However, film is good enough to be successful on its own right and much of this film’s merits come from Mabel Normand herself. She, like her character in the film, was a woman ahead of her time, very physically skilled and brave, which was something completely new compared with 1910s angelical, virginal standards of femininity.
In his first year in films, Chaplin’s little tramp was not already the likeable fellow the world would admire so much. He was a rough man and far from being a gentleman, the kind of guy who would shamelessly make a woman fall on a water pond while taking her out, just like he did with Mabel in the beginning of film. He also did not hesitate in slapping Mabel back after she slapped him. Chaplin would also pursue this rough style of flirting in the film “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” with Canadian actress Marie Dressler, which was also produced by Keystone in that same year.
Something that also looks weird in this early representation of the little tramp is Chaplin’s top hat and exaggerated gestures, an acting that closely resembles Ford Sterling’s and villains of comedic vaudeville or stage plays. Fortunately to Chaplin, he soon improved his character, as those nearly surreal villains soon got out of fashion in films.
Chaplin, after being jealous of another suitor of Mabel, tried to destroy the other guy’s car. Both Mabel and the other suitor find out that Chaplin caused the harm and it caused a fight of bricks and even Mabel took an active part in it. After a while, we can see that the other guy would take part in a car race.
Unfortunately, her suitor ended up being kidnapped by Chaplin and his accomplices and did not show up for the race on time and Mabel, who was in the audience, realized there was something wrong. We can also see Mack Sennett himself in the audience, playing an unsophisticated and simple man. Having started his cinematic career as an actor in Biograph studios, in the first years after Keystone studios was founded, it was not unusual that the boss himself both acted and directed in films, a trend that would soon be over, as it did not take long until Sennett focused himself on administrative tasks of the studio.
Mabel stood up and approached the mechanics, she exchanged her clothes and got into the car that was supposed to be driven by her sweetheart. Many driving scenes were made, which was still a novelty back to 1914, considering that cars were not even very common yet and it was even more unusual to see a woman driving. But this did not stop Mabel and, considering she had even driven an airplane in a 1912 film (A Dash Through the Clouds) and wore a swim suit in another film also in 1912 (The Water Nymph), driving a car was not probably a big deal to her.
Despite the dangers along the way, Mabel drove so skillfully that she won the race and just in time to be observed by her sweetheart, who managed to free himself from the place where he was taken hostage. Rather than being victim of prejudice, Mabel was actually praised by the other guys, generated some publicity (we can see in the end of the film that a cameraman approached Mabel to film her) and was treated as an equal by the other pilots. Meanwhile, Chaplin was quarreling with his accomplices and looked even more mentally disturbed and evil than in the beginning of the film.