Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mabel's Blunder (USA,1914)

Actress Mabel Normand not only starred this film, but she also wrote and directed it. The contributions of Mabel to the history if cinema are known, but her work behind the camera is not always properly mentioned. And she was in her early 20s and in cinema business for less than one decade when this film was made.
A typical slapstick comedy with frantic pacing and again a misunderstanding plays a role in a silent comedy. Mabel is an office worker (which provides to modern audiences a valuable opportunity to observe how an office looked like back to the 1910s) and secretly engaged to Harry, the boss` son. But, according to one of intertitles “Harry`s father likes her too”, which made Mabel uncomfortable. 
Another woman showed up at the office and Mabel caught Harry embracing her and she obviously felt heartbroken. While spying on them through the peephole, Mabel observed Harry talking happily with that woman. At this moment, Mabel`s brother (who worked as a driver) also arrived at the office to pick up both Harry and the woman and take them to a party. Mabel decided to exchange clothes with her brother, so she could further investigate the connection between her fiancé and that unknown woman. 
Mabel`s brother remained at the office wearing her clothes and then the boss returns. Mabel`s brother decided to cover his face with a veil. The boss started to flirt, thinking it was Mabel behind the veil and both of them went out by car and the boss tried to make advances over Mabel`s brother, who repelled him. Meanwhile, Mabel took both Harry and the woman to the party and she observed how warmly that woman was received by the other guests. Needless to say that it made Mabel extremely jealous. 
The boss and Mabel`s brother ended up at that same party with the boss still flirting endlessly. Meanwhile, Mabel tried to comfort another woman who was crying at the party, but the woman`s partner arrived and thought Mabel was flirting with her. We must bear in mind that Mabel was dressed as a man, after all.  
A fighting started when that guy tried to beat Mabel, which called the attention of the other guests. Then, the guy found out that he was actually trying to beat a woman and Mabel run away in fear. Chaos happened and it is also found out it was a man behind the veil, not Mabel. Mabel finally confronted Harry, who told her that the unknown woman was actually his sister. 
In this apparently simple film, Mabel shines at the height of her youth and vigor, being both funny, skilled in her stunts and extremely convincing, she makes people laugh and feel sympathetic for her without any effort. Her type of humor is easy to understand, regardless of culture and era, which makes her films being properly appreciated by modern audiences.  Unfortunately she died young, still in her 30s, and did not even have time to transition to talkies. Mabel`s brother is played by actor Al St. John, who was the nephew of Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle in real life and, opposite to the sad fate of Arbuckle, he managed to have a career that continued through talkie era, especially in western films, where he could show off his physical and acting skills. 

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