The Sunday Intertitle: La La Land

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Title from THE EXTRA GIRL, a Mack Sennett production starring Mabel Normand and directed by F. Richard Jones, in that order.

Title is followed in the movie by a scene of indescribable chaos, as jalopies run riot in the streets and buildings and sidewalks explode with firecrackers…

Plot is a basic MERTON OF THE MOVIES swipe though the story is credited to Sennett, and he got it into cinemas a year ahead of the first official adaptation of Marc Connelly and George S. Kaufman’s play. The Gloria Swanson vehicle STAGE STRUCK tread similar water another year later. Basically, the humour derives from a real star playing a no-talent small-town dreamer who WANTS to be a star.

The starting point may be derivative, and the ending is a cheesy “woman, know your place” homily with Normand finding happiness in motherhood rather than a career, but there’s a pretty impressive climax with a lion running wild in the movie studio offices, while Mabel tries to thwack it away with a feather duster. You don’t see that every day.

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Actually, it’s not even the climax — the film unwisely tries to top it. Sennett never did have much structural sense, even in shorts. But not only does the lion sequence impress with its physical reality (no tricks), and serve up some delicious comedy of terror in the best Harold Lloyd manner, but nearly every image in it has a beauty-and-oddity shock effect, as seen above.

Anyway, I’m off to L.A. at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning. on secret business. I’ll try to keep you posted on what goes on there. Hopefully they’ll have the lion problem well in hand by now.

Another version of MERTON.

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7 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: La La Land”

  1. All I can say about your trip is: Welcome to California!

  2. Call me as soon as you arrive.

  3. OK — or, failing that, definitely before I leave! We must meet up for a drink this time!

  4. Another close kin to “The Extra Girl” is “Ella Cinders,” a cute Colleen Moore feature. There’s a famous trick shot of her eyes operating independently in an attempt to imitate looks from her acting handbook.

    The usual gimmick in these stories is that a boy or girl has great dramatic ambitions for stage, screen or whatever, but is so inept he/she becomes a comedy star. Marion Davies in “Show People” , Keaton in “Speak Easily”, Lloyd in “Girl Crazy” (he’s trying to be a great serious writer), maybe Chaplin in “The Circus”, etc. Capra’s early “The Matinee Idol” has a star bringing a pathetic touring melodrama to Broadway and making it a comic sensation — without letting them in on the joke.

    In contrast, Ella Cinders stumbles into Hollywood and becomes a great DRAMATIC actress — on the strength of her natural freaking out due to a lion. The film could work just as well, or maybe better, with the standard plot (much of the film has Ella being unintentionally funny, even winning a beauty contest with a mistakenly entered gag photo). But it’s an interesting thought.

    Imagine a story of a film comedy that gets no laughs — in fact, it moves audiences to tears, and garners rave reviews as a profound, heartwrenching drama. A slapstick comedy where the blows are a little too real, or a farce where the stakes are a shade too high.

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