US Release Date: 10-01-1915
Directed by: Sidney Drew
- Sidney Drew, as
- Ferdie Crosby
- Lucille Drew, as
- Eva Crosby
- Ethel Lee as
Couples doing the titular dance in Foxtrot Finesse.
Foxtrot Finesse is one of my favorite early silent comedies. It starred the real life husband and wife team of Sydney and Lucille Drew. Lucille was an aunt by marriage to John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore and a sister-in-law to character actor Harry Davenport. She was half her husband’s age when they married. He was born during the civil war and she in 1890. They wrote and starred in many comedy shorts until Sydney’s death in 1919. Lucille quit acting after her husband passed away and died after a long illness in 1925 at the tender age of 35. Together they offered audiences of the day a more sophisticated alternative to the Mack Sennett type of slapstick comedy that ruled the box office of the early silent era.
Ferdie and Eva Crosby are a nice middle-class couple. They live with Eva’s stern mother. Eva has a problem. She’s got foxtrotitis. She can’t stop dancing to the latest fad. She makes up her face foxtrotting and comes to the table likewise. When his mother-in-law goes to visit another of her children Ferdie pretends to be sad but inside is rejoicing. That night he goes to a foxtrot party with his wife after her friend calls up to tell her that they are trying out some new kicks. Ferdie is so tired of dancing he pretends to sprain his ankle. Once Eva discovers the ruse she threatens to write to her mother to return at once. Ferdie jumps quickly to his feet and begins to dance. The End.
The comedy here is of the more subtle variety than you normally get in silent comedy shorts. It is essentially a drawing room comedy, relying on situations and facial expressions more than pratfalls and chases. Lucille Drew steals the movie with her exuberant dancing and general high spirits. The fad of foxtrotting may have long since come and gone but the gentle humor in this movie is timeless.
Sidney Drew and Ethel Lee in Foxtrot Finesse
I agree with Patrick, that this is a nice little old comedy, but I disagree about Lucille Drew stealing, "...the movie with her exuberant dancing and general high spirits." She is quite excitable, but I like Sidney Drew's reactions. Note the look of abject joy when his horrible mother in-law reads the telegram about her going away to stay with some one else. When she says goodbye to him he is laughing into his handkerchief but is pretending to cry. There is also his instant recovery when Lucille threatens to invite her mother back.
Foxtrot Finesse is a pleasant enough fifteen minutes of entertainment. There is nothing here that we have not seen in a hundred television sitcoms since. Can anyone count how often a television show has used a mother in-law as the butt of a joke? The Drews however, did it first and just as well as any television actor. It is their charm alone that makes this short at all entertaining.
Sidney Drew enjoys a cigarette while not dancing the Foxtrot in Foxtrot Finesse.
This is a nice enough little short. It's cute and amusing, but I didn't find it all that special. It's worth a couple of smiles, but it's just a 13 minute build-up to a predictable punchline.
I agree with my brothers that the Drews work well together. I'd never heard of them before this short, but they make a nice screen couple. There's a definite air of a sitcom about the plot.
The Drews may have used a mother-in-law as the butt of a joke before a hundred sitcoms, but they were ancient before Drew made them. The Roman author Juvenal wrote in the first century that "One cannot be happy while one's mother-in-law is still alive." They do make a good job of it though. Like Eric, I found Sidney's attempts to hide his joy as his wife's mother left to be one of the funniest scenes in the short.
Foxtrotitis, which we are told the wife has caught, is a joke that would have been more funny in 1915. The Foxtrot had only been invented the year before in New York City by vaudeville star Harry Fox. It would soon sweep the country and become the most popular of all ballroom dances.
A light and simple little comedy, Foxtrot Finesse is amusing enough, if not exactly a classic.
Photos © Copyright Vitagraph Company of America (1915)