KEYSTONE KOPS: THE TRUTH
HOLLYWOOD – A newly discovered and as yet unpublished memoir by key Keystone Kops actor – Hamm Shewness – has shocked the world of Hollywood with its lurid revelations of excess and violence. The Studio Exec has got hold of some extracts and publishes them below:
CHAPTER 1, p. 21.
The first film I was in, it was 1913 and Mack Sennett of Keystone Pictures was doing a flicker with Mabel Normand and wanted a crazy gang of background artists who could do falls, stunts and physical business. He’d got us all together. There was me, Hank Mann, Jimmy Finlayson, Edgar Kennedy and Al Swain. Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Artbuckle also donned the blue briefly but they were loath to share the screen so anonymously. From the very moment we all changed into our uniforms you could feel the sexual energy. It was magical. I don’t know what happened. Mack Sennett was out on the set waiting and he wasn’t a patient man. He came into the changing room to see what was taking so long and, boy, did he get an eyeful! But at least that gave him the title for the flick: The Bangville Police!
CHAPTER 3, p. 52.
As our popularity grew so did our sexual shenanigans. The thing was we all looked like each other pretty much and so once we were in uniform, I don’t know what happened but it became a free for all. It wasn’t even sexual really. It was something else. Something dark, Dionysian, something bestial. There are a few films that you see us all fall off a car into a pile. If you freeze the frame, you’ll see that within seconds copulation has started, like one huge amorphous alien being. It was disgusting and I’d come home utterly appalled at my own behavior. But the next day I was first on set.
CHAPTER 9, p. 119.
As the films began to wane in popularity, the stunts became increasingly violent and extreme. This was partly because of the demands of topping ourselves and our previous achievements but it was also because now violent hatred and jealousies within the group as well as widespread use of amphetamines – which at the time were legal – drove us into homicidal rages many of which you can see on screen. The stunts we planned were often designed to try and kill a member of the group who had fallen out of favor. In What a Kalamity! (1923) I lost three fingers and poor Jimmy Finlayson was hit so hard in the privates that his eyes crossed permanently.