Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Mabel Normand feature Molly O (1921). It is her first feature with Mack Sennett following her return to him after three years with Sam Goldwyn. The film might have been sort of a comeback for her, but for the fact that she became embroiled in the scandal surrounding the murder of William Desmond Taylor.
The film is more a fairy tale romance (a literal updating of Cinderella story) than a comedy. It even has a fairy godfather figure, “The Silhouette Man”. Molly O is the daughter of an Irish washerwoman. She falls in love with a rich doctor (Jack Mulhall) whom fates keeps throwing her way, and it is requited, although he has a fiancé (though she has another lover) . The fiancé and all his friends sneer at her of course. And Molly’s father (George Nichols) disapproves and has another husband picked out for her, who turns out to be a brute.
It all culminates in two spectacular set pieces. The first is literally a Cinderella style costume ball. Don’t ask, just go with it! And both Molly O and the the doctor win the big contest! The father and the rival catch her with the doctor, disapprove — there is fighting. And in the end, Molly O is kicked out of her father’s house and spends the night with the doctor, who treats her with chivalry, don’t worry! Still, it turns out he has already married his fiance. Bummer!
Then we go to a scene where Molly O is kidnapped by the villain — on a dirigible! The doctor gives chase on a hydroplane, lowers himself down on a rope ladder, jumps onto the blimp, beats hell out of the villain, then there is a fire. The villain parachutes away. Molly and the doctor lower themselves on a rope, then land in water safely and embrace.
To learn more about comedy film history please check out 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
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.