Wednesday, June 1, 2016
The Curtain Pole (USA,1909)
In addition to be a valuable historical witness of a era gone a long time ago, when cars were still rather new, hats were commonly worn by both men and women, etc this film is also famous for having placed together two people, who were then working for a studio which would become a integral part of history of cinema, D.W.Griffith, Mack Sennett and Biograph studios. Although they both started their cinematic careers in the same studio and were even friends in real life, their careers would turn completely different ways only some years later.
One of few common points among both Griffith and Sennett is that both of them gave up acting in favor of directing, Griffith having remained a director throughout his career and Sennett having given up firstly acting, then directing during his first years with Keystone studios, to focus only on being a studio mogul, with he was until his studio was closed in 1933.
It is definitively unusual to realize that Griffith directed a slapstick comedy with such simplistic plot, but we must have in mind that Griffith was still at the very beginning of his career as a director, after previously been a actor. His first directorial experience was in Biograph studios, after having briefly been a actor there. At this same studio, Mack Sennett began his career before founding the Keystone Studios in 1912.
Sennett (who is barely recognizable due to a fake mustache and a disguise) is in a party in a upper class residence (the very opposite to sceneries of his subsequent comedies with Keystone studios, which usually portrayed the reality of working class citizens) and inadvertently breaks the curtain pole of the owner of the house. He volunteers to buy a new one, but ended up tripping and hitting everyone on the street with the pole on his way back to the house were he was, which caused Sennett to be chased by nearly everyone he upset.
Against all odds, Sennett managed to return to the house, but the pole had already been replaced. The final scene shows him chewing the curtain pole out of frustration.
It is impossible not to see the similarity with 1910s films by Keystone studios, whose one of main characteristics were the fast-paced chases. Who could guess that a film with uneventful gags, broad gestures and no psychological deepening of characters could be a sample of history if cinema? Although not a particularly funny film, it is still very worthy of being watched by nowadays’ audiences.