|All a man needs is his pipe and hypodermic needle.|
|Every person in Hollywood today is wondering,|
How do I get my hands on that can?
You think Cheech & Chong took a lighthearted approach to drugs?
They're like the Moscow Art Theater compared to Douglas Fairbanks, who, as detective Coke Ennyday, shoots up regularly as Jay Carney obfuscates. No other movie makes mainlining such a source of zany comedy. Ennyday's regular reaction to shooting up cocaine is to giggle like a madman, swing his arms wildly and dance a jittery two-step. Put him at the elbow of Liza Minnelli and he would've fit right in at Studio 54.
Ennyday, sporting a phony mustache which he turns upside down or removes depending on his mood, is hired by the Secret Service to investigate an unnamed "gentleman" living the good life without any visible means of support. If that's a crime, somebody call the cops on Anthony Weiner.
|And it's even better on toast with jam!|
Ennyday's sweetheart, whose job is inflating the Leaping Fish, is kidnapped by the smuggler and his Asian henchman. Tracing them to a Chinatown laundry, the detective subdues the smuggler with a hit of cocaine, which sends him literally flying to the ceiling. The cops arrive. Ennyday saves his sweetheart. Fade out.
But wait! In the positively meta epilogue, we see Douglas Fairbanks (as himself) in the office of a movie producer, to whom he has just read the script for The Mystery of the Leaping Fish. The producer advises him to stick to acting. This was the last time anybody said no to a movie star.
|Subtlety matched only by Kim Kardashian.|
|If I have my way, this will soon be a common sight|
at Coney Island.
As with many movies shot on location at the time, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish provides a fascinating look at how provincial a city Los Angeles was decades before freeways and the post-war population boom transformed it into a sprawling mass of houses and traffic. The brief exterior shot of L.A.'s Chinatown shows an area as dusty and unpaved as in the days of Jesse James. What was once simply just another comedy is today an artifact of a time and place that no longer exist.
Some modern day viewers consider The Mystery of the Leaping Fish one of the most hilarious pictures they've ever seen. I've watched it a few times over the years and have laughed at two things:
- Ennyday's telescope doubles as a hat.
- Ennyday's sweetheart is identified only as The Little Fish Blower.
|It's coke time.|
Meta postscript: Alma Rubens, who plays the smuggler's girlfriend, died in 1931 as a result of heroin addiction.