With all the work of the major silent comedians so readily available, it's easy to forget about the other, less-known clowns whose work isn't as easy to find. Raymond Griffith falls under this category, because so much of his work is lost, and what does survive isn't that easy to see.
What struck me immediately was the endless parade of sight gags in the film. The opening scene with Abraham Lincoln meeting with his cabinet set up a serious tone that is delightfully contrasted in the very next scene, when Ray Griffith rides up to visit General Lee. The sight gags begin immediately, and in this scene reminded me of similar battlefield gags in DUCK SOUP (shells flying through the window, etc). Thankfully, the rest of the film kept up the ingenuity and clever gags found in this scene.Griffith himself is a very fun performer to watch. His characterization of the unruffled gentleman in the silk hat played very well against the overall zaniness of the film. I would really enjoy seeing more of his work. Mack Swain, always great, turned in a memorable supporting appearance here.
The length of the film is perfect for a comedy. It's one thing that pre-WWII comedies had as a major advantage-that they could end after 60 or 70 minutes and not have to hang on a lot of exposition and plot wrap-up for the mandatory 90 minute-plus running time of today.