Archive for Fatty Arbuckle

The Sunday Intertitle: A Film in Intertitles

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 25, 2016 by dcairns


Time to give your negative capability a workout, folks! Reduced to its title cards, the 1915 slapstick romance WISHED ON MABEL, starring Mabel Normand and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, becomes both abstract and winsome. Which it is, anyway, when you watch it straight. But my way is quicker.











Richard J. Anobile, eat your heart out! The other advantage of watching the film this way is that it eliminates most of the laughs, which could be useful if your intercostal muscles are feeling bruised or weary.

Next week: Erich Von Stroheim’s GREED reduced to its intertitles. We are confident he would have released the film this way, if he had thought of it.

The Sunday Intertitle: Flush Before the Draw

Posted in FILM with tags , on September 4, 2016 by dcairns


This gambling den, in FATTY’S RECKLESS FLING (1915), appears to have intertitles as wall decoration.

The Sunday Intertitle: Various Kinds of Eggs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2016 by dcairns


Lots of entertaining intertitles in SPECIAL DELIVERY, but this was my favourite. Madge is played by the unfortunately-named Jobyna Ralston, who keeps showing up at Shadowplay, like some kind of crazy stalker woman. The first egg we see her serving is Paramount contract player William Powell, back when he was playing villains. WP only really became a leading man when sound came in and his mellifluous voice revealed his latent charm — one forgets totally that he has a kind of weaselly face. So of course in silents he was typically cast as a weasel — Sternberg cast him as a Sternberg type film director, which is to say a weasel (THE LAST COMMAND), and Gregory La Cava slid him into the role of a villainous bootlegger (FEEL MY PULSE) — in that one he has a scene cussing out Bebe Daniels and just the way he uses his face makes it abundantly clear that he’s using the vilest terms, though if I were a better lipreader I’d probably discover he was really asking what Bebe fancies for lunch.


SPECIAL DELIVERY (1927) stars Eddie Cantor, better known for talkies where he could sing, and is directed by William B. Goodrich — Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle hiding out under an assumed name, officially banned from appearing onscreen himself. Maybe Arbuckle behind the camera explains why Cantor at times resembles Buster Keaton when he played an ape in THE PLAYHOUSE. He sure isn’t particularly winning — in talkies he stands a better chance just because he’s so bizarre, and because he can put over a song with that unlikely voice of his.

There are plenty of good gags, though, as when a lovesick Cantor absently tucks his pancake into his collar and carves up his napkin. He does need doubling whenever the roughhouse stuff gets going, which is a mark against him.


Eddie plays an operative for the post office secret service (no, me neither). Also appearing, briefly, is a minute person rejoicing in the name of Tiny Doll, who turns out to be a member of the celebrated showbiz Doll family, which is to say she’s the sister of Harry Earles from FREAKS. She plays an outsize baby. There is definitely a family resemblance, and it goes deeper than being around three foot high. They both could play slightly gigantic babies. Eddie Cantor couldn’t do that. In ROMAN SCANDALS, when he gets shrunk in a steambath, he has to be doubled by Billy Barty.