Archive for Mabel Normand

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: Hello, Mabel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on August 24, 2014 by dcairns


No wonder the Goldwyn lion looks grumpy: he’s only a painting. In those days, lions were only paintings. I guess it was Mayer who fleshed him out.

Two more Mabels. Mabel Normand left Keystone for the same reason nearly everyone else left — Sennett paid badly — and for another reason, that she was tired of being on the bottom of the bill with short films while everyone else was making features and getting all the respect.


At Goldwyn, she made WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSA which is pretty funny in places but only really gets going when Mabel drags up. The romantic comedy angle suffers from a lack of any real problem to solve, and the movie fizzles out. But the “plot,” in which gullible counter-hopper Mabel is convinced she has an exotic Spanish other self, at least allows her to be exotically glam. But it’s funnier seeing her as a boy with a coal-smudged face, throwing herself all over the furniture.


Much more interesting, we thought, was THE NICKEL-HOPPER, produced by Hal Roach. Roach had the right slapstick sensibility, and Mabel excels as a taxi-dancer whose work-shy father ruins all her chances at romance, until…


There’s a great back garden chase climax on this one. It’s a weird length, 37 minutes, but it’s jam-packed with shenanigans. And the cast! In one scene we get Oliver Hardy as an exuberant jazz drummer — and it’s impressive to see one of the most distinctive movie outlines inhabited by a whole different personality, sans moustache and equally shorn of his trademark fiddliness — and Boris Karloff, playing the same kind of Not Safe In Taxis sex louse he would essay so memorably in FIVE STAR FINAL (under the name T. Vernon Isopod, which I never get tired of saying).

The Sunday Intertitle: Mr. Wow-Wow

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


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…


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.