers in 1914. The only rare survivor, Vig egyveleg, avagy Pufi es tarsai (1914), chronicles his misadventures trying to buy a pair of shoes. Looking very much like he does in his American comedies, it suggests that these were a blueprint for his later films. By the 1920s Huzár was appearing in character parts in well-known German films such as Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), and in 1924 he begins showing up in Hollywood pictures. Renamed Charles Puffy, he set up shop at Universal, where he became their answer to Fatty Arbuckle in a series of comedies from 1925 to 1928, which found him in the usual slapstick predicaments of trying to avoid an irate wife (as well as other wives’ irate husbands), being a tenderfoot Out West, or having to disguise himself as a woman."

"Considered lost for many years, Not Guilty! was recently found by the Library of Congress, and begins innocently enough, with Puffy and his sweetie going to City Hall for a marriage license. Things quickly spiral into a nightmare slapstick version of Kafka’s The Trial. The film’s black comedy comes from the writer and director Harry Sweet, who had his own unique sense of humor. Sadly Sweet has been forgotten, as he died young at 31 in 1933 and most of his films no longer survive."

"With the arrival of sound Huzár moved back to Germany and appeared in features like Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel, 1930), but being Jewish his career took a bad turn. He fled back to Hungary to get away from the Nazis, but they eventually caught up with him there. In 1940 he accepted an offer from M-G-M and tried to get back to the United States, but disappeared on the way. It’s thought that he died in either Vladivostok or Japan sometime between 1941 and 1943."
Steve Massa (GCM)

AA: Steve Massa has the nerve to compare Not Guilty! with Kafka's The Trial. Who knows, if Franz Kafka had not died two years earlier, he might have enjoyed this black farce. "An exercise in poor taste" to speak with John Waters, it taps into nightmare mode in its tale of a marriage license application turning into a threat of a death sentence in a murder trial. The film is also about everyday life in a marriage catalyzing murderous urges. Definitely anti-PC. A laugh success at Teatro Verdi. A digital transfer from a duped 16 mm source that has seen better days.


AA Facebook capsule:

The prolific Hungarian comedian Károly Huszár was showcased in a film belonging to his Puffy comedy series for Universal / Bluebird Comedies. Steve Massa in his program note has the nerve to compare the nightmarish courtroom farce Not Guilty! with Franz Kafka's The Trial.

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