Arbuckle and Normand in “That Little Band of Gold”

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of That Little Band of Gold (1915), directed by Fatty Arbuckle, and starring Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling.

This little movie feels a trifle more mature and sophisticated than the usual Keystone comedy, if ever so slightly, touching on the consequences of infidelity, and having notes of pathos. Fatty and Mabel are a wealthy married couple, but Fatty has become a rogue. Mabel and her mother (Alice Davenport) are preparing to go to the opera one night and Fatty comes home sloshed and makes a play for the maid. When the three finally get to the opera house, Fatty spies his friend (Sterling) and his two lady friends and they plot to meet up later so Fatty can make up a fourth. When he joins them later at a nightclub, Fatty steals the girl Ford had his eye on, so Ford blows the whistle on him to Mabel. So far, a run of the mill Sennett farce. But then Fatty and Mabel get divorced! And Fatty is blue. So they get re-married almost immediately.

What’s interesting to me about this film is that it reminds me of a cruder version of Lubitsch — who wouldn’t be making his sophisticated comedies in America until almost a decade later. I’m also interested in the unrealized potential of Arbuckle as a director. He could stretch when he wanted to, but he oddly didn’t always want to. Strangely, many of his late films for Sennett are much more sophisticated storywise than his solo comedies for Comique, which came later but were straight ahead slapstick. Arbuckle was an artisan, sometimes a lazy one, but if he hadn’t died so young in 1933 he might have gone on to do some interesting things as a director.

For more on comedy film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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One comment

  1. […] “This little movie feels a trifle more mature and sophisticated than the usual Keystone comedy, if ever so slightly, touching on the consequences of infidelity, and having notes of pathos. (…) What’s interesting to me about this film is that it reminds me of a cruder version of Lubitsch — who wouldn’t be making his sophisticated comedies in America until almost a decade later. I’m also interested in the unrealized potential of Arbuckle as a director. He could stretch when he wanted to, but he oddly didn’t always want to. Strangely, many of his late films for Sennett are much more sophisticated storywise than his solo comedies for Comique, which came later but were straight ahead slapstick. Arbuckle was an artisan, sometimes a lazy one, but if he hadn’t died so young in 1933 he might have gone on to do some interesting things as a director.” Trav S.D. Travalanche […]

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