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Film / Leap Year (1921)

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Leap Year is a 1921 romantic comedy film directed by James Cruze, starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

Stanley Piper (Arbuckle) is a wealthy young man who lives in a lavish mansion with his uncle Jeremiah. Stanley is in love with his uncle's nurse, Phyllis. When Jeremiah fires Phyllis in a fit of pique, Stanley asks her to marry him. Unfortunately for Stanley he has a reputation for being a "trifler" who falls in love with every girl he meets. Phyllis demands that he prove he isn't a skirt chaser. Uncle Jeremiah, in a misguided attempt to keep Stanley away from women, sends him on a "fishing trip" where there won't be any women—to Catalina Island, which is packed with eligible young women.

"Leap Year" was a feature film, one of only a couple that Arbuckle made before the September 1921 death of Virginia Rappe led to Arbuckle being falsely accused of rape and murder. The film was shelved, receiving only a limited release in Europe in 1924. It is more of a romantic comedy than the knockabout slapstick Arbuckle was famous for, and is an indication of how he might have grown as a filmmaker if tragedy hadn't intervened. It was a Missing Episode in America for decades before receiving an art-house release in 1981.

Not to be confused with the Amy Adams rom com Leap Year. Oddly, does not feature Leap Day.

Leap Year provides examples of:

  • Accidental Proposal: Poor Stanley does this three times in rapid succession on Catalina. He kind of brings it on himself, like when he tells Molly "what you need is a husband" after Molly has a breakup with her boyfriend.
  • Acrofatic: Arbuckle was known for his nimbleness despite his size. Here he dances a graceful jig after Phyllis tells him she's open to a proposal, and he shows more skills when faking seizures later.
  • Deus ex Machina: Out of nowhere, the Piper butler, Mumford, gets a telegram notifying him he's inherited an earldom in England. This gets rid of one of Stanley's fiancées when Irene decides to become Lady Mumford.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Stanley's effort to fake epilepsy to get his fiancées to go away fails disastrously, as all three dedicate themselves to nursing him.
  • Idle Rich: Stanley can take pleasure trips to Catalina but he doesn't seem to have a job.
  • Medium Awareness: The first title card says "The opening scene of the trouble is a shot of Piper Hall, with a doctor approaching the house." Then the film actually does start with such a shot. Other scene transitions are similarly announced. At the end the characters are self aware as well. After Phyllis accepts Fatty's proposal of marriage, he shakes her hand and says "Thanks! Let's have a fade out without the usual clinch!" And that's what happens as the movie ends.
  • Missed Him by That Much: A comic sequence in which all three of Stanley's unwanted fiancées cycle in and out of his bedroom, ministering to him, each barely missing the others as they flit in and out.
  • The Mistress: It's genuinely unclear. Scott is tagging around with Loris, who is gorgeous and much younger than him and calls him "Daddy", and he doesn't want his wife to know. On the other hand he insists it's innocent, and he's cheerful enough when Loris announces she's engaged to Stanley.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Leap Year". Why? It certainly has nothing to do with Feb. 29.
  • Playing Sick: Stanley fakes seizures to get his three unwanted admirers to go away, and when that fails, he fakes a contagious disease.
  • Rule of Three: Stanley meets one, two, three young women on Catalina Island—Loris, Molly, and Irene—and manages to get engaged to all of them.
  • '20s Bob Haircut: Mary Thurman, who plays Phyllis, wears the bob that later would be strongly associated with Colleen Moore and Louise Brooks. (She bears a strong resemblance to Brooks, actually.)