The Slapstick Policeman

When the first autotroph crawled out of the primordial soup and tripped over a grain of sand his friend laughed to much he cried and melted back into the water.

There has been slapstick since life began.

Now us me jump thousands of years.There, I hope that was not too uncomfortable.

Mack Sennet was the first to introduce Slapstick to the screen. 100 years ago he was playing Sherlock Holmes and thinking about starting his own production company. Within twelve months he opened Keystone Studios and the first in a long line of inept policemen fell all over the screens.

A silent bunch of frantically incompetent policeman who drive through the dusty streets hanging on to/falling off of/running alongside the police car, all waving their batons and ending up crashed or in the water.
Simple and dated now the audiences still knew that seeing a stupid policeman was funny.

The trend continued through the 1930’s as The Marx Brothers,
Charlie Chaplin,

Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and the Three Stooges rarely played policemen but they usually spent alot of time keepiing out og their way.

Abbot and Costello and Jacques Tati were in charge of the forties where slapstick was concerned but it’s policeman was branching out to other genres.

A great example of this is Jack Carson in Arsenic and Old Lace insisting on telling Cary Grant the plot of his screenplay.

I can’t let the early Sixties go by without mentioning Gunther and Francis from Car 54 Where are you? The two most unmotivated policemen.

Later on in the sixties the Stupid Policeman returned to it’s home in the form Maxwell Smart. Making him a spy just made it funnier.

It was in the late sixties when Peter Sellers was trying to make it in America that he created the groundbreaking phenomenon of Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Without Clouseau Blake Edwards Pink Panther comedies would never have seen the success they achieved. As far as his audience was concerned he could just go on making Clouseau movies but sadly that wasn’t enough for him. He worked and partied his way to an early grave.

Eddie Murphy made friends with two increasingly inept Beverly Hills Cops and The Keystone Cops were updated in the trashy form of Police Academy.

It was not until Frank Drebin rose out of the files of Police Squad that the slapstick policeman saw his next classic incarnation. Borrowing from Clouseau with a more wacky world in which to work he consistently make leaving a room while destroying the only precious objects in it funnier and funnier as the movies slid by us on banana peels.

Since then there have been popular movies Ace Ventura, Inspector Gadget and Super Troopers (it did well but I haven’t got around to seeing it) but i’m afraid there haven’t been any truely outstanding characters.

The turn of the stupid policeman will come again, and again, and again.

Did I miss any of your favourites?

Just one more thing.

The film Tillie’s Punctured Romance 1914 was the last time Charlie Chaplin did what?

If you would care to find out let me know.

and a last clip just forfun


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