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The Book Agent
boblipton26 July 2018
Eddie Cline directs Al St. John as a door-to-door book agent in this short from Paramount.

Like all the studios, Paramount had a short subjects department, although they tended to farm out a lot of their work to semi-independent producers; the Fleischers producers their cartoons, until the early 1940s, when Paramount called in their loans and took over the studio; Jerry Fairbanks produced two series, POPULAR SCIENCE and UNUSUAL OCCUPATIONS, until he went into telecision work in the early 1950s.

With the coming of sound, however, the independent producers of comedy shorts such as Sennett, Educational and Christie ran into problems and the big studios responded by hiring their talent and setting up their own series. While Paramount did not keep up their comedy shorts for very long, this one used several veterans.

Unfortunately, while there are some visually interesting set-pieces early on, most of it comes on as a series of decently timed blackout gags in which St. John braces a series of customers with only mildly comic results. Without the onematic techniques of silent films -- undercranking, a mobile camera, and so forth -- the inventive Cline was reduced to a static series of encounters that look cheap and not very funny. It remains interesting, but largely as a historical record of the era.
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