Date Of Production
One reel from the Library of Congress containing two film prints of works produced by Ebony Film Company in 1918. Grisham used these prints as part of his research for his documentary, The Very Last Laugh, which tracks the history of Ebony Film Co. and the work of Luther J. Pollard.
The films featured on this reel – The Comeback of Barnacle Bill, and A Black Sherlock Holmes – are 16mm prints produced from the original 35mm nitrate prints. The original film reels were extremely damaged, and sadly, no other copies are known to have survived beyond the 16mm prints that were later made in the 1960s to help preserve the existing copies.
Both films are slapstick comedies, a genre for which Ebony Film Co. earned its fame. A Black Sherlock Holmes features a character by the name of Detective Knick Garter, who works along his sidekick Rheuma Tism to help their friend, inventor I. Wanta Sneeze when he finds himself in trouble. According to records at the Library of Congress, the Chicago Board of Censors cut a scene of one of the characters thumbing his nose. The film’s release date is listed as April 15th, 1918, and features some of Ebony’s regulars: Sam Robinson, Rudolph Tatum, George Lewis, Evon Junior, and Sam Jacks. It was directed by R.G. Phillips.
The Comeback of Barnacle Bill’s storyline is perhaps a bit harder to follow given the extent of the damage, but it was also directed by R.G. Phillips, and the actors Sam Robinson, Yvonne Junior, and Samuel Jacks all make an appearance.
38 min 59 sec
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