Archive for the Mabel Normand Category

A Muchness of Mabel’s Movies at Midnight

Posted in Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on January 15, 2017 by travsd

Tonight at Midnight (Eastern) TCM will be screening several silent comedy shorts featuring the incomparable Mabel Normand:

bangville police[1]

The Bangville Police (1913) 

The Bangville Police is the comedy short containing what is considered by many to be the first appearance of The Keystone Kops (others consider the first to have been  1912′ Hoffmeyer’s Legacy). To muddy the water some, the kops aren’t uniformed in this one, they’re an all-volunteer force in a rural community called Bangville, quite different from the urban Los Angeles settings we’re accustomed to seeing the Kops run amok in. (One wonders if it isn’t a riff on Essanay’s “Snakeville” series).

At any rate Fred Mace plays the head Kop in this one. Ford Sterling, who normally plays the Kops’ Chief is in it, but just as a regular officer. Other Kops in this film include Edgar Kennedy, Hank Mann and Al St. John. Mack Sennett directed. Mabel Normand plays a young farm girl who thinks she hears robbers in the barn and calls the police in. After much brouhaha and fol-de-rol, the Kops arrive and break into the barn, only to find that all the commotion has been caused by — oh but wait! Why should I tell you? Watch for yourself!

500full

Mabel’s Dramatic Career (1913) 

Directed by Mack Sennett, starring Sennett, Normand, and Alice Davenport. It’s a great little film: mama’s boy Mack disses his girlfriend, the housemaid (Mabel) who runs off to the big city and becomes a star. The coolest part of this film is the scene in the theatre, giving us an invaluable glimpse at what attending the cinema was like in the days of nickelodeons.

MML 2

Mabel’s Married Life (1914)

Directed by Sennett and co-starring Mabel and Charlie Chaplin In this film Chaplin 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.

Fatty_Roscoe_Arbuckle_and_Mabel_Normand_in_the_film_Fatty_and_Mabel_Adrift_(1916)

Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916)

Directed by and co-starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Normand. In the two years following Chaplin’s departure from Keystone (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.

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…

4b81922f49cb37deab28904a719e00f8

He Did and He Didn’t (1916)

One of Arbuckle’s and Norman’s last movies for Sennett. Quite a good little movie — maybe even Arbuckle’s best film, as it has a bit of emotional depth to it, while still being funny. Fatty and Mabel are a rich married couple. He’s a doctor (although that part of the exposition doesn’t emerge very clearly). They live in a mansion with servants. It opens with them dressing for dinner and bickering.  The dinner guest is her childhood sweetheart (William Jefferson). Fatty is very jealous of their little endearments. Later he is called away to a housecall (a false alarm), then returns to confront his rival — and a pair of burglars led by Al St. John (who does a spectacular stunt on the chandelier). We can hardly believe our eyes when our heroes shoot each other…until it turns out to be a bad dream, spurred on by the lobster they had for dinner.

FattyAndMabelsSimpl1915-01

Fatty and Mabel’s Simple Life (1915) 

In this one, Fatty and Mabel are in rural mode, with Mabel as a farmer’s daughter and Fatty as the farmhand who loves her. Lots of fun at the expense of cows and calves is had during their flirtation. But there is trouble in this bucolic paradise. In parody of the old stage melodramas, Al St. John arrives as the son who holds the mortgage on the farm. The farmer (Josef Swickard) is behind in his payments. Mabel must marry St. John or the farm will be seized! Fatty and Mabel flee, pursued by St. John, the father and cops. The climax is most enjoyable. People fly through the air and fall down wells! And of course Fatty and Mabel succeed in their escape and get married.

The Water Nymph (1912) 

An early one starring Normand, Sennett, Sterling, et al.  In The Water Nymph Mabel basically reprises a role she first played for Sennett in her very first movie for him The Diving Girl (Biograph, 1911). Her scandalous appearance in her bathing suit made her something of a sensation, and she was known as “The Diving Girl” for some time after. The buzz helped put Sennett on the map, and epitomized the sort of outrageousness Keystone became known for. In time, he would develop an entire stable of Bathing Beauties.

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

imgres

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

tumblr_nbditnK2hC1ta2k58o4_500

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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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.

safe_image

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

tw_89x112_091820151231

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).

normandmp716

Mabel Normand

url

Constance Talmadge

imgres

Gloria Swanson 

marion_davies-01

Marion Davies

annex-moore-colleen_nrfpt_02

Colleen Moore

edna-purviance1

Edna Purviance

alice-howell-1

Alice Howell

12479555_12767959757812

Gale Henry

fazenda2

Louise Fazenda

bebe

Bebe Daniels

midedit

Mildred Davis

tumblr_ld60ue0u9x1qbcfcko1_500

Jobyna Ralston

220px-portrait_of_sybil_seely1

Sybil Seeley

13414573_135485056077

Kathryn McGuire

marie-prevost-fox-fur_opt1

Marie Prevost

6ydfg2fyb3cwgff61

Phyllis Haver

minta_durfee_011

Minta Durfee

flora-finch

Flora Finch

1301739991_alberta-vaughn_spurr_05_nevsepic-com-ua

Alberta Vaughn

600full-alice-lake

Alice Lake

tumblr_luaquerwxt1qj185so1_400

Dorothy Devore

url

Virginia Fox 

marion-byron-photo-gallery-c13561443

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

farley

Dot Farley

screen-shot-2013-05-24-at-4-30-20-pm

Madeline Hurlock

220px-phyllis_allen1

Phyllis Allen 

url7

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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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

MML 2

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 don’t 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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.

 

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

002 LFM 02 BUSY DAY

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 don’t miss 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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.

safe_image

Tonight on TCM: Seminal Silent Comedy Shorts

Posted in Charley Chase, Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comedy, Fatty Arbuckle, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2015 by travsd

Tonight starting at midnight, Turner Classic Movies will be screening several classic silent movie shorts, some of which are downright pivotal in American comedy history. Just click on links below for more info on each comedian mentioned. Note: they don’t give specific times for each film; shorts are all strange, unpredictable lengths so they just give them all in a block. When I DVR them, I find that the only way is “all or nothing”. But according to TCM, they will be presented in the order below. It’s nice little program, suggesting something about the evolution of the comedy short under Sennett’s watch, and the passing of the torch between comedy stars.

screencap-00028

The Curtain Pole (1909)

The film that started it all. It may be too much to say The Curtain Pole is America’s first film comedy, but it is Mack Sennett’s first film comedy and since he’s the guy who laid the foundation for most of what came later, this is the one that counts. The Curtain Pole was made while Sennett was still at Biograph; Sennett wrote the script and stars in the film and D.W. Griffith directed. At the time, the top comedy films in the U.S. were all coming from France, most of them starring the immortal Max Linder. Here Sennett apes the style of those imported French farces so much as to make it seem a parody. Sennett’s character, M. Dupont (complete with top hat and some very clownish make-up) is helping a woman (Florence Lawrence) hang a curtain when he accidentally breaks the rod. Not to worry, he declares! He goes to town, buys a new one, stops off at the bar and gets wasted, and then rides back in a hansom cab, destroying everything he encounters along the way with his swinging, bad-ass curtain pole. The phallicism of this comic concept is positively Roman. Or maybe we should say Gallicism? This was perhaps the most extreme example of Sennett’s Francophilia in action. It is a similar phenomenon to the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence having been set in Athens – living in the shadow of the older, better established culture. Later homages would make a more sensible effort to borrow situations and plots from French farces without feeling the need to make the characters actual Frenchmen. But to make sure no one was confused, he would still label most of his films “Farce-Comedies” right in the opening credits both at Biograph and at Keystone.

220px-FordSterling

On His Wedding Day (1913)

An early one from Sennett’s own comedy shop, Keystone. A cross-eyed bride (Dot Farley) and her family are waiting for a wedding to start. Ford Sterling shows up as the groom. His flowers make everyone sneeze. The girl runs away in consternation. Everyone goes to look for her. The Ford sees a good looking babe with another guy and tries to horn in on the action. Another guy hires bums to beat Ford up and they do. Ford managaes to knock the other guy and a cop down. Everyone chases him. More cops come and chase him. He climbs onto a roof, goes down a chimney — back into the parlor, where the waiting family is ready to start the wedding. The cops follow him into the room, but the bride beats them off.

Barney_Oldfield's_Race_for_a_Life

Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913)

A real classic of the genre — it’s what a lot of people think of when they think of silent comedy. A melodrama parody, it features Ford Sterling in top form as a mustache-twirling villain who vies for Mabel Normand’s affections. When she won’t give in, he and his two henchmen tie her to the railroad tracks. Meanwhile her boyfriend the hero, played by Mack Sennett, enlists the help of real life race car driver Barney Oldfield, who races him to the rescue.

speedkings3

The Speed Kings (1914)

This one reel short stars Ford Sterling, Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Barney Oldfield again — as himself. Shot against the backdrop of an actual auto race (a frequent gambit of producer Mack Sennett’s) it tells the tale of Papa Ford Sterling trying to curb Mabel’s infatuation with driver Teddy Tetzlaff. Arbuckle plays a masher.

maxresdefault

The Knockout (1914)

The Knockout is one of the premiere boxing comedies. Today it is usually marketed as a Chaplin film, although it really stars Fatty Arbuckle. Chaplin has a small (but funny) turn as a referee. Fatty is drawn into the boxing world by a bunch of street toughs led by Al St. John who try to humiliate him in front of his girl (Minta Durfee). They haven’t counted on the fact that bricks bounce off of Fatty’s bean, or that he can lift 500 lb weights. He dispatches the punks in short order at the neighborhood gym. (Minta dons male drag so she can enter the gym to watch). Then gangster Mack Swain books Fatty to fight the champ (Edgar Kennedy, who’d actually been a boxer in real life) leading to our main comic set piece. The bout spurs Fatty into a violent rampage. The Keystone Kops are called, leading to a rooftop chase and a fall through a skylight onto a fancy party in the loft below. The Kops throw a rope around Fatty as though he were an elephant they were trying to bring down. He drags them all down to the pier and chucks them in the drink.

recr1

Recreation (1914)

Though amusing in spots, it’s one of Charlie Chaplin‘s less distinctive efforts, being one of several in which he and his cast improvise their comedy in the park. And this is sort of a third string cast, containing none of the other well known Keystone stars we usually delight to see interact with Chaplin: instead of Arbuckle, Normand, Sterling, Kennedy, Conklin, Swain and company….we get Charles Bennett, Edwin Frazee, Edward Nolan and Helen Carruthers. The plot: a tramp, a girl, a sailor, some cops, some fisticuffs — and then everyone falls in the pond. (This happens in about 50% of early Keysone Comedy).

Rounders_008_550w

The Rounders (1914)

The Rounders is significant for being the only honest-to-God co-starring vehicle of Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and handily one of Chaplin’s best comedies at Keystone.

The Rounders casts Chaplin and Arbuckle as a couple of drunken lodge brothers out for a night on the town, always one step ahead of their exasperated wives (Phyllis Allen and Minta Durfee). The physical rapport of the two comedians is brilliant – the sight of Arbuckle and Chaplin in evening clothes, arms locked together, stumbling down the street in total synchronization is indelible, as is the image of the enormous Arbuckle dragging the passed-out Chaplin down the sidewalk like a ragdoll. In the end, the two fall asleep in a sinking rowboat. Now that’s drunk. If one didn’t know Chaplin was such an abstemious chap, one might suspect that he are Arbuckle had enjoyed many such sprees together. It’s such a shame they weren’t able to team up like this again.

maxresdefault

Leading Lizzie Astray (1914)

Minta Durfee plays the titular Lizzie, a farmer’s daughter. Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle” (her real life husband, who also directed) is her sweetheart, a hand on her father’s farm. Into their life rides trouble in the form of a rich city slicker (Ed Brady). He and his chauffeur (Edgar Kennedy) are driving past the farm when they get a flat tire. As Kennedy changes it, the city slicker flirts with the girl. Fatty too becomes occupied with the car, bringing his superhuman strength to bear, lifting the car so the chauffeur can take off the old tire, and blowing up the tire with his own breath. (Fatty exhibited this comical trait in several films. He should have done a lot more of it, it would have helped define his screen character),

Later, Lizzie sneaks away with city the slicker. He brings her to a café, where everything is fast and little bit scary. (Among the patrons at this unruly establishment are Mack Swain,Phyllis Allen, Al St. John, and Charles Parrott, i.e. Charley Chase as a cowboy).  Lizzie doesn’t like it here and wants to leave bar, but the guy wont let her. Meanwhile Fatty, much saddened by Lizzie’s departure has been in pursuit. Recognizing the car parked out front, he enters, beats everyone up, throws several of them through a wayy, and then throws the piano, just for good measure. He is reunited with Lizzie. They kiss.

0

Hash House Mashers (1915)

One of the earliest comedies to star Charley Chase (here still billed as Charles Parrott). Here he plays the young lover of Virginia Chester. The pair live in a boarding house, and he’s the only one of the crazy creeps in the house with beau potential. Yet, in order to convince her parents he’s worthy, he must put on a beard for a disguise. And it actually works! Mack Sennett directed this at a time, when his early career as a comedy director was winding down. Withing a few months the demands of running a studio were earing too much of his time to direct many films personally (although he would continue directing as late as 1935).

6159.original

Ambrose’s First Falsehood (1914)

Most folks who know Mack Swain at all nowadays know him as Charlie Chaplin’s prospecting partner in The Gold Rush (1925). Fewer know that ten years earlier he’d been a comedy star in his own right, appearing in a series of comedies for Mack Sennett in which he played a character known as “Ambrose”, helping to fill the void left by Chaplin’s recent departure with such frequent co-stars as Chester Conklin. In Ambrose’s First Falsehood , he tells his wife (Minta Durfee) that he is off to San Francisco on business. Cavorting at a bar with pal Charles Parrott (a.k.a. Charley Chase) and his girl (the vivacious Cecile Arnold), he gets into a brouhaha and never makes the train. That’s good news and bad news. The train gets into a wreck and, hearing the news, Mrs. Ambrose is worried sick. Edgar Kennedy plays the barkeep.

For more on silent 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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.

safe_image

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: