The Sunday Intertitle: Cunegonde

I was going to talk about CUNEGONDE HAS VISITORS, another Girls Gone Wild video from Il Cinema Ritrovato’s collection A Hundred Years Ago – Comic Actresses and Suffragettes, but that one’s not on VousTube. It’s another housewrecking short, in which relatives from the country help the vigorous Cunegonde clean house, in the process absolutely trashing the place (because they’re yokels and can’t do anything right).

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Putting ducks in the bath is the least of it.

Though the film’s premise is dubious, seeing stuff destroyed is usually an agreeable cinematic experience, so it’s diverting.

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Cunegonde, sometimes credited as Arabella, is listed as Little Chrysia on the IMDb, suggesting we don’t actually know who she really was. According to this tantalizing piece, the mystery has just been solved by Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, but seems to be still a closely-guarded secret or something.

Here’s another Cunegonde. CUNEGONDE FEMME COCHERE. She drives a coach! Badly! And horsewhips a stage “Chinaman” and then pays the prices via sub-Melies jump-cut substitutions…

Since I can’t read Dutch, I don’t know what the original premise of the film is — we see the text of a letter but I dunno what it says. But we get to see her beat up a Keystone gendarme, embraced by a giant fox, and there’s an early trucking shot taken from a car (rare in comedies of the period, I think) and a single close-up at the end. Maybe TOO close?

She’s like the silent Kathy Burke — I think you’ll enjoy her.

5 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Cunegonde”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Did You Say CUNEGONDE ?

  2. Mark E Fuller Says:

    I think the identification of Cunegonde the France-based film comedienne as the London-and-Paris based stage comedienne Little Chrysia is Elif’s work. I’m not sure if she,or anyone else, has Identified Little Chrysia yet.
    See also French riotous schoolgirl Leontine; no-one seems to know who she actually was either, and she was absolutely brilliant. But then it took about thirty years for experts to identify the star of some weird and brilliant films found in France as being Charley Bowers, in the days just before the internet.

  3. Ah-hah, so she’s replaced one mystery with another. I like mysteries, so I approve. I suppose some record will turn up somewhere… looking at Leontine now…

  4. Wilbert Plijnaar Says:

    The letter translates as :
    Buiksloter (Lit: Bellyditcher -a funny name)
    carriage company
    Sir,
    we feel at liberty to inform you that,
    in case you do not resume your service immediately,
    we will consider you terminated.
    The director
    Rijsnel ( =Drivefast , another funny name)

  5. Thanks! So despite Cunegonde’s unsympathetic treatment of the phony Fu Manchu, the film begins by forcing her to take over as coachman from her temporarily disabled husband, thereby getting us on her side. Makes sense. Possibly.

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