Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mabel's Dramatic Career (USA,1913)

Mack fell for the kitchen maid. They were a happy couple, but Mack’s mother (played by actress Alice Davenport in a rather stagy acting) was against the romance and her opposition caused lots of conflict between Mabel and her.
After a while, it came a woman from the city and Mack’s mother thought she was a better partner to her son. Understandably, Mabel got jealous of the newcomer. After a while, Mack started to get along very well with this new girl and Mabel became outraged. Therefore, a fight was inevitable, and Mabel was forced to leave the house, heartbroken.
Mack proposed to the other girl, but he ended up being rejected as the woman seemed to be tired of Mack after a short time and they both ended up fighting in the most typically slapstick way possible, including things being thrown against each other (an element that was relatively common when romantic arguments were portrayed in films by Keystone studios).
Mack regretted having let Mabel go. Meanwhile, she arrived at the city and looked for a job in a cinema studio full of actors with fake facial hair and portraying exaggerated characters (which turned out to be the own Keystone studios and actors in real life). Mabel showed the actors that she could act, was hired by the studio and had steady work there for the next few years.
One day, Mack saw Mabel’s picture in the publicity poster of a film and recognized her immediately. Mack entered the cinema and watched a film by Keystone studios (Yes, the studio was not really shy of doing some self-propaganda) and was really overexcited by seeing Mabel on screen. His excitement was so over the top that he disturbed other audience members to watch the film quietly. At this point, it must be highlighted that one of audience members is played by actor Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, who had started working at Keystone studios in that same year.
Chaos broke out when Mack Started shooting at the screen and scared everyone around him, including the projectionist. Despite all problems he caused, Mack did not give up as he was determined to kill the onscreen villain (played by actor Ford Sterling, who was very popular at the time). Mack got to find the villain and soon discovered that the actor who played the villain was married to Mabel in real life and they had two children together.
As always, Mabel Normand acts in a very natural, vibrant way. There is a rumor that Mack Sennett was mocked by the own employees of Keystone studios for not exactly being the best actor in the world. That is an exaggeration, Sennett’s humor was simple but very much in line with the typical acting of 1910s comedians, especially when he played hobos and not particularly smart characters on screen. I personally think Mabel is even more beautiful than usual in this film and it is a joy merely to look at her facial expressions and the joy she conveyed on screen.
Mack Sennett was very active as an actor in the first years of Keystone studios, but after a while he left acting to focus on management and directorial tasks at the studio, until it closed its doors in 1933.
This simple one-reeler can still be very easily understood and the occasional overacting does not make it any less funny. It is a relaxing and entertaining slapstick comedy short up to this day. This film also has great historic value because it provides modern-day audiences with a rare glimpse of how it was like to go to the cinema back to the 1910s. 

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