Monday, July 4, 2011

Officer Henderson - 1913

Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 12 March 1913 (USA)
This 1913 film from Solax is a bit broader than the comedies that usually came out of that studio -- perhaps they were feeling the pressure from Mack Sennett at Keystone. It's certainly much more straightforward and realistic-looking with none of the dazzling stuntwork or editing that Keystone excelled in, but is a pleasant, polite little comedy for the period.
The idea of this little drag comedy is that a couple of husky cops are told to dress up as women to try and catch some purse snatchers. The title character, Officer Henderson does so, making a very dainty target in the process. But after he goes off duty and hangs the outfit up in the closet for the next day's work, his wife comes home from vacation....
Drag actors were just about respectable in this period. The premiere man in the field was Julian Eltinge, and women used to ask for beauty tips from him. The theater named for him still stands on 42nd Street in New York. Not far behind was Bothwell Browne, whose act consisted of dressing in men's and women's attire, and when he was dressed up as a man, he was likely to pick a fight. By the late twenties the drag craze had passed, but it comes back every once in a while.

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