A Western Comedy, 1911


Alkali Ike’s Auto
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. B: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Augustus Carney, Harry Todd, Margaret Joslin. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1911

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“The movie as a whole is pretty typical of the pre-Keystone comedies of the time. We get no close-ups on anyone, relying on broad physical gestures and costume to tell us what we need to know about character and motivation. Editing is limited, usually just linking one sequence to the next rather than allowing for intercutting between scenes, and the slapstick action is mostly tame by comparison to a Keystone movie.”
Century Film Project

Augustus Carney (1870-1920) was one of silent comedy’s first stars, whose heyday was essentially of the pre-Chaplin era. Originating in British music halls and American vaudeville, he found his way to Essanay Studios in 1910. After a couple of random starts he was partnered with Victor Postel as ‘Hank’ in the Hank and Lank series. These were popular, but it was the following year that he struck it really big as the character Alkali Ike on a series of western themed comedies set in the fictional town of Snakeville. He became such a star that crowds mobbed him wherever he met, and Alkali Ike dolls were popular with children.
When Essanay refused his demands for a salary increase in 1912, he went over to Universal, where he got more money and became known by the less catchy name of ‘Universal Ike’. Paired with director Harry Edwards (later famous for his work with Harry Langdon), Carney became tempermental and developed a reputation for being difficult to work with. He stormed out of Universal in 1914, assuming a star of his caliber would easily be hired elsewhere. He wasn’t. He struggled along in small parts for another year or two, and then closed the book.”

>>> Gilbert M. Anderson on this site: Broncho Billy – The American Shot