Plot: As lunchtime approaches at a sawmill, the owner’s daughter (Kathleen O’Connor) arrives to deliver some meals and good cheer, to bolster the spirits of the workers. This pleases everyone on the site, but when she brings some food to one of the mill’s more hapless workers (Larry Semon), it upsets the mill foreman (Oliver Hardy). Soon enough, a number of the mill workers are drawn into a chase, as the foreman tries to get a hold of our hero, with no luck. As he is chased all over the mill and all manner of mishaps unfold around him, he just wants to get back to the owner’s daughter and try to have a quiet lunch.
Entertainment Value: The Sawmill was one of the most expensive silent shorts ever made and it is obvious why, as this is about twenty minutes of one large scale, daredevil set piece after another. I can’t believe everyone survived this production, given some of the wild, over the top stunts involved. The sawmill location offers a wealth of potential for physical stunts, many of which seem beyond dangerous and are hair raising to watch, even now. In an era of green screens, CGI, and stunt people for even the smallest set pieces, this kind of high risk, show stopping entertainment is a revelation. I was drawn to The Sawmill because of Oliver Hardy, who has a fun role as the camp foreman, but the lead here is Larry Semon. His work here is risky and breakneck, rarely slowing down even for a moment, just going from one set piece or burst or humor to the next, not a simple assignment. I suppose you could nitpick about it just being stunts and slapstick, but to me, that is not a reason to complain. The Sawmill is a fun watch and packed with laughs and daredevil moments, so it is well recommended.