In early July 1911, during the silent era of motion pictures, at David Horsley's Nestor Comedies in Bayonne, New Jersey, Al Christie began turning out a weekly one-reel live-action Mutt and Jeff comedy short, which was based on the comic strip.
The Mutt and Jeff serial was extremely popular and after the Nestor Company established a studio in Hollywood, in late October 1911, Christie continued to oversee a weekly production of a one-reel episode.
In the fall of 1911, Nestor began using an alternate method of displaying the intertitles in the Mutt and Jeff comedies. Instead of a cut to the dialogue titles, the dialogue was displayed at the bottom of the image on a black background so the audience could read them as a subtitle, which was similar to the way they appeared in the cartoon strips. Horsley was very proud of the device and claimed to have entered a patent on it. He advertised the Mutt and Jeff movies as "talking pictures."
The first actors to portray Mutt and Jeff in the comedy shorts were Sam D. Drane, a tall man noted for his resemblance to President Lincoln, who actually played Lincoln in his last movie, The Crisis (1916), as A. Mutt, and Gus Alexander, whose nickname was "Shorty," as Jeff. When Alexander was leaving the serial, Christie hired the small actor Bud Duncan. Duncan played Jeff in two installments before the serial ended in 1912.
I remember reading "Mutt and Jeff" in the comics in the daily newspaper when I was a small kid. I enjoyed them, but, watching this 90-year-old cartoon isn't quite as much fun. Two main things: no sound (literally none, not even some noises) and a very slow-moving story. At least the characters were drawn exactly how I remember them in the '50s and '60s.
Mutt's wife is going out and tells her henpecked husband to go to bed. He pretends he's sleeping but he already plans to meet his buddy Jeff and have a few drinks somewhere. After several failed attempts, they finally succeed. Most of the long (9-10 minutes) cartoon is him attempting to sneak out and then sneak back in later. Believe me, there isn't much to it, and, with no sound, it drags. The ending was pretty funny, though, I have to give them that.