Thursday, May 19, 2016

Leading Lizzie Astray (USA,1914)

We can see in the cast of this film two comedians who subsequently developed their careers in completely different ways. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, was a skilled actor and director, who reached the peak of his career by making memorable films with Buster Keaton at the end of 1910s. It seemed he would enjoy the same success in feature length films, but his career was suddenly interrupted by a scandal in 1921, where he was accused of rape.
Charley Chase became famous in Hal Roach studios at the 1920s, where he acted and directed in many so-called situational comedies, which had more life-like, realistic situations than 1910s slapstick comedies and without the frantic pace. Chase also had the distinction of helping to create the famous “Our Gang” kid comedies, which lasted until the sound era. 
This film has a very simply plot and lots of broad gestures by the cast members. Two guys from a big city were driving in the countryside, when they had a flat tire and were helped by locals
One of city guys lures the girlfriend of one of countrymen to go to the big city with him. The girl hesitated, but ended up running off with the city guy and her former sweetheart got desolated when he read her farewell note. 
Meanwhile, the city guy takes the girl to a sort of dancing club in the city, although the girl does not seem to be happy about it and the environment seems to be a bit wild for a innocent country girl.
Determined to win his girl back, her former sweetheart goes to the city to try to take her back home. This was a good thing, as the girl was apparently engaged in forced labor in the club and regretted having gone away. The city guy who took her away also treated the girl in a very rude way and even threatened her. 
When the girl started being attacked by the city guy, her former boyfriend got to find out where she was. It is not shown in the film how he found out her whereabouts in such big city, though but this sort of psychological development was hard to be done due to time constraints of 1 reel films (which usually lasted around 11 minutes only). Seeing his girl was in serious danger, the country boy beat up all bad men in the club and saved her. In the end, he proposed to her sweetheart and she accepted it.
The flat tire in a country place provides a good metaphor to the encounter of two completely different lifestyles: The modern, big city-related life, with access to new technologies X a more conservative, relaxed, naïve lifestyle of country people. In the 1910s urbanization was still a relatively new phenomena, which provided new challenges to people and the enchantment with the bright lights of the city could be a trap to those who were unaccustomed to it.

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