Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in Leap Year (2010)


(director: James Cruze; screenwriters: Walter Woods/from a story by Sarah Y. Mason; cinematographer: Karl Brown; cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Stanley Piper), Mary Thurman (Phyllis Brown), Lucien Littlefield (Jeremiah Piper), Harriet Hammond (Loris Keene), Maude Wayne (Irene Rutherford), Clarence Geldart (Scott Travis), Gertrude Short (Molly Morris), Allen Durnell (Tommy Blaine), Winifred Greenwood (Mrs. Travis), John McKinnon (Mumford, the valet); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Adolph Zukor; Paramount Pictures; 1921-silent)
“It’s hard to make a connection with the outdated comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

James Cruze (“If I Had A Million”) directs this rarely seen slapstick Fatty Arbuckle vehicle taken from a story by Sarah Y. Mason and written by Walter Woods. It’s hard to make a connection with the outdated comedy, that comes from a different era and seems like a relic.

Jeremiah Piper (Lucien Littlefield) is a grumpy California millionaire living with his idiot nephew, Stanley Piper (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle), who falls in love with every girl in sight. Stanley is a good catch for the ladies since he will inherit his uncle’s fortune. Uncle wishes to protect his bumbling nephew from gold diggers, so when Stanley falls for his uncle’s nurse, Phyllis Brown (Mary Thurman, one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties), she gets canned.

The sulking Stanley goes to the posh Catalina resort to play golf and try to recover from his grief. There he meets Loris Keene (Harriet Hammond), a kept woman by the much older married Scott Travis (Clarence Geldart). When Scott’s battle axe wife (Winifred Greenwood) arrives, he gets Stanley to keep Loris occupied while he stays with his wife. Stanley’s stuttering problem gets him into trouble, as Loris thinks he’s in love with her when he’s trying to say he loves Phyllis. Later Stanley meets Molly Morris (Gertrude Short) at the resort and the same misunderstanding occurs, as after their conversation she assumes they’re engaged. Trying to get away from Molly, Stanley swims out to a yacht in his street clothes and the unhappily married society woman Irene Rutherford (Maude Wayne), someone he’s known for a long time, thinks he swam out to propose to her.

All three frantic women follow Stanley back to his uncle’s estate, and to throw them off he feigns an illness. Scott helps by getting Nurse Brown to care for Stanley, and after a madcap scene in the house the three women find other suitors and Stanley and Phyllis reunite.

At the end of 1921, Fatty Arbuckle’s booming feature film career came to an abrupt end when he was charged with rape and manslaughter in the death of actress Virginia Rappe, someone with a checkered past, during a wild party in Arbuckle’s suite at the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco. Theaters refused to show his films and the industry, worried about a sagging gate, imposed self-censorship to remove any objectionable matter from its films. Though Arbuckle was acquitted by a San Francisco jury in 1922, movie reform followed, with Will H. Hays, President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, soon to be made the industry censor. As for the hard luck Arbuckle, he was never able to recover his tarnished reputation and his career was dead despite the innocent verdict.