Monday, December 30, 2013

A Trap for Santa Claus (USA, 1909)

A simply story of humanity and feelings, a story of simple people…
Revered, controversial, famous and complex, American filmmaker David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948) had an undeniable influence in early cinema and his name is familiar to anyone who has studied cinema at an academic level and even people who are not very familiar with earlier cinema. Many great actors and actresses blossomed under his tutelage, including Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Loved and hated, nobody could ever imagine that a struggling actor who started his cinematic career at American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in 1908 would reach such mythical heights at his own lifetime.
Being known for feature films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), the short films he directed at the beginning of his career are sometimes overlooked. Although they are clearly not as lavish and elaborate as his feature films, they represent valuable tools to understand Griffith’s style, especially when it comes to storytelling. Then we can see and assess his style in its pure form, without many resources but with careful production.
Before describing the plot of the film, you should forget about naturalistic actresses such as Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford and Mae Marsh. The Gish sisters would not enter films for a couple years. Mary was beginning her cinematic career at that studio in 1909, but is not in this film, Mae wasn’t in Biograph yet either. Acting here is much more stagey and exaggerated, particularly when it comes to women. It was Victorian-era acting in its final breath.       
This film has a quite touching story, that retains its appeal regardless of time and place. This is early 20th century, United States, but it could have happened even before that or nowadays and in virtually all corners of the world.
The father of the family is unemployed and the whole family is in a quite bad financial situation. Both husband and wife are despondent. As an intertitle says, the father is “crushed in spirit” and then he finds comfort in drinking. In addition to drinking, he also attended bars with other men who looked quite tough, which were definitely not appropriate places for a family head and father. After a while, he returns to his home entirely drunk, which only increases the despair of his wife and two children (a boy and a girl). 

After a particularly stressful argument, the father leaves “the house of sorrow”, an euphemism that means he abandoned his family. Anyway, euphemisms apart, it becomes 100% clear that he was leaving his family out of shame because he left a note to his wife before going away, claiming they would be better without him. But considering that the husband was usually the family's sole breadwinner in the early 20th century, his departure was a dreadful shadow over the future of the family he left behind. How the wife would support her children, then? After reading the note, the woman gets understandably desperate, throws herself on a chair and nearly faints, which was typical melodramatic acting of that time. 

After leaving his family, the husband's alcoholism probably worsened, unsurprisingly. One day, the wife goes to the city with her daughter, leaving her son alone at home, trying to find a job. Unfortunately, she wasn’t successful. While the boy was alone at home, he found some food and ate it. It was probably the last food the whole family had to fall back on and when the mother arrives back home with her little daughter and finds it out, she gets very sad.
Anyway, divine providence exists and God helps the ones who suffer and one of the wife’s aunts left her a good inheritance. The woman becomes wealthy and all her troubles are solved and she moves with her children to a fine house. Unfortunately she still doesn’t know the whereabouts of her husband. 

So it comes the night before Christmas. In an interesting plot twist, it is said in an intertitle that “There is no chimney, so Santa Claus will come through the window”. The children don’t want to sleep, they want to see Santa Claus but, with some effort, the mother made them to pray and go to the bed. But the children get to run away from bed after a short time and they set a trap for poor Santa. As a matter of fact, the mother is going to dress up as Santa Claus. 

While it all happened inside the house, we can see the father nearby and he was forced to “desperate deeds”. In other words, not having any job and having a drinking habit, his only option was robbery and he attempts to burglarize a house. It was the house where his wife and children were living. After he enters through the window, the husband is immediately caught red-handed by his wife. She recognizes him, starts overacting like crazy and the husband wonders what on Earth is she doing in that sophisticated house. 

The woman realizes her husband has become a petty criminal and the man, out of shame, begs his wife to forgive him and also starts overacting as much and she does. He tries to run away, but the wife begs him not to. His family is wealthy now and he doesn’t need to steal anymore. They both hug and reconcile. 

Then the wife has the idea of the husband making a surprise to his children by dressing up as Santa Claus. After he is dressed up, the wife calls the children to see Santa and everybody gets very happy. It’s Christmas and family is united again.
According to Kevin Brownlow[1], some of the characteristics of D.W. Griffith’s films (which in my opinion can all be seen in this film in a way or another) are the following ones:
  • The use of melodrama amid settings of complete reality;
  • The exaggerated, yet still truthful characters;
  • The fascination with detail;
  • The accuracy of dress and behavior;
  • The sentimentality;
  • The attitude toward religion;
  • The outrage over social injustice.
And you, dear reader? After reading this article, do you see any of those aforementioned characteristics in the film? Only some of them? None of all? Feel free to leave a comment and say what you think.

[1] The Parade Has Gone by, Kevin Brownlow, University of California Press, 1968, first edition, reprinted by permission

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What's the World Coming To? (USA, 1926)

This film follows the tradition of situational comedies by Hal Roach studios, as opposed to the faster pace and greater emphasis on physical humor and typical of slapstick comedies of that era. Featuring Australian actor Clyde Cook, a silent comedian not well known today, the plot deals with the inversion of gender roles in society. This film was made in the Roaring Twenties and its plot reflects the values of its time. Indeed, it is no surprise that henpecked husbands were shown with some frequency in films by Hal Roach's studios back then.
In 100 years from now (as the first intertitle says) newlyweds live with the wife being the prominent member of the family while the husband had his traditional role dramatically reduced. This has made clear all along even with the bride wearing more masculine clothes and having a more proactive attitude while the husband acts shyly, just like a Victoriam “blushing bride” would do. 

Those stereotyped scenes reflect a common misconception theoretically held decades ago that more liberated women would have end up being too masculine, aggressive rather than delicate and motherly, as they were supposed to be. In other words, this “new woman” would also be “anti-virtuous” and “anti-natural”. 

During the wedding ceremony we can notice a mysterious woman named Lieutenant Penelope “casting a sinister shadow over the happy event”. She had a rather masculine look and was watching the wedding from a distance. No further information is given about her in this scene.
Realizing Clyde has made a fool of himself in front of the whole society, his father arrives and finds Clyde sitting at home reading, while his wife was away, a complete inversion of the usual custom of women being involved in domestic activities while the husband was away for the day as the breadwinner of the family. There is even a spoof of “Ladies' Home Journal” as “Husband’s Home Journal”. At that time this journal, having been founded on late XIX century, was already very popular among American women of the era.

Then, urged by his father’s words, Clyde confronts the daily absences of his wife. As soon as they start arguing, the wife finds out her father-in-law was hiding in the living room and threatens to leave her husband. However, the argument is cut short by a mouse who appears out of turn. It is very interesting the brief use of animation in this scene when the mouse is shown. But the argument does not change the fact that the woman is away from home, even overnight, and detached from her family most of time. 

After a while, the final “insult” happens. Penelope appears out of nowhere, with an even more masculine appearance than the wife, and she gives to the husband some make up and a necklace as a present, both of which he is ready to wear as if they were the most natural items of a typical men’s wardrobe. No reason is provided for where Penelope came from and why she gave those items to the husband.  We can perhaps assume that this character appeared as if to show that if the wife does not take a good care of her husband, another woman will propably do. Anyway, this is just an assumption. When the wife arrives back home and realizes there was another woman there trying to seduce her husband, a serious fight starts to take place. 

After this second woman is kicked out of the house, the film reaches its most absurd point, which is that, while the father in law is helplessly hanging on the window, a stork appears with a baby, who looks just like his father. We may assume that it shows the couple had a child and it melted the wife’s heart and she magically starts being motherly and attached to her family, just like all “delicate” and “natural” women must be. 

A noteworthy detail in the film is the background scenery shown outside the house, which represents a 1920's vision of a futuristic city that helps reinforce the prediction that women would become liberated like that in the following century. In the time elapsed since this film, we are able to judge for ourselves how accurate their predictions were and what was sheer exaggeration.
Although it is not a slapstick comedy, we can notice some physical gags, including kicks on the butt of characters, buckets of water being thrown at Clyde, some falls and even broad gestures by Clyde Cook when, for instance, a mouse hides under his trousers and he starts jumping and making some over the top gestures that audiences perhaps would not expect in this sort of comedy. But we must not forget that the distinction between so-called “broad slapstick” and “subtle comedy” is not always 100% clear and that some actors, after having acted in slapstick for a while both in films and vaudeville, had perhaps incorporated those broad gestures and physical gags to their acting and “old habits die hard”.

Further reading and materials:
1. A History of the Hal Roach Studios by Richard Lewis Ward  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oranges and Lemons (USA, 1923)

Having a very simple rural plot of an orange packer involved in conflicts and trying to escape his pursuers and with the support of the scenery for its gags, this film is still entertaining today. As the western world was still relatively rural on early 1920ies, the plot of this film comes as no surprise.

It is a typical product of Hal Roach’s studio, which produced comedies with a much less frantic pace than his competitor Mack Sennett. This film stars a relatively young Stan Laurel before his successful pairing with Oliver Hardy. Stan was English and a member of famous Fred Karno English music hall troupe that also gave Charlie Chaplin to the cinematic world. An experienced comedian even before entering films, he was in Hal Roach comedies for a while before working with American comedian Oliver Hardy.
Even though this short has a less frantic style than many of its counterparts, it is, however, a bit more physical and fast even compared to other films produced by Roach. In this film we can also see some witty intertitles, a standard practice in films by Hal Roach studios, which had some quite funny ones.

Every gag the scenery could provide was employed in this film, for instance with fruits, machinery, facilities, etc. 

An institution of silent comedies is also evident in one of the characters. A crazy fake moustache, which also emphasizes who menacing the man is. 

Some people might think it is a poorly produced film, but it is not true. We must have in mind that those “bread and butter” comedy shorts were highly popular during silent era and studios kept a steady and growing output of them to meet audiences’ demands. Some studios even produced those shorts on a weekly basis.

Further reading and materials:
1. Stan Without Ollie: The Stan Laurel Solo Films, 1917-1927 by Ted Okuda,James L. Neibaur

Crossed Love and Swords (USA, 1915)

This comedy has really stood the test of time and still stands out today. Being grounded on absurd and nonsense situations, it can still make people laugh. One of best performances of the film is delivered by Al St. John, the highly acrobatic nephew of famous Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was very different from his uncle not only physically, but also in comedic style. Having a steady career in silent-era comedies, he also made a name for himself in westerns during the talkie era.
The film starts in a party where social climbers gather, as it says one of intertitles. After some weird dancing and matrimonial arguments, we see Al St. John, who becomes instantly popular among the women at the party. 

However, regardless of how good Al St. John is in the film, the acting of a great scene-stealer, and one of the most menacing creatures ever produced by a film, must be emphasized. There is no Frankenstein, there is no Dracula, there is Fido, the poodle. Lol! The dog was owned by the always-competent Louise Fazenda, a sophisticated woman to whom both Al St. John and his “bossom friend” are attracted. Apparently their attraction for the same woman shakes their friendship and Fido was the victim of St. John’s friend rage after he realized that his friend was being too friendly with the woman he liked. 

Fido embodied very well the old comedic joke of the coward who got to succeed in his adversities due to luck and good intentions. Fido’s complete helpless look while the craziest situations happened around him added some more laughs to the scenes, specially when he shivered and stood on his rear paws. 

The dog was unfortunately caught in the fight of two friends for the love of Fazenda and ended up being put adrift. Then, the film starts getting even more bizarre when hostilities peak into a duel with swords while poor little Fido was all alone on the lake trying to fight for his life. After a crazy duel involving swords on men’s butts and some attempted cheating, Fido is finally found and the guys are called to save the poor little poodle before it’s too late. 

The dog was found shivering, on his rear paws, wet, and looking as if he would fall apart at any moment. This is perhaps the funniest moment of the film. And the worst was about to happen: Fido was at the point of being attacked by a crocodile. Fortunately, both Fazenda’s suitors get to jump in the lake and save the dog. Something that is noteworthy is the fact that although those men swam and spent some time on the water, their fake moustaches bravely resisted and did not fall off. They were probably quite well-attached to their faces.
All in all, with a competent gag and a comedy focused on quite crazy situations and the acting of an excellent and funny dog, this is a fine example of a film by Keystone studios at its top form.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hide and Seek (USA, 1913)

Some people have already said that Mack Sennett, the head of Keystone studios, was an uneducated man. I will not argue with this statement, although I am a big fan of his work. However, there is something that even his detractors have to admit: He knew what the audiences liked and it is no wonder why his films set some standards of slapstick comedy.

This film has a very simple plot and is less physical than typical films of the studio, which usually involved relatively dangerous stunts. On the other hand, it is a typical Keystone film in some regards. The female star of the company, Mabel Normand, is one of the protagonists, together with some cute little girls wearing big ribbons. One of the girls is playing hide and seek with Mabel. While Mabel closes her eyes, so the little girl could hide, the little girl ends up entering the vault near them. Mabel finds the girl at once, but she is called out of the room as soon as she spots the girl in the vault and this makes Mabel lose track of the girl. Meanwhile, the clerk locks the vault. Mabel comes back to the room, realizes the vault is locked and thinks the little girl was locked inside. As a matter of fact, the girl had gone to the street to play while Mabel was away.  Mabel raises the alarm and everyone in the house get very nervous. 

While everyone is trying to rescue the girl who they thought was locked in the vault, the little girl was having a great time playing on the street with her peers.  And the group even finds a four-legged friend, a dog.
The family looks for help and called guys who looked like firemen or similar officers. Then the comedy becomes a typical Keystone film: Chaos ensues, the firemen start fighting and we can see a man who clearly looks like a policeman, with a fake moustache and everything which would really qualify him as a Keystone Cop.
Then, the policeman opens the vault and, for any unexplained reason, much smoke shows up, the door of the vault falls right over the poor incompetent mustached policeman. While this chaos happened, the girl was found playing on the street and brought back home.

The film ends with everyone celebrating the girl returning home and with the policeman being released of the door over him.
Some highlights of this film: Here Mabel is more fragile than she would be in other films by the studio, as she does not perform the dangerous stunts she would do in other films. However, the faces she pulls and how she express her anxiety with the whereabouts of the girl are very funny.

Further reading and materials:

1. A website devoted to actress Mabel Normand:

2. Mabel Normand’s films available in the website

3. Facebook Group Wished on Mabel Normand

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Flirt's Mistake (USA, 1914)

If you expect realism , don’t ever watch this film. But if you just want to relax and laugh without further questions, this is the film for you.
However, we have to admit that never has the sentence “He flirts with anything that wears skirts” made so much sense.
A typical film by Keystone studios with a basic plot filled with unrealistic situations, to say the least, and many physical gags, but this is exactly what makes this film so charming.
Here Fatty Arbuckle is a married man who can’t help flirting with beautiful girls all the time. He can’t even conceal it from his wife, who clearly doesn’t like his behavior at all. According to imdb website the actress who plays his wife is Minta Durfee, who also happened to be Fatty’s wife in real life.

A Flirt's Mistake (1914) - FATTY ARBUCKLE - George Nichols _ Mack Sennett 09

In one occasion, after his wife sees Fatty flirting with a woman she argues with him. Then, he decides to go outside and relax a little and ends up in a park, which was a typical setting for many silent slapstick comedies, including Keystone ones, and he sees what he considers a beautiful woman. He immediately follows her and starts his usual flirting, but the “girl” happens to be a Indian rajah who was inadvertently walking down the park in weird clothes. And the rajah has an umbrella, guns and a sword and unfortunately no patience at all with flirts.

A Flirt's Mistake (1914) - FATTY ARBUCKLE - George Nichols _ Mack Sennett 22

You may think: “My Goodness! Couldn’t Fatty know the difference between  a girl and a rajah?” No, he couldn’t. And the film is rather over the top for many other reasons. Isn’t it just a little strange that a rajah in typical clothes was carrying guns and an umbrella? This isn’t the only crazy component of the plot, as rajah’s chacracterization was over the top even within standards of silent slapstic comedies, as his fake beard looked so fake that it seems the actor (Edgar Kennedy) had cut a rug and attached it directly to his face. Fatty also has a very boyish temper, behaving like a kid who can’t control any of his impulses rather than acting like a grown up man.
Two other men had already flirted with the rajah when Fatty approached him and the rajah is already running out of patience then. As a result, he assaults Fatty and then runs after him with two revolvers. For some unknown reason, the rajah’s guns never need reloading and all bullets hit Fatty only on the butt. Perhaps, the rajah had eyesight as bad as Fatty’s.  Anyway, considered the amount of smoke coming from those guns, it wouldn’t really come as a surprise if Fatty died of smoke intoxication.  Something that also must be highlighted is that even though Fatty was shot many times on his butt throughout the film he doesn’t seem to feel much pain out of his injuries. Furthermore, some situations are rather hair-raising and this is perhaps the reason why Fatty’s hair was untidy throughout the film even though his clothes were always in perfect state and weren’t even dirty after he falling on the floor so many times.

A Flirt's Mistake (1914) - FATTY ARBUCKLE - George Nichols _ Mack Sennett 26

Fatty is getting desperate and runs away back to his home, but is followed by the rajah, who “miraculously” end up having a sword in addition to his revolvers. And his house, as most houses in Northern hemisphere, doesn’t have a fence or wall around the property, so the rajah ends up easily entering the house. Fatty locks himself and his wife in a room.  It must also be highlighted that Durfee doesn’t have the most naturalist acting in the world in this film. Some of her gestures are histrionic and we can see that she spoke a lot throughout her scenes. But all situations are so over the top that her acting ends up being not even noticed among so many unrealistic things happening at the same time.
In the middle of all that mess at home, Fatty’s wife gets to approach the window and cry for help. Who will help her? The Keystone cops, of course. The cop who listens to her cries also have a fake moustache that is crazy even within the crazy standards of fake moustaches of slapstick comedies. It really seems as if the actor (William Hauber) had cut off a cat’s tail and attached it directly to his face. It´s even surprising that such big moustache didn’t affect his balance while walking. Fatty gets to run away from the bedroom and try to hide in the backyard, but with no success. Meanwhile, the cop gets other cops to help him to solve this problem in Fatty’s house. After a while, the cops arrive to Fatty’s house, but since those cops aren’t the most competent policemen on Earth, they have difficulty handling the angry rajah. The rajah uses his revolver against the cops and much smoke is produced out of that. Then Fatty and the rajah start fighting and Fatty’s wife, instead of helping her husband beat the rajah, just yells and jumps like a typical Victorian damsel in distress, unable to defend herself and her peeers. After Fatty got to beat the rajah a little the cops got to leave the house with the rajah, although it was a hard task for THREE cops to arrest ONE man.

A Flirt's Mistake (1914) - FATTY ARBUCKLE - George Nichols _ Mack Sennett 34

After all that trouble , when we think Fatty will finally get to have a happy time, despite having many bullets on his butt and being severely beaten by the rajah, he ends up being beaten by his own wife. All of a sudden, the same woman, who behaved like a Victorian maiden some minutes ago, gets a violence outburst and beats him without mercy. And the same man who could beat a rajah who had two revolvers and a sword can’t resist being beaten by a woman.

Futher reading and materials:

1. Some brief information on this film in the site Silent Era

2. Mack Sennett's Fun Factory: A History and Filmography of His Studio and His Keystone and Mack Sennett Comedies, with Biographies of Players and Personnel

Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Hundred Percent American (USA, 1918)

           This is a typical propaganda film, even the intertitles are clear enough about it. In one of them it can be read: “President Wilson is giving every ounce of his energy! The war workers are giving twenty-four hours a day! Pershing[1] and millions of our boys are giving their life blood”. Clear enough, right? So, before you think this film is just a simple piece of propaganda and there is no reason to watch it, let’s talk about Mary Pickford and how good she is in this film.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 26

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 12

Regardless of any political view whatsoever, this film is worthwhile, as Mary Pickford shines in it. She looks as cute as ever within the last fashion. Already a superstar in 1918, she was personally involved together with fellow stars Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in helping the sale of Liberty Bonds, which was a war bond sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War 1. Being the speakers of an official patriotic campaign of the American government meant that actors had obtained a high level of respectability as people capable of influencing the opinions and choices of a whole country. Things weren’t really like that when most actors’ of Mary Pickfords’ generation started in films, specially in the previous decade, but that was changed relatively fast.

Mary’s acting does not disappoint in any minute. She started acting on stage when she was a child and always did whatever she could to improve her technique.  As a result, she was an experienced actress already in her teens. Her debut in cinema was in 1909 in Biograph studios, just one year after filmmaker D.W. Griffith had joined. Although, as usual, she plays a nearly virginal girl with noble heart, she does not play here a child role and can show much of her versatility as an actress. Here she is a selfless girl who realizes the importance of not spending money with unnecessary things and use this money to purchase liberty bonds and help her country. We must not forget that Pickford was a Canadian in real life and IMDB web site says that when this film was launched in Canada, it was named “One Hundred Percent Canadian”.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 05

In 1918 Mary was already the first mega star of films, famous and beloved worldwide. She saw films as a work of art and she was personally involved in every aspect of film production. In this film, for instance, Mary wrote the scenario. As she was such good and successful actress, she obtained a level of artistic independence that was unprecedented for the time. And she made a wonderful use of that to make films that were better and better

She was so beloved by the audiences that she became admired as a person too. Not only as a great businesswoman, but her way of dressing, her marriage with Fairbanks in 1920 and her charity work became symbols of stardom wherever she went. And that was already in 1910ies. Isn’t it wonderful?

              All in all, no matter what you think about the film’s plot, this cute little girl with a big TALENT called Mary Pickford will put a smile on your face. A good and intelligent actress, who will likely make you fall in love with her films.  And here you are some pictures that prove how beautiful Mary looked throughout the film and how her clothes were beautifully chosen.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 08

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 14

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 40

[1] John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing (September 13, 1860 – July 15, 1948), was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Pershing is the only person to be promoted in his own life time to the highest rank ever held in the United States Army—General of the Armies (a retroactive Congressional edict passed in 1976 promoted George Washington to the same rank but with higher seniority[1]). Source: Wikipedia Accessed on August05th 2013

               Further reading and materials:

             1. A deep and detailed research on every aspect of Mary’s life and artistic and business output. It is discussed many aspects of her art, such as the wardrobe of her films, for instance, among many others. As a bonus it is provided many beautiful and rare pictures of Mary before and behind the screen. A feast for the eyes and mind. Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies Hardcover by Christel Schmidt (Editor)

           2. This book gives a good overview in main aspects of Mary’s life and work. It´s indicated for those who want a fast reading in order to have a good overview of her. Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart by Peggy Dymond Leavey,+peggy&hl=pt-BR&sa=X&ei=bJ8JUqXlHNWr4AOlhIHYCA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=mary%20pickford%2C%20peggy&f=false

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life (USA, 1913)

A damsel in distress? Definitely not Mabel Normand.

Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(6)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(1)

This film portrays some stereotypical items of silent films, such as a villain with a fake moustache, a damsel tied to railroad tracks and a hero to save the girl, usually in the last minute.

Actress Mabel Normand is the damsel, who loves her boyfriend, played by Mack Sennett (who in real life was president and founder of Keystone studios) and rejects the advances of the villain played by Ford Sterling. As a revenge, he ties the girl to the tracks. 
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(7)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(3)

We can see some details in this film that show Mabel plays a less fragile damsel in distress than her predecessors. Pay attention and observe that it was necessary two men to kidnap the girl. And even before that, the girl makes it very clear to the villain that she was faithful to her boyfriend and hits Sterling. Although the villain was far from being the smartest guy in the world, the girl’s bravery was impressive for the time anyway. 
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(4)

However, it does not mean that the female protagonist had an easy life in this film. She spends around half of the film trying to be free from the chains while her boyfriend and some friends try to save her from a certain death. This attempt to save the girl provide us with a delightful chase scene, typical of films by Keystone Studios.
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(2)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(5)
Barney Oldfield (1878- 1946) was an American early car racer in the real life, a famous one. At that time, celebrities like him and Harry Houdini (1874 - 1926) were often invited to be in films as themselves. We have to remember that there was still some prejudice towards cinema, specially compared with theatre, which was considered a more respectable art for by some people. Studios were only starting to rely on the appeal of stars in their films, so a face that was familiar beforehand would not only bring more respectability to films, but would also attract more people to cinemas.Of course that this reality would be completely overcame with the advent of what came to be known as the star system, but this is another interesting story which deserves being analyzed in another post.

Further reading and materials:

1. Watch the film on line in site: