“Teddy at the Throttle” (1917) is a silent comedy short starring Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery and Bobby Vernon. Directed by Clarence G. Badger, this film was made at Mack Sennett’s Keystone Film Company.The story begins with Gloria Dawn, played by Gloria Swanson, living with her faithful dog, Teddy, in a mansion also occupied by her boyfriend, Bobbie Knight, played by Bobby Vernon. They have separate bedrooms. Also living in the home is Bobbie’s guardian, Henry Black, played by Wallace Beery, who oversees Bobbie’s inheritance. A letter arrives from Bobbie’s rich relative stating that Bobbie will get all the money and not need a guardian as soon as he marries. Henry invites his sister, played by May Emory, to vamp Bobbie into marrying her to insure he stays in the money. Everything seems to be going to Henry’s plan as Bobbie ends up proposing to his sister. However, a second letter arrives that states that Bobbie only gets the money if he marries Gloria. If he marries anyone else, Gloria gets it all herself. At this point, Henry starts to flirt with Gloria. When Gloria finds the second letter and discovers what Henry is up to she tries to talk to Bobbie. A huge storm hits, and Gloria ends up chasing Bobbie and his girlfriend through the rain while she is pursued by Henry, who wants to stop her from telling his secret.
“Teddy at the Throttle” (1917) is an amusing Mack Sennett slapstick comedy. Only 18 minutes in duration, it is fast paced and totally silly. I liked how Gloria Swanson whistles for her dog when she is pursued by Wallace Beery, who was actually her husband at the time this film was made. Gloria would graduate from the two-reeler to the feature film less than two years later after Cecil B. DeMille brought her to Paramount and starred her in a series of bedroom dramas. Wallace Beery would finally achieve stardom in the early 1930’s. “Teddy at the Throttle” (1917) is a fine example of early slapstick comedy that features two future stars at the beginning of their careers.
Born in Chicago on March 27, 1897, Gloria Swanson was not a one-dimensional actress. Even in “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) when she impersonates Chaplin, as she had done in “Manhandled” (1924), there is evidence of a comedic brilliance. Early in a career that began in 1914 with the Chicago-based Essanay Company, she had been considered as a leading lady to Chaplin, but just as she rejected the notion of being typecast opposite him, so, later, she turned down Mack Sennett’s suggestion that he turn her into a second Mabel Normand. Cecil B. DeMille, who appears in “Sunset Boulevard” made Gloria a star in a series of six films, “Don’t Change Your Husband” (1919), “For Better, For Worse” (1919), “Male and Female” (1919), “Why Change Your Wife?” (1920), “Something to Think About” (1920), and “The Affairs of Anatol” (1921). DeMille sensibly cast her opposite some of the biggest leading men of the day, including Thomas Meighan and Wallace Reid. In the 1920’s, Paramount continued the star-making process, allowing Gloria free reign in the production in France of “Madame Sans-Gene” (1925). For an example of Gloria’s dramatic power, one need look no further than “Zaza” (1923), directed by Allan Dwan, with whom Swanson formed the perfect combination. With “The Love of Sunya” (1927), Gloria formed her own production company with financial assistance from Joseph P. Kennedy, who later became her lover. Kennedy helped promote her second independent production, “Sadie Thompson” (1928) and allowed her to hire Erich Von Stroheim to direct her in “Queen Kelly” (1928). Gloria made a good transition to sound with “The Trespasser” (1929), but her career was basically over by the 1930’s and, in large part, revived thanks to “Sunset Boulevard” (1950). Always a capable businesswoman, Gloria found an outlet for her energy and intelligence in many ventures. There were her fashion designs and her health food lectures. Gloria was famous for having become a health nut very early, a nutritionist before it was fashionable. She lived on a diet of seaweed, bread, herb tea, and organically grown vegetables cooked in her own pressure cooker, which she hauled everywhere with her. Despite all the foolishness of her personal life with its luxury, publicity, rumors, and marriages and divorces, Gloria raised two daughters and a son and never made any attempt to hide them or deny her motherhood. She never became one of those aging movie stars for whom there is no life and no laughter. Somewhere deep inside her there still seemed to live that little clown from her Keystone years. Gloria Swanson died on April 4, 1983. She was 86 years old.