Today is the anniversary of the release of the film Mabel’s Strange Predicament.
This is a historic film for all sorts of reasons. One is that it is was actually the first film in which Charlie Chaplin portrayed his “Little Tramp” character (it had been shot prior to Kid Auto Races at Venice but released after it). Amazingly, right from the get go, Chaplin’s character has most of the mannerisms we associate with him: the hat tipping, the waddling walk, the cane twirling. This is the first film in which he did his famous “corner skid”.
As indicated by the title, the true star of the film however is Mabel Normand. The plot, heavily influenced by French farce (as was much of the Keystone product of the time), has Mabel getting locked out of her hotel room in her pajamas and forced to hide under the bed of Chester Conklin, whose room is across the hall. Chaplin’s role in the film is much based on his most popular turn on the stage with Karno’s Speechless Comedians: a drunken masher who won’t stop harassing her.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history, and classics like Mabel’s Strange Predicament, see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube