He Wanted Work (1914)

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While ethnic humor is frowned upon nowadays, in the silent film era no one thought twice about it. In fact, the very groups who were the butt of the jokes often laughed the hardest at the blatant stereotypes. This split-reel Lubin comedy makes fun of both African-Americans and the Irish and was one of the studio's series of "colored films" featuring John Edwards and his wife, Matty Edwards. Although the director is not credited, it was most likely Will Louis behind the megaphone; Lubin hired him especially to work on this series. John Jackson (John Edwards) is anxious to find work -- not because he really wants a job, but because his wife, Mandy (Matty Edwards), is forcing him into it. He is hired at a construction site, but the Irish laborers refuse to work with him because of his race and they chase him away. In the 21st century, Jackson would bring suit against the company, but in 1914, he finds only one solution -- to make himself up as an Irishman. His plan is successful, and the workers are glad to have him there, until one of them squirts him with a hose. The white makeup comes off, and he is found out. Playing the foreman is a big guy by the name of Oliver Hardy, many years away from teaming up with Stan Laurel.