Unboxing the Silents: John Bunny, Film’s First King of Comedy

Today, we’re going to be looking at a disc designed to bring John Bunny back into the limelight. One of the very first international comedy superstars, Bunny is unfairly forgotten and most of his films are lost. This new documentary is presented with four films from Bunny’s prime.

Thanks to Tony Susnick for providing a review copy.

Click for more info or to purchase.

The Documentary

The main attraction is a 41 minute documentary on John Bunny by Tony Susnick. It covers Bunny’s start in pictures, a brief history of the beginning of Vitagraph and the tragic death of a comedy giant in 1915.

The documentary brings out that Bunny had an enormous international following, particularly in Britain and Russia, but he had the misfortune to pass away just as Chaplinmania was revving up. Like Florence Lawrence, Bunny is likely more familiar to film buffs via still images than his onscreen work and that is a pity. All silent stars are meant to be seen in motion.

The disc also contains an additional 31 minute interview with archivist Sam Gill.

Bunny as Teddy Roosevelt in his “Bunny in Funnyland” revue.

The Films

In all, the disc includes two hours and twenty minutes of content and most of it is made up of the films of John Bunny. There are four titles included, all scored by Ben Model.

Bunny’s Dilemma (1913)

Bunny is being set up by Flora Finch and he’s not having it! In order to evade her matchmaking, he disguises himself as the maid.

Kitty and the Cowboys (1911)

Bunny dons a skirt again when he poses as “Kitty,” his own sister, in this western comedy short. The ending is missing, supplemented by an explanatory title card, so this is a very rare picture indeed.

Hearts and Diamonds (1914)

A baseball-themed comedy with Flora Finch back as Bunny’s foil.

The Feudists (1913)

This is the highlight of the set for me because Bunny and Finch are teamed with my beloved Sidney Drew. They play feuding neighbors in a kind of backyard Romeo and Juliet story. The comedy is a bit more physical as the battle escalates but the Vitagraph style is still evident.

Availability

This is a great package for yourself or the comedy nerd in your life. The DVD can be purchased through Amazon.

***

Like what you’re reading? Please consider sponsoring me on Patreon. All patrons will get early previews of upcoming features, exclusive polls and other goodies.

4 Replies to “Unboxing the Silents: John Bunny, Film’s First King of Comedy”

  1. Who can resist John Bunny? Be he solo, paired with Sidney Drew and others, or working hand-in-glove with the delightful Flora Finch, Bunny is magical on the screen. Ordered as a holiday gift for my favorite comedy nerd ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. I love John Bunny! My first exposure to nickelodeon-era film was seeing A Cure for Pokeritis at the Nickelodeon in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry about 1975 or so. I must have seen it five or six times that day, and even dragged a couple of friends in to watch it (they were less than impressed, but I was spellbound).

    Many of Bunny’s films still exist at the EYE Institute (along with a lot of early silent films), albeit with Dutch subtitles. They have a YouTube channel, and it’s a lot of fun to sift through their collection, You don’t need to read Dutch to understand most of what’s going on, but it doesn’t hurt to have Google Translate nearby just in case.

Comments open for 90 days. Comment policy is found in the sidebar menu.