Archive for Mabel Normand

The Sunday Intertitle: Mr. Wow-Wow

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2014 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-06-07-18h40m25s211

Chaplin in troublemaker guise — GENTLEMEN OF NERVE (1914). A hundred years old!

Mabel Normand fulfills one of her regular roles, being fought over by men — in this case Chaplin and co-stars Chester Conklin and Mack Swain. Also a few random interlopers, played by a veritable who-will-be-who-if-you-give-them-a-few -years of screen comedy — Charley Chase, Billy Gilbert, Slim Summerville…

vlcsnap-2014-06-07-18h42m07s201

Nobody really has much chance to make their skills felt, except in terms of acrobatics — Chaplin comes out on top though Conklin has far more screen time, but Chaplin has to keep it quick and nasty in order to register at all, and poor Mabel is nearly trampled in the rush to centre stage.

Fiona actually prefers the early, brutish Chaplin — she’ll admit the film’s aren’t very good compared to later, but here he bites Conklin’s nose with little provocation, and stubs a cigarette in Swain’s face. It’s so gratuitously vicious, it’s sort of funny just by way of shock.

Mabel Bodied

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-05-29-00h24m10s232

More Mabel Normand over at Mubi, as The Notebook presents this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten.

The kid getting fresh is Gordon Griffith, the screen’s first Tarzan. Although Elmo Lincoln played the King of the Apes in 1918, little GG played his younger self, thus preceding Elmo to the role by minutes. Here, he gets some practice in with a “Me Gordon, you Mabel,” routine. From century-old Keystone knockabout THE FATAL MALLET.

The Sunday Intertitle: Hope Floats

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-05-24-11h50m18s23

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle may not have raped and  manslaughtered anyone, but he does spank Teddy, “the Keystone dog,” in FATTY AND MABEL ADRIFT, a rather good comedy he directed in 1916. Mabel, of course, is Mabel Normand. I’ve been watching lots of her stuff recently and you can expect to read about more of it here.

The film opens with a slightly uncanny, Meliesian sequence of Fatty and Mabel in heart vignettes and a naked little boy as Cupid conjoining them with a well-aimed arrow from his quiver. My DVD added soupy saxophone music to this, giving it an inappropriate LAST TANGO IN PARIS vibe, so I muted that and randomly played a CD, which turned out to be the soundtrack to THOMAS by Amedeo Tomassi, which gave everything a giallo quality. This, strangely, was less problematic. Though it did make Al St. John seem like Max Cady.

vlcsnap-2014-05-24-11h50m35s217

St John plays a jealous jilted type, interfering in newlyweds Fatty & Mabel’s domestic bliss in a way that seems to prefigure the triangle in Keaton’s ONE WEEK. Instead of sabotaging the couple’s made-from-a-kit new home as in the Keaton film, St John enlists the aid of some bandits to tow the cottage out to sea. The honeymoon has been a rather asexual affair, with Mabel bedding down with Teddy the dog while Fatty restrains himself to a kiss on the brow, delivered not in person but by his shadow. You can’t get safer sex than that.

So one could argue that St John hasn’t really interrupted anything.

This is one of the more structured Keystone films I’ve seen, though arguably it begins too early, before the marriage, to no major effect. But I enjoyed how it spent time on different aspects of the central relationship, with sitcom business about Mabel’s inedible rock cakes, which even Teddy won’t touch. When Mabel tested a rock cake by tapping it on her skull, Amedio Tomassi obligingly provided two perfectly synched percussion beats, despite the fact that he was on a separate disc playing at random.

vlcsnap-2014-05-24-12h49m18s81

Arbuckle throws himself about frenetically, of course, and St John’s vigorous knockabout is impressive — he’s not a particularly charming clown, so the heavy role suits him well. Mabel is domesticated, which is a shame — she gets to spread her wings more in star vehicles like MICKEY, and the crude kick-up-the-arse stuff she did with Chaplin (eg THE FATAL MALLET) is also refreshing. You don’t expect to see women mixing it with men in the more violent skits, but Mabel was a game girl.

I think more gags could have been devised out of the promising situation of a house at sea, also, but the mere sight of Fatty, Mabel and a confused Teddy bobbing about in their respective beds in the waterlogged cottage cracked me up. They make that last quite a while without anything in particular happening, and it’s all good stuff.

Anyhow, the bandit chief (Wayland Trask) is a real tough guy, swigging gasoline and eating dynamite and living in a cave on the beach. Yet he has a business card.

vlcsnap-2014-05-24-12h33m30s101

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 386 other followers