Bears and Bad Men (1918)

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Larry Semon's films were never strong on plot, but this two-reeler has even less of a story line than usual. It begins with the premise of two warring rural families, the Cutshaws and the Slawsons. Larry Cutshaw (Semon) is in love with the Slawson girl (Madge Kirby) and he is determined to court her, feud or no. A theatrical troupe is stranded nearby, and a couple of the actors ask the local idiot, Pete (Stan Laurel), to carry their trunks. But the trunks are carrying some unexpected items -- while sneaking off to see his girl, Larry has run into a bear and to escape, he hides in one of the trunks. The bear, meanwhile, climbs into the other one. Pete takes the trunks to the Slawson cabin, and when Larry gets out, he discovers he must not only contend with the bear, but also with a very angry Paw Slawson (Frank Alexander). Both Pete and Larry wind up being pursued by bears. This was the second of three films Laurel made for Semon. Some believe that Semon fired Laurel because he was too good of a comic, and Semon didn't want the competition. This is apparently not true -- Semon was generally willing to share screen time with talented cast members. One of his regulars in the early '20s was Oliver Hardy, Laurel's future partner. More likely, Laurel left to return to vaudeville when Vitagraph (the studio where Semon filmed) was closed because of the deadly 1918 flu epidemic.