Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tomboy Bessie (USA,1912)

Although Mabel Normand was really young when she made this film (circa 20 years old), we can observe that she played a character much younger than herself. This is particularly noticeable by the way she hopped, the big ribbon on her head and some slight overacting. But it does not compromise the quality of her performance anyway.
Mabel plays here a rather different role from the determined, strong-willed and independent women that she portrayed on screen so often in her films at Keystone studio. Still, the vibrant comedic style of Mabel was already visible. The characters of this film were also more human-like, realistic and without that frantic pace that would be so famous in films by Keystone studios, which would be open only some months after this film was released.
This film was made by Biograph studios, the same famous studio where D.W. Griffith started his career in films. As Griffith was more focused on dramas, Mack Sennett ended up being responsible for the comedies of the studio. Both men had started in Biograph as actors before 1910. That was something natural, as it was an era when film crew could have different roles in the studio, sometimes even in totally different areas, like direction, acting, wardrobe, etc. This multitasking gave a chance to actors be involved in all aspects of film production and realize what would be most comfortable for them to work with.
Mabel was a very mischievous and active kid, always full of energy to play. It was tiresome for adults around her to handle such energetic little one. She was also a headache to the love life of her aunt.
The suitor of Aunt Cissie (Andrew) was supposed to amuse the kid in order to be authorized to marry his sweetheart (he was “pleading for the hand of fair Cissie”, as it was said in one of intertitles). However, Mabel proved to be a hard task.
Another noteworthy thing is the nearly Victorian courtship shown in this film, where the man had to prove himself worthy of his sweetheart by doing something rather impressive. That was part of the plot of countless other silent films throughout the world. The simple outdoors landscape, with animals and without cars or crowded places shows to modern audiences a lifestyle that has been away for a very long time. 

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