Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Hot Stuff (USA,1912)
Opposite to what some people might think on first inspection, Mack Sennett did not start starring and directing comedies when he founded the Keystone studios in the second semester of 1912. He already did both back to the days when he worked for Biograph studios, the same studio that gave D.W. Griffith to the world.
Sennett was in charge of comedies of Biograph and we can see in his output the initial elements he would further develop at Keystone studios, even actress Mabel Normand already worked for him. At the time, comedy shorts where usually one-reelers, which means they lasted around 11 minutes, and the length of films was slowly increased in the next few years.
Although this film does not have the frantic pace of subsequent films by Keystone, we can see Sennett shaping his own style. He plays Mabel Normand’s sweetheart, but his girl is stolen from him by the cigar drummer, as the first intertitle says. The drummer takes Mabel to a park, where he starts to court her and Sennett follows them.
It is interesting that the drummer is shown as having “stolen” the girl from her old sweetheart (Sennett), but the plot does not show Mabel’s side of the story, why she left Sennett, etc. which can be perhaps interpreted as a effect of a more chauvinistic society or merely there was no time to make a deeper psychological development of the characters, as films where still very short on early 1910s.
Mabel takes the drummer to a house and he “makes a hit with the girl’s folks”, which means that her friends instantly liked him very much. Then, there was a party and Sennett’s character was not invited. He’s still following the new couple, as he was very upset to have lost Mabel’s love. Sennett even tried to enter the party, but his presence disturbed the group and he was kicked out by some of the guests.
A short time later, “the drummer makes the taffy” and he left the candy at the window to cool. Upon seeing it, Sennett realized he would have a perfect opportunity for revenge, so he ruined the candy, so the party’s guests would put the blame on the drummer. At first, his plan worked and the guests detested the taffy, but after a while Sennett is found out even though it does not prevent him from winning Mabel’s love back.
Although it is just a one reeler, the film lacked some more development of the character’s reason’s, which would have given a even better understanding of the plot by the audience. However, the film is a valuable witness of lifestyle of an era and its humor matched the kind of humor that was made at its time.