Recommended Reading

"Smile When the Raindrops Fall: The Story of Charley Chase"

By Brian Anthony and Andy Edmonds
The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Md., & London. 1998.

Although this book was published in 1998, this is the first review by Silents Are Golden of "When the Raindrops Fall" - and it is most fortunate that, at the time of this writing (2012), the book is still in print.

It is fortunate, because, for those of you who may not have already enjoyed this carefully researched, well-written and loving tribute to one of the silent era's greatest comics, you still have that opportunity. Chase's story is certainly a sad one in that he died at the relatively young age of 47 - a death no doubt hastened because of years of alcoholism. He was sometimes unfaithful to his wife - and there were arguments and occasional separations - although he stayed married to the same woman for 26 years (until his death in 1940) and had two children whom he adored. He also had some occasional setbacks in his career, although it is a tribute to his talent that his popularity endured the transition from silents to sound pictures. So, there's much that another biographer could sensationalize, but it is a credit to Anthony and Edmonds that they chose instead to celebrate the life and career of this very, very funny man. The biographers also emphasize what a multi-talented man Chase was. He wrote and directed for others, as well as his own comedies - from Keystone to Fox to Roach and Columbia in the 1930's - contributing to the success of others such as Snub Pollard, Billy West, Paul Parrott (his brother Jimmy), Laurel & Hardy, Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly, the Three Stooges, and others. Actually, one of the saddest parts of Chase's story is his brother Jimmy (Charley was born Charles Parrott) who starred in a series of Paul Parrott comedies for Roach. Sometimes it was difficult to tell the two apart, but personal problems, alcohol and drugs brought about an early end to Jimmy's life, passing away the year before his brother at 41 years of age. Anthony and Edmonds recounted how close the two were through the years and how Chase felt the responsibility to look after his younger brother. When Jimmy died, Chase blamed himself and took the loss of his brother very hard. One of the most delightful features of the book is the occasional summary of a Chase comedy placed in a block on the side of a page. The summaries are short, but give us a little more insight as Anthony and Edmonds tell about the work that went into these short gems. Chase was a hard worker, a very private man, but apparently loved by all who knew him. Some of the reminisces by actress Ann Doran who starred with Chase in several comedies are charming and a tribute to the co-star and mentor whom she adored.

Although Chase composed many of his own songs, the title of the biography comes from a composition by Alice Keating Howlett and Will Livernash, "Smile When the Raindrops Fall" - although Chase was the one who introduced the song on film. The authors noted that although Chase's theme song was another tune entitled "Gangway Charley," this would have been a more appropriate theme because of lines like, "Dark clouds will fade away, dear . . . Soon pass beyond recall . . . So just smile at the skies . . . With those big smiling eyes . . . Just smile when the raindrops fall." (c. W.A. Quincke & Co., 1930).

With 48 pages of rare and wonderful photos from his films, as well as many candid photos (a photo of him holding and mugging with his new grandbaby is a touching personal glimpse into his life), the book is a treat, one that will touch the heart, and, after reading it, make you want to watch all the Charley Chase comedies you can find.

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