An until-recently forgotten silent screen comedian, Marcel Perez has been rediscovered and is now getting the attention he deserves. After the loss of his leg to cancer, Perez continued to write and direct both comedies and dramas until his death in 1929. This is his last scene, a dramatic role, from his final on-screen appearance.
Below are a couple of then & now pics from Perez's Tweedledum comedy A Busy Night.
Upper left is Perez as The Game Warden, one of sixteen characters he plays in "A Busy Night" (1916). Above right, is the same shot prior to the restoration of the main Eagle/Norman building. Today, it has been beautifully restored thanks to the preservation efforts of Old Arlington. The picture below left was taken 08JAN10.
For one who gave the world so much laughter during the early years of cinema, until just recently, it was believed that an unfortunate on-set accident would cost Marcel Perez the loss of his left leg. It was actually lost to cancer but his acting career, after one last movie in 1926, was over. Instead, he focused on writing and directing. A few years later, his health impaired from the worsening cancer, the career of this talented, athletic actor/writer/director came to an early end. So if cancer ultimately killed him, why would he hide the real reason?
For over 80 years, as frequently as Perez changed his characters, and his own name, one could assume that bitterness over being forgotten and ignored prompt him to die without a death notice? Or publish one under yet another name? Appearing as a cripple in his last film, was the scene where he showed anger over his situation by throwing his crutch onto the floor a look into his own state of mind at that time? His health was deteriorating. In medium shots, he appeared as youthful as the 17 year old character he portrayed. But in closeup, he didn't look well and every bit of his 40+ years if not older. But years earlier, Marcel Perez, an acrobatic Spanish circus clown, worked in France for Eclair and Pathé. He moved to Italy in 1910 to work with the Ambrosio company as Robinet (1910-1915), in which he was regularly partnered with Nilde Baracchi as Robinette. He created a wildly popular five year series of humorous misadventures as a scatter-brained and clumsy man often in wild chases usually resulting from the improper use of modes of transportation. He character began as Robinet but was known by other names around the world including Tweedy, Tweedledum, Twede-Dan, and Bungles but also Nauke in Germany. With war coming, in 1915 Perez would leave Ambrosio to carve his niche in the greener pastures of the burgeoning U.S film industry.
With works such as “Amore Pedestre” (“Love Afoot”) and his wildly imaginative Jules Verne-esque film “The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola” (1913), based on the novel by A. Robida, Marcel Perez was the Steven Spielberg and George Lucas of his time. He received billing under a mix of his given name and character names. He was billed as Marcel Fabre, Robinet/Tweedledum, Tweede-Dan, Tweedy and, of course, as Marcel Perez. His wife, actress Babette Perez (aka Dorothy Earle (1892-1958)), appeared in his Tweedledum series as his characters on-screen wife, Tweedledee. Many of his films survive to this day though mostly in private archives worldwide. Several have been exhibited in film festivals in recent years.
Above left is an original one-sheet for “The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Ferandola” (1913). Above right the book cover on which it was based.
Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola (1913) Italy & France/LOBSTER/78min. An exhilarating gag film - adapted from a pastiche novel by Albert Robida - that ridicules the Extraordinary Journeys. Raised on an island by Quadrumans, Saturnin Farandoul returns to civilization.There he meets incredible people, travels by balloon, becomes infatuated with a deep-sea diver, hunts white elephants...Réalisateur/Director: Marcel Fabre, Luigi Maggi Producteur/Producer: S.A. Ambrosio Scénario/Screenplay: Guido Volante Interprétation/Cast: Marcel Fabre, Nilde Barrachi, Filippo Castamagna
Some Hero (1916)/USA/Eagle Film Company/Tweedledum Comedies production/11min. Directed by Billy Dunn. With Manuel Fernandez Perez (aka Marcel Fabre), Babette Fabre (aka Nilde Barrachi). When his girl is kidnapped by bad men, Tweedledum springs into action.
Below is a newspaper ad featuring a Twede Dan comedy titled “Oh! What a Day” (1918). There were eight Twede Dan Jester comedies filmed in San Antonio, Texas by the Shamrock Photoplay Corporation for the Jester Comedy Company.
Scene below from Oh! What A Day!
The Tenderfoot (1919-scene pic below)
The Wisest Fool (1919/Jester Comedies/Sunset Studios/Directed by Marcel Perez) Below are a newspaper ad and release that include "The Wisest Fool" and a release about the gala premier party being planned for "The Forfeit" which was also shot at the Sunset Studios in Harlandale, TX. Note that it says other stars of the silver screen now in San Antonio may also appear.
In 1919, Perez made “Can You Beat It?” which was restored/preserved by the George Eastman House’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation in 2005. Perez next moved to Reelcraft and in mid-1921, most new Reelcraft production moved east to Yonkers, New York. Here, Aladdin Comedies with Bud Duncan, Mirth Comedies with Tweedy/Tweedy Dan/Marcel Perez, and Sun-Lite Comedies with Billy Quick were made.
Some of the films directed by Marcel Perez
The Way Women Love (1920) USA/Silent/Lyric Opera of Chicago Productions/Directed by Marcel Perez/Arrow Film Company/British Distributor: Mercury Film Service/ Cast: Rubye de Remer, Walter Miller, Tom Magrane
The pic above left is of a British 3 sheet for the film released through Mercury Film Service. The pic above right is of the press book for the film.
Luxury / The Unmarried Bride (1921) USA/Silent/Lyric Productions/Distributed by Arrow Film Company Cast: Rubye de Remer, Walter Miller, Rose Mintz
Better Man Wins (1922) USA/Silent/Sanford Productions/Starring Hugh Thompson and Dorothy Woods.
Blowing Bubbles (1920) USA/Silent/Reelcraft Pictures/Directed by Marcel Perez/Starring Billy Moran and Dorothy Earle.
A Peaceful Riot (1925) USA/Silent/A Blue Ribbon Comedy/Directed by Marcel Perez/Produced by Joe Rock/Starring Slim Summerville