Playmates (1918)

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The last few films Charles Chaplin imitator Billy West made with the stock company he formed at King Bee were directed by a talented young man named Charles Parrott. Parrott would eventually find greater fame in front of the camera as Charley Chase (as a matter of fact, he plays a bit part in this picture as a dope fiend). Like all of West's King Bees, this picture features Oliver Hardy almost a decade before teaming up with Stan Laurel. This particular two-reeler, as a matter of fact, has some similarities to the Laurel and Hardy film Brats because the two main characters are first seen as children, with the sets built extra large to make them appear smaller. Much was made of the fact that, during the childhood sequences, West appears without his Chaplinesque mustache. The story is a simple one (and not terribly original) -- although Babe (Hardy) and Billy (West) are raised together, as grown-ups they take divergent paths. Billy stays on the straight and narrow, even in the midst of poverty. Babe, however, goes in for a life of crime. Playmates was the last picture released under the King Bee name. Although several other West comedies were made around this time, the company folded and the films were released by different companies.