Archive for the Mabel Normand Category

Chaplin, Swain, Normand et al are GETTING ACQUAINTED

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comedy, Mabel Normand, Silent Film with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Keystone comedy Getting Acquainted, written and directed by Charlie Chaplin. Though Charlie is at the helm and the titular star of this short, like most of his Keystone pictures (and most of the Keystone product) it’s an ensemble picture. And like so many films from this period, it’s a farce set in a park. Mack Swain (as his usual character Ambrose) and Mabel Normand play one couple, Chaplin and Phyllis Allen play another. Charlie starts flirting with the fetching Cecile Arnold, who is there with “a Passing Turk”, dressed in what looks like a wizard outfit (Glen Cavender). Then Charlie flirts with Mabel as Ambrose helps a stalled driver get his car going. Irritated by Charlie’s attention, Mabel calls a cop (Edgar Kennedy), who starts chasing Charlie and then accidentally hits the Turk with his nightstick. Meanwhile Ambrose returns and begins flirting with Charlie’s wife. Then SHE calls a cop. The wives sit together. Then Charlie and Ambrose meet and are nabbed by the cop, who proceeds to bring them over to the ladies to ID as perps. The wives reclaim their husbands…who then continue to hit on each other’s wives as they are led off.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see my 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 find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Chaplin, Normand & Co. in “Gentlemen of Nerve”

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by travsd

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Today marks the anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin/ Keystone comedy Gentlemen of Nerve. This is one of what I call the ad hoc/ improv type silent comedies, shot at an actual car race. There is a nice feeling of ensemble in this little comedy, a confidence that bespeaks a gang of comedians that have been playing together for several months are just now coming into their own creatively.

Chester Conklin and Mabel Normand play a couple who come to watch the car race. As soon as they sit down in the stands, Chester starts flirting with a homely woman in a crazy hat (Phyllis Allen). Mabel pulls his nose to get him to stop. Meanwhile Chaplin and Mack Swain tussle about trying to enter the track. They shake hands. Then they try to sneak in through the fence. Whereupon Swain gets stuck. Charlie goes under his legs and through. A Keystone Kop  helps Mack out. Then Chaplin begins flirting with Mabel, pushing Conklin out of the way. By the end of the film, with much fooling around in between, Chaplin winds up with TWO girls.

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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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These Are the Female Silent Comedians

Posted in Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film, Stars of Slapstick, Women with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by travsd

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On Tuesdays and Thursdays in October, Turner Classic Movies will be presenting a series of programs called Trailblazing Women, hosted by none other than Ileana Douglas. 

This seemed an auspicious time for me to publish this little listicle I was planning anyway on the women of silent comedy. This is sort of a follow-up to my earlier post in which I ranked the silent comedians.  I thought up this post because dames necessarily got short shrift on the earlier list, which was focused on slapstick comedy stars. If we did such a list today, bang, zoom, no problem. Melissa McCarthy not only heads that list, but at the present moment she is my favorite contemporary slapstick star, male or female. I’m here to tell ya she has changed the entire playing field.

But a century ago, or 80 or 90 years ago? There were plenty of female comedy stars but it was rare for them to have violence done to them for all sorts of cultural reasons you already know. I’m not saying no lady ever took a pie in the face. It’s a question of ratio and proportion and what the primary associations are. The biggest female movie stars associated with comedies might best be called comic actresses (as opposed to slapstick clowns) and they may also have acted in many non-comic roles. That’s one type. Another type are the leading ladies to the major comedians. They definitely had an important role to play in the comedy, but their parts were generally more passive and reactive. They were beauties to be adored — not slobs to throw down the stairs. A third type would be the lady slapstick clown in an ensemble — important, but not a marquee name that would be above the title to sell a picture. And a fourth type would be a lady slapstick star for real….but not a major ticket-selling star (as were the artists who made that list I previously posted) But they deserve notice and celebration, so they get THIS list. There’s a lot of ’em. Probably more than you knew existed, and I didn’t even list them all.

I flirted with ranking them, but I can’t, really. So this is a just a list in no particular order (with some of the bigger ones toward the top). Click on her name and get info about the artist! (Oh yeah, I’m gonna make you work for it).

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Mabel Normand

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Constance Talmadge

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Gloria Swanson 

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Marion Davies

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Colleen Moore

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Edna Purviance

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Alice Howell

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Gale Henry

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Louise Fazenda

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Bebe Daniels

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Mildred Davis

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Jobyna Ralston

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Sybil Seeley

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Kathryn McGuire

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Marie Prevost

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Phyllis Haver

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Minta Durfee

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Flora Finch

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Alberta Vaughn

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Alice Lake

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Dorothy Devore

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Virginia Fox 

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Marion “Peanuts” Byron 

ca. 1920's --- Anita Garvin models pearl beaded outfit in front of large feather fan. Undated photograph. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Anita Garvin

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Dot Farley

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Madeline Hurlock

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Phyllis Allen 

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Dorothy Dwan

And many, many others, no doubt — but please don’t write to tell me “You forgot such and such!” or “Don’t forget X, Y and Z!”. Or (in spite of all my qualifiers and caveats) “So-and-so isn’t really a comedian.” You may have noticed by now I seldom publish or acknowledge such “contributions”. Feel free to start your own blog if you have an opinion you’d like to express!

For more on silent comedy please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Mabel Normand & Charlie Chaplin in “Mabel’s Married Life”

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film, Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of Mabel’s Married Life (1914), directed by Mack Sennett and starring Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. 

In this film Charlie plays a character somewhat unlike his more recognized Little Fellow. Here he is a middle class husband in a top hat. And Normand, not Chaplin, is still the above-the-title star at this early stage.

There are several ironclad laws in the Keystone universe. One of them is, if you are in the park with your wife NEVER LEAVE HER ALONE ON A PARK BENCH. Mabel plays Charlie’s wife in this one, and the instant he steps away, masher Mack Swain shows up to harass her. When he gets back, Charlie doesn’t do much to punish the man. Later, Mabel brings home a dressmaker’s dummy for Charlie to practice punching on. That night, he comes home three sheets to the wind, mistakes the dummy for a prowler, and has a hilarious fight with it.

Check it out on youtube! I used to have it here embedded but some mental defective or warped busybody felt the need to remove it.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including minor Keystone classics like “Mabel’s Married Life” don’t miss my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

 

 

Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin Fight Over Franks in “Mabel’s Busy Day”

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film, Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release of the all-star Keystone comedy Mabel’s Busy Day (1914).

This is one of those shorts that, rather annoyingly, nowadays gets marketed and written about as a “Chaplin comedy”, though the star is Mabel Normand and the director is Mack Sennett. Chaplin has an important role, but he is a supporting player.

Mabel’s Busy Day is one of many Keystone films improvised at a live event, in this case,  a car race. The disposition of a box of hot dogs constitutes the entirety of the plot. Mabel is a seller of frankfurters. But she is not doing very well. She is sad and discouraged. Most people aren’t buying her hot dogs, although several steal some. Hassled by Keystone Kop (Chester Conklin) she bribes him with a frank so she continue hawking her wares. Meanwhile gate crasher Charlie evades Kops so he can make his way into the stadium. Encountering Mabel, he steals one of her hot dogs, then makes off with the whole box, giving them away to strangers. Mabel gets the Kop involved. Melee ensues.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy including Mabel Normand, don’t miss my recent book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

 

Charlie Chaplin IS “Caught in a Cabaret”

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2015 by travsd
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Chaplin with Chester Conklin. Hank Mann’s in the eye patch. The rest of ’em are somebody too

Today is the anniversary of the release of the great Keystone ensemble comedy Caught in a Cabaret (1914), directed by Mabel Normand, written by and co-starring herself and Charlie Chaplin. The film has two locations, a low-down cabaret and a posh society party: because of this anyone who was anyone in the Keystone company is in the film too, and it’s fun to pick them all out.

The film is also seminal for being the first of many “stolen identity” plots Charlie would star in. Based on the earlier Biograph comedy The Baron (1911), it casts Charlie as a waiter who rescues society girl Mabel from a robbery attempt. She invites him to her house. When he shows up (on a break from his work as a waiter in a cafe) he claims to be the “Ambassador to Greece” (a slight joke; he works in a greasy spoon). Charlie the comedian pulls out the stops at the party, introducing a lot of funny business that would become part of his standard repertoire: dabbing booze behind the ears as though it were perfume; pretending to pour some in his ear and then spitting it out his mouth. And predictably he gets drink.

Like Cinderella, he must go back to work and the real world, where his boss (Edgar Kennedy) brow beats him for lateness. Then even this is too good. Mabel and her friends come to the cabaret on a slumming party and thus he is “caught”, as it says in the title. Both sides are up in arms about the situation, Kennedy literally so as he chases everyone out by shooting a gun off, which is a bit excessive if you ask me! But Mabel gives Charlie a good beating too.

While Mabel directed this picture, it seems to me that Charlie had to have been driving the scenario, or at the very least “owning” it. He returned to this predicament so many times: A Jitney Elopement, The Count, The Idle Class, City Lights, and I’m probably missing a few more. See-sawing between two lives. Chaplin, who’d been among the poorest of the earth, was now suddenly already living a dream life. (“Really? I get paid a lot of money? For this? My dream? Surely I’m an imposter. ) He must have been pinching himself daily.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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Fatty and Mabel Adrift

Posted in Comedy, Fatty Arbuckle, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Keystone comedy Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916), starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand, and directed by Arbuckle.

In the two years following Charlie Chaplin’s departure (1915-1916) Arbuckle-Normand team-ups were Mack Sennett’s most formidable box office combination. The pair appeared in dozens of films together, most frequently as a domestic couple. It’s especially exciting and instructive to watch the ones towards the end of this period, when the confidence that comes with prolonged stardom informs their performances, and when Arbuckle’s skills as a director blossom. Shortly after this, Arbuckle went on to his own starring series for his own company Comique, and Normand went on to her own starring series of features for Sam Goldwyn. These 1916 Fatty-Mabel shorts are kind of like Beatles records from 1968 or 1969. You’re experiencing artists who are about to be big solo stars, but still interacting in a format they’re beginning to outgrow, in this case the ensemble comedy short. The product of that tension can be very rich.

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The plot of Fatty and Mabel Adrfit is very simple. Sweethearts Fatty and Mabel get married and take their honeymoon at a seaside cottage, along with another of Arbuckle’s frequent Keystone co-stars, Luke the Dog. Unfortunately, Fatty’s rival for Mabel’s hand (played as usual by Al St. John) is not through fighting. He and his several henchmen put the little house out to sea. Fatty and Mabel wake up the next day to find themselves far away from shore in a house full of water.

The climactic scenes of this comedy are spectacular, on a scale we usually associate with Larry Semon or with Arbuckle’s protege Buster Keaton. Sennett rarely shelled out for such big budget extravagances, but at this stage he was trying to keep both co-stars happy so they wouldn’t “pull a Chaplin” by leaving him. (As we said, they both soon did anyway).

How can Fatty and Mabel escape their dire predicament? Perhaps their heroic pooch will be of some help…

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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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