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The Hobo 1917
Description: Billy is a hobo who hangs around the train station. He creates disruption in the ticket office, at the lunch counter, and in the lives of some of the customers.
Released: 01 Nov 1917 Director: Arvid E. Gillstrom Writers: N/A Actors: Billy West, Oliver Hardy, Leo White, Bud Ross Genres: Comedy, Short
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See The Hobo (1917) - OLIVER BABE on youtube.

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See Billy West - The Hobo(1917) on youtube.

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See 1917: Oliver Hardy - The Hobo on youtube.

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See The Hobo 1917 OLIVER BABE HARD on youtube.

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See 1917 Oliver Hardy The Hobo on youtube.

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See Billy West(1917-1926) on youtube.

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See THE SCARLET CAR (1917) Lon Cha on youtube.

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See The Hobo on youtube.

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See "Backwoods Hobo Jack Goes on youtube.

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See Cisco Houston The tramp Woobli on youtube.

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The Hobo Reviews:

When watching a Billy West short, I've found that the greatest method to play the movie is not to compare him to the early Charlie Chaplin. This is very difficult, as he is trying to imitate Chaplin almost to the most minute of moves, but… Keeping this in mind (or out of mind), "The Hobo" is a fun tiny film. It really doesn't add up, of course. For instance, West is, sight almost unseen, entrusted with selling train tickets and running an eatery, but you don't watch these things to see true life. In 1917, it was an escape; so it could be today.If West had been the original and only tramp, it would have been an okay character. (Not a crucial aspect of filmed comedy, to be certain, but an amusement.) This movie is made unique by a fresh-faced Babe Hardy, though. His timing is very good, and it is fun to watch the boy eat in this film.If you play silent comedy in the Melody Hall tradition, and if you don't go into this expecting Chaplin (or the soon Oliver Hardy, for that matter), you ought to like this one.


At the peak of Charlie Chaplin's success, his 'Tramp' comedies were such solid money-makers that few another movie companies churned out counterfeit Chaplin films, featuring actors (including at least one woman) who copied Chaplin's costume, makeup, and acting technique as closely as possible. One counterfeit, a Mexican who billed himself as Charlie Aplin(!), was sued out of business by Chaplin: the others were mostly too obscure to be worth bothering with.By far the most successful fake Chaplin (both artistically and financially) was Billy West, whose attempts to copy Chaplin exactly were so conscientious that he even slept with his hair in curlers to duplicate Chaplin's naturally tousled appearance. (Ironically, West's black hair was genuine: Chaplin's hair was prematurely grey, and he had to colour it to enjoy the Tramp.) 'The Hobo' is probably West's greatest movie -- funny in its own right, and extremely Chaplinesque -- because West territories the Tramp in cases that emulate genuine Chaplin sequences. Leo White, who played a European fop in some of Chaplin's Essanay films, plays a related role here.Also on-hand in 'The Hobo' is Oliver Hardy -- pre-Laurel, sans moustache, and billed as 'Babe' -- testing the Tramp's hulking nemesis, clearly cast here as Billy West's counterpart to Mack Swain and Eric Campbell in (respectively) Chaplin's Keystone and Mutual comedies. But Swain and Campbell used their bulk to menace the Tramp; here, Hardy's hero is depicted as a glutton -- Hardy does some business with a stack of flapjacks which I found genuinely disgusting -- and this makes him too low an enemy for the Tramp's stratagems. Fanatics of Hardy will be disappointed at how tiny he gets to do here.The plot is easy enough. West, as a Chaplinesque tramp, descends from a train on which he's been 'riding the rails'. (This is a very American premise, which the English-born Chaplin would not have used.) At a whistle-stop station, with nice alacrity, the tramp persuades the stationmaster and his cute daughter to allow him take temporary charge of the lunch counter and the ticket office ... even having custody of the combination to the wall safe!Whenever I watch a Billy West film, I search myself spotting the methods in which his tramp DIFFERS from Chaplin's. In 'The Hobo' we see one of these early on, when West alights from the train and runs afoul of a railway navvy. Straight away, the tramp becomes servile: dusting off the navvy and clearly trying to curry his favour. Chaplin's tramp would have handled the case differently; PRETENDING to curry the man's favour, but then kicking him or otherwise defeating him. Also, in a genuine Chaplin film, the navvy would be played by someone who looked funny in his own right, such as Albert Austin or Bud Jamison: here, West merely plays vs a very ordinary straight-man actor. When a carload of cops present up, they look like normal American constables ... not Keystone Cops. Most fatally, the movie 'climaxes' with an argument, instead of a chase.When West's tramp meets the love interest (Virginia Clark, very pretty) he demonstrates his passion by clutching his hands to his heart and pantomiming its heartbeat. I felt that Chaplin would have handled this stage more subtly. One thing that West gets right is Chaplin's comic trick which I call 'conversion': Chaplin's penchant for treating humans as objects, objects as humans, or one object for entirely other sort of object. Here, when West sells the railway tickets, he measures them out like yard goods: an echo of Chaplin's archetypal conversion sequence in 'The Pawnshop' in which he treated an alarm clock like nearly everything EXCEPT an alarm clock.'The Hobo' briefly details an actor testing a Jewish stereotype. Even though I found this distressing, I had to give Billy West credit for precision ... since few genuine Chaplin shorts from this period also contain Jewish stereotypes.In one way, this faux Chaplin movie is now superior to the genuine article. Chaplin's skills as a director were minimal, and he famously boasted that he had 'no test for camera angles'. In 'The Hobo', director Arvid Gillstrom (who?) cleverly stages two sequences with the ticket window shot directly edge-on: this creates a 'split-screen' effect, with rival actions occurring simultaneously on both sides of the screen. In Chaplin's whole body of work, I can't recall one camera set-up which impressed me as much as this.Reportedly, the true Chaplin -- in his civilian rig -- once happened to pass by a road where Billy West and his poverty-row team were filming a 'tramp' picture. Chaplin stopped to watch the action, courteously waiting until a break in the filming. Then he went up to West and said him 'You're a damned nice imitator, but that's all you are.' I'd place that as a nice appraisal of West's career: a damned nice imitation of Chaplin, but just an imitation. Still, 'The Hobo' is funny in its own right, and better made than some of Chaplin's early Keystones. I'll rate 'The Hobo' 7 out of 10 for viewers who are aware that it's not a genuine Chaplin.


Because Charlie Chaplin was such a large star in the 1914-1920 time period, there were many shameless imitators that simply stole his "Little Tramp" hero and tried to fool audiences. Some of them were obviously not the original--they looked only superficially like him and the movies just weren't all that funny. However, Billy West was probably the greatest of the lot, as unless you know what you are watching, it's probable that you'd think this IS a Chaplin film. Plus, compared to Chaplin movies of 1916-1917, this one compares rather favorably and is much funnier than most of the earliest Tiny Tramp movies from Chaplin.In this film, like in Chaplin's, Billy is out of work and prone to slapping around the terrible guys (in this case, Oliver Hardy) but deep down is a great guy. He also agrees to support out a guy who works the lunch counter and this provides a several laughs. Plus, in these scenes it's nice to watch Oliver Hardy eat--he is a total pig and you just have to see it to trust it.



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