John Emerson (supervisione: David W. Griffith)

Sog.: Tod Browning. Scen.: Tod Browning, Anita Loos (didascalie). F.: John W. Leezer. Int.: Douglas Fairbanks (Coke Ennyday), Bessie Love (The Little Fish Blower), Alma Rubens (la complice), Allan Sears (il gentiluomo), Tom Wilson (capo della polizia), Charles Stevens (complice giapponese), William Lowery (capo della gang), Joe Murphy (il valletto). Prod.: Triangle Film Corp. 35mm. L.: 534 m. D.: 26’ a 18 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

“Emerson and Loos have traditionally been credited with the ‘creation’ of his character; but the consistency throughout his films indicates that Fairbanks simply needed their assistance to translate to the screen a spontaneous and personal creation” (David Robinson). “Doug, you’d better give up scenario writing and stick to acting”, the scenario editor tells him at the metalinguistic end of Leaping Fish. A striking feature of Fairbanks at this time was self-parody, and Anita Loos, with the piercing precision of her intertitles, was best company. But they would not have been able to put together a story as crazy as this one, which in fact was Tod Browning’s baby. Coke Ennyday is a Sherlock Holmes-style detective who constantly shoots cocaine causing him explosions of euphoria and the hysteric dancing fits of a clown excentrique; when duty calls, he dons the obligatory checkered hat and is so devout that even his car is covered in damier fabric. Of course, he is totally inept, and how couldn’t he be considering his state as he is out and about? But that matters little. When he takes off his mustache and hairpiece – just a fleeting moment – Bessie Love catches a glimpse of his beaming smile, that smile that “cligne and scintille / sous la lumière de 15 lampes à arc” (Jean Epstein), and the pragmatic Loosian blonde that she is instantly decides she will keep him: “You have saved my life!” she cries, despite evidence to the contrary. The film has become a small cult movie, a piece of “slapstick surrealism” in some historians’ opinion, which is perhaps going a little too far; but surely in a world where it rains cocaine (the Hays Code wasn’t on the horizon yet) and with inflatable fish that look like Niki de Saint Phalle sculptures, a lot of fun is sure to be had.

Paola Cristalli

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