Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saved from Himself (USA, 1911)

This is a film by Biograph studios of New York, directed by famous  D.W. Griffith (who started working at the studio in 1908 as an actor and soon became a director and chief direct of Biograph) and one of protagonists is Mabel Normand, one year before she moved together with Mack Sennett and Fred Mace to the Keystone studios, which had just been founded.  It is interesting to see Mabel acting in a non Keystone, drama film. 
Mabel Normand, despite being more famous for her comedies, was a versatile actress and did well in dramas too. When this film was made she was circa 18 years old and already had a natural and convincing acting.  In Biograph she played naïve young maidens, damsels in distress, in addition to comedic ladies.
Joseph Graybill (1887 – 1913) is an actor about whom not much is known. He passed away in 1913 still in his 20s and had a successful career both on stage and cinema and is more noteworthy for having worked with D.W. Griffith in his first years at Biograph studios. 
The title of this film is self-explanatory and the plot has some typical Griffith`s touches, especially in the moralizing end. An example of that is evident already in the first intertitle, which says: “His sweetheart`s influence saves him from dishonor”. Back to an era when having a good social reputation was something taken much more seriously than nowadays.
A young clerk (Joseph Graybill) is engaged to a stenographer (Mabel Normand). His old friend had just won lots of money in the stock market, which encouraged him to also invest his money this way. He was so impressed that he actually used all his savings to purchase stocks. Unfortunately, things did not happen as planned and he had to put up another two thousand dollars, otherwise he would be wiped out, as one of intertitles says. He could not afford doing so and the fear of losing all his money made him consider stealing money from a hotel. 
However, his sweetheart (Mabel Normand) found it out and prevented him from doing so. Also, his thoughts about his mother made him thinking twice and it became clear that he only considered stealing the money out of fear of losing all his savings and not being able to provide a good future both for himself and his future wife. The happy ending happened because honesty and morals were preserved and it is not worth it being unscrupulous or immoral, this is the usual message of Griffith`s cinematic work.
A plenty of Griffith`s films discussed the effects of addictions, poverty and adultery over families. A recurrent theme was also the virginal, Victorian heroines, who Lillian Gish embodied so well. Those women also had high morals and kept their families united, even when the father/husband was too weak to do it himself. It often turned out that the man regretted his mistakes and reunited with his family, immediately being forgiven by his understanding spouse. Although such plots would be a bit too sexist for nowadays` standards, they show to modern audiences how life was like when things were simpler and the urban life had not fully taken root. 

Help! Help! (USA,1912)

This film was not made at Keystone studios of California, but at Biograph studios of New York, the same that gave D.W. Griffith to the world. The film was directed by Mack Sennett, who in later years would say he learned a lot while working with Griffith at Biograph.  However, while already in Biograph studios, Sennett focused his work in comedies, both as an actor and director and it was where he started honing the comedic pattern that would soon be famous at Keystone studios.
The style of the plot was not the frantic slapstick yet and even Mabel Normand’s acting was different from what she would show at Keystone studios. She played the role of a typical damsel in distress with some touches of overacting, which was something still common in Hollywood at that era. It was portrayed in this film the lifestyle of middle class citizens, rather than working class ones, as it would be so common in Keystone films. 
Mrs. Suburbanite (Mabel Normand) read in a newspaper that burglars were operating in the neighborhood, as one of intertitles says, and she immediately talked about it to her husband because she was really impressed with what she read. Then, Mr. Suburbanite (Mabel’s husband, played by actor Fred Mace) went to his workplace, an office in the city. Meanwhile, Mabel saw some suspicious-looking men and she locked the door and hide the key. 
Mabel called her husband at his office because she thought there were burglars at their house. He left the office by car at once, but unfortunately the car stopped in the middle of the road. At the same time, Mabel was even more afraid at home, as she realized the curtains were moving. The husband got to make the car work again but it ended up stopping on the road again. After a short time, the he got to find another vehicle to take him back home but no success again. Against all odds, the husband got to return home on foot.
As a typical damsel in distress, Mrs. Suburbanite nearly fainted when she realized her husband was back. The happy end was assured when it was found out that the burglar was actually only a small animal.
Some reviewers claim that this film was probably a parody of some previous films by D.W. Griffith, such as The Lonely Villa (USA,1909) and The Lonedale Operator (USA, 1911). The statement makes sense and it could also be a parody of the stereotype of damsels in distress, a spoof that would be included in subsequent films of Keystone studios directed by Mack Sennett, such as Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (USA,1913). 
Fred Mace followed both Sennett and Mabel to Keystone studios when it was founded in 1912 and made a plenty of films there in the first few years and became a rather popular actor, but his career would not last much longer. Firstly, he left the studio and then returned and finally Mace passed away in 1917 with only 38 years old. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Young Romance (USA,1915)

Two youths (Tom Clancy and Nellie Nolan) worked in different sections of the same department store without knowing each other and longed for both romance and adventure. Therefore, they decided on their own to pretend for one week that they were upper class members and ended up travelling to Hotel Imperia and Belleview Mansion, places attended by such wealthy people. During this time they met and fell in love with each other.
During her trip, Nellie took the identity of a wealthy client of the store, but while she was travelling she was notified that the person she was impersonating had inherited a fortune due to recent death of an uncle who lived abroad. And some people thought Nellie was the actual heir. Another funny scene is when the couple go to a fancy restaurant not too long after they met and Tom was very nervous about how he would pay for such expensive dinner. 
Unfortunately, the publicity around the inheritance of Nellie made her being the target of unscrupulous people who wanted to steal her money and another guy started romancing Nellie, who unfortunately fell for him.  Nellie was invited for a ride in his motor boat and she accepted it. However, Nellie was left in an abandoned island and forced to give part of the money to the guy who was romancing her, but ended up being a scoundrel.  Even after she agreed to give 10 thousand dollars to the guy, he still kept her in that island until the money was cashed.
Nellie`s ordeal is over when Tom overheard a conversation about the scheme to rob Nellie and went to the island to save her. Love was still there and flourished smoothly.
After one week passed, they both returned home, without having the courage to tell to each other that they were actually poor and their love story was over, although the heartache remained. Tom ended up being promoted to the same section where Nellie worked and they immediately bumped into each other. Rather than questioning each other about why they lied that they were rich, they got so happy to be reunited that they fell into each other`s arms and there was the expected happy end. 
A film worth seeing also for its romantic, nostalgic touch of an era when love was far more innocent and life was simpler. This has an undeniable appeal with modern audiences. The storytelling is also easy to follow and beautiful sea landscapes are also pleasant to the eyes. Subtle, light acting with the bonus of beautiful clothing and furniture. The female protagonist is played by actress Edith Taliaferro, who made a name for herself at the stage, but made only three silent films in the 1910s.  This film is also noteworthy for having been written by William C. de Mille, brother of famous director Cecil B. DeMille. Actor Tom Forman, who played the role of Tom Clancy, despite having been a popular actor, started having career problems already in the silent era and unfortunately committed suicide in 1926. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

He Did and He Didn't (USA,1916)

Roscoe Arbuckle started making films for Keystone studios in 1913, and it did not take long for him to become very popular. This film was made only three years after he started working at Keystone and, by this time, Arbuckle already directed a plenty of his films (like this one) and had considerable artistic freedom. And it`s interesting to see how much his humor evolved during this time.
Much more sinister than in previous films Arbuckle (still with occasional mannerisms and facial expressions of his usual slapstick films) plays the role of a wealthy doctor married to Mabel Normand who suspected his wife was cheating on him with her old school mate called Jack. Jealousy had already been quite commonly approached in films back to the 1910s. Another interesting shift was the portrait of life of wealthier people, considering Keystone slapstick comedies usually focused on lives of working-class citizens.
As soon as Jack arrived at his house, Arbuckle could see that both Jack and Mabel had been quite close when they were younger and such fact made Arbuckle instantly jealous. Mabel`s friend has been an overnight guest at home and Arbuckle received a suspicious phone call asking him to leave home. The call was actually made by some burglars who wanted to rob him, but Arbuckle thought it was Mabel who did it only for her to be alone at home with Jack.
To make things worse, the audience thinks that Mabel was actually having an affair with Jack, which was later shown as something that did not actually happen. Actually, Jack did not have any interest to be Mabel`s lover, but a series of unfortunate coincidences have only made Arbuckle more distrustful.
Something noteworthy is that one of burglars (a “bounding burglar”, according to one of intertitles) was played by actor Al St. John, who was Arbuckle`s nephew in real life and also worked for Keystone studios for some years, often as part of Arbuckle`s usual troupe of actors. Al St. John was also famous for his good physical skills, which he often employed in his films.
Finally, it was all just a bad dream due to the lobster they had eaten at dinner time and while both guys were almost getting mad out of fear, Mabel slept peacefully and it became clear that she had never been unfaithful to her husband.
This film, in having shown Arbuckle playing a more shady character on screen, became ironic considering that Arbuckle was accused five years later, at the height of his career, of having murdered an aspiring actress called Virginia Rappe. The resulting scandal caused much pain to Arbuckle, destroyed his career and popularity.  Mabel Normand kept the same high level of performance and spontaneity of her slapstick films and she would competently make good romantic comedies and dramas some years later. Her career would also have problems due to bad publicity and poor health and she did not get to make the transition to talkies. Arbuckle, despite having been blacklisted due to the aforementioned scandal, made a brief comeback at early talkie era, but he unfortunately passed away right afterwards before his career could take off again. 

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. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Primitive Lover (USA,1922)

Phyllis Tomley faces a dilemma between a marriage without excitement and attraction for another man. She often reads novels and considers her own life boring in comparison with thrills that the characters of those books live. She ended up having unrealistic expectations about her husband (Hector Tomley) and considered him careless and self-centered because her own romantic fantasies were not being fulfilled. The plot of this film is interesting because it takes into account the wishes and life goals of a woman are something important and worth pursuing. 
However, her former fiancé, a novelist who was presumed dead (Donald Wales), reappeared out of the blue claiming his death was merely a publicity stunt. Phyllis wanted to divorce Hector and Hector`s prompt agreement angers her. Things would not become any easier when Hector tried to prove to Phyllis that her love interest was not as good as she thought and it becomes clear to the audience that Hector actually still loved Phyllis and would fight for her.
Then, Phyllis realized that Hector was not as bad as she thought while Donald Wales was more awkward in the wilderness than Phyllis expected. Hector seemed to act more like a “primitive lover” than Donald, as Hector had the assistance of a local indian to handle life in a wild environment. Donald`s dullness deeply disappoints Phyllis because she expected a life of excitement and thrills with him.
The actors do have some funny overacting (especially in the beginning of the film, in a raft), which was no longer very common in Hollywood in the 1920s. The audiences are soon introduced to the dichotomy refined domestic tranquility X exciting rough instincts, which has been portrayed in novels and films of all eras. Not really an innovative plot (although it does not mean the film is bad, just that it is not extremely different from films of its own era) and Constance Talmadge is not in her best comedic shape here. The characterization of natives often look slightly fake, but it is a light-hearted, naïve film that still entertains the audiences.
Actor Joe Roberts is part of the cast. He made a name for himself due to his films with Buster Keaton, usually as a heavy or authority figure and it was a really fruitful partnership, which would surely last for many years were not for the death of Roberts in 1923. Actor Harrison Ford (no connection with his later namesake) was a high-profile name in Hollywood during the silent era, but unfortunately he was one of those artists who did not get to transition into talkies. He played the role of Hector Tomley. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Love Expert (USA,1920)

This romantic comedy has an innocent plot about a wealthy young student (Babs) who was more interested in understanding love than in physical or intellectual activities, like most of girls of her age. As she was not properly focused on her lessons, she ended up being sent back home by the boarding school.
As a punishment, her father sent Babs to her aunt`s house in Boston. Upon her arrival, Babs realized her aunt had been engaged for six years with a guy called James Winthrop who worked as a manager of Bab`s father`s branch office in Boston, but there was no wedding in sight anyway. Even more, Babs observed that they were not really in love with each other and it was a relief to the girl because she had fallen in love with her aunt`s fiancé. Fortunately her aunt soon found out she was in love with another man, which prevented a family feud from taking place. 
However, there were other problems, as James Winthrop could only get married after his sisters and elderly aunt married too, as he had to take care of the three of them while they were still single. Babs made her best to assure that the three of them would get married with proper suitors, so she could also marry her sweetheart. Babs` innocent determination may seem outdated for modern audiences, but her pure heart and optimism remain captivating, as she never gave up to fight for her own happiness.
After having read that tropical climate could make people more “susceptible to the influence of love” (Yes, that was an extremely biased and stereotypical statement), Babs decided to take them all to Palm Beach. Therefore, she faked a telegram of her father, calling Mr. Winthrop to go there and bring Babs and his own family with him and many funny situations happen, including the expected happy end.
 This movie is remembered because in real life Constance Talmadge was the sister of famous silent actress Norma Talmadge and Nathalie Talmadge, who became best-known as the first wife of comedian Buster Keaton. Although it was not apparently easy being a member of such prominent family in show business, Constance had a talent of her own, being a natural and convincing actress, with good comedic timing. Prior to his film, she had been part of famous film Intolerance (USA, 1916) by the equally famous director D.W. Griffith. It was her first major role in cinema.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

What Happened to Rosa (USA,1920)

Mabel Normand made a name for herself for her slapstick comedies for Keystone studios in the 1910s, even though she had worked for other studios both before and after that.  And even had her own modelling career before becoming an actress. Normand was a real pioneer of early cinema because she was brave, did her own stunts with competence and got a really spontaneous and relaxed screen persona back to an era when the helpless damsels in distress were so popular. Furthermore, she also directed her own films already at the time when she worked at Keystone (consequently, before this film was shot).
At the time this film was made, Normand was inclined to make more situational-oriented romantic comedies, without the frantic rhythm, broad gestures and physical gags of slapstick comedies, similar to those by her real-life friend Mary Pickford. This shift in her career could show the audiences that Normand was also a very good, natural actress, who could be funny and emotional in all kinds of films.
Produced by Goldwyn studios, this film is not usually considered one of her best, it is entertaining and in touch with cinematic trends of its era, including those of exotic environments being portrayed in the most stereotypical way possible.
A hard-working saleswoman in a department store with a boring life, looking forward to some excitement, once met a clairvoyant woman while working. Although it was clear that the clairvoyant was a charlatan, Mabel ended up scheduling an appointment and ended up being told she was a Spanish dancer in a previous life. Mabel got carried away with this story and started acting like a Spanish dancer, which made those around her think she was losing her mind.
The appointment`s scenes are among the funniest of the film. The clairvoyant`s house was full of exotic objects from Egypt and at the same time that Mabel was scared, she was also fascinated for being there. The more exaggerated acting of the clairvoyant is also a good contrast to the more self-contained acting by Mabel, which highlights the awkwardness of the entire situation.
Although Normand`s acting is not as groundbreaking as it was back to 1910s, her talent was still there and she got to be entertaining and the audiences can even see pathos in the poor working girl who was stuck in a life of hard work and boredom and only wanted some excitement and distraction from routine. Things would be even more complicated to Normand after she fell in love, especially because she was often more awkward than seductive towards her love interest.
It is sad to think that Normand would pass away circa 10 years later, but her versatility could be seen in her 1920s output in films that could be modern fairy tales of the ordinary next-door girl with a heart of gold who only wanted to find some happiness in life. It is impossible not to see similarities with the role played by Clara Bow in It (USA, 1927), starting with the similar occupations of characters of both films. The difference was that Bow had a touch of innocent seduction in her character, was Normand was a romantic, optimistic girl.
It is also noteworthy that actor Adolphe Menjou can be spotted in some scenes. His career would still continue throughout the talkie era. 

Male and Female (USA, 1919)

Cecil B. de Mille being himself in a film that turns extravagant –and also with sceneries of great proportions at some moments - and a young Gloria Swanson. Although unknown for many people, Swanson started her career very young being an actress in slapstick comedies (she even worked for Keystone studios, which produced some of the most frantic comedies of silent era), but she had dramatic ambitions all along and by the time this film was made she started pursuing them.
An adaptation of the play “The Admirable Crichton” by J.M. Barrie, the film approaches differences of classes with subtle humor and sometimes audiences do not even feel time pass because the film has a very relaxed vibe. How a British aristocrat (Gloria Swanson) connected with her butler gives room to some original gags, especially after they both get involved in a shipwreck. Needless to say that none of those rich aristocrats have the required skills to survive in a stranded land, but it turned out that the butler could handle the situation. It also comes from this film the famous scene where Swanson is lying down with a real lion around her. 
In the beginning of the film lives of rich people are depicted as opulent and empty. The scenes are funny with the futility of people`s requests towards the servants and we can also see Gloria Swanson in beautiful clothes. The servants are shown as slightly more grounded people, as their lives are closer to realism. A maid is in love with the butler, who is in love with Swanson. On the other hand, Swanson has a friend who married her chauffeur and had to face lots of social difficulties because of that. Needless to say that Swanson disapproved the marriage, which made her butler heartbroken.
The scenes of those people mingling together while stranded in the islands are entertaining, even though they are far from realistic. Clothes were always in good conservation state, they never faced real famine and could even have access to some comforts, such as books. This gives a touch of involuntary humor to the film, which makes it even more enjoyable to modern audiences.  Although the plot is sometimes exaggerated, the acting of main actors remain relatively self-controlled and subtle and it reinforces the good portrait of lives of educated and refined characters.
There is also the interesting approach of not sugar coating the difference of classes and that love does not always overcome it. No, the plot is not about the so-called battle of the sexes. Intertitles can be witty but they are also sometimes a bit too long, even tiresome. If they were kept simpler, it would be perhaps easier for audiences to understand the subtle humor and it is also a factor that makes the film seem outdated nowadays.
The Babylonian sequence may be a feast for the eyes, but it is not really necessary to the development of the plot. By the way, a Babylonian king having a Christian slave? Perhaps it is a little historically inaccurate? We can see here the famous sequence of Swanson with a real lion (who was presumably dangerous) and legend has it that she insisted on doing that scene herself. This might be true, because if we analyze the comedy films Gloria Swanson made earlier in her career we can observe that she have already done a plenty of relatively dangerous stunts already in her teens. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Perils of Pauline (USA, 1914)

It was one of the first female series in Hollywood, although it was not the very first one. It is often mistaken as the very first serial because it was the first one to have had a huge popularity among audiences. Pauline was a rich heiress, who is pushed to marriage, but prefers to wait a little more and live more adventures in life, while she gets ready to become an author. Her refusal is understandable, as having a husband would make her leading a life totally focused on family affairs rather than exploring the outside world.
Furthermore, Pauline`s guardian wants to make sure that she will end up dying before getting married, so he can keep the money to himself. He interferes with Pauline`s adventures so that they are more dangerous than they were supposed to be.
Although the psychological profile of characters is somehow shallow, including in some rather simple matters like, for instance, who were Pauline`s parents? Which was her past? Was she a romantic lady or more modern-oriented? And so on. We can compare her with other 1910s characters, such as those made by Lillian Gish in Biograph studios and we can see how independent and less Victorian Pauline was compared with her contemporaries. This approaches Pauline to characters played by actress Mabel Normand in Keystone studios, all of them independent, bold, fierce, untamable women, ready for an adventure and strong in their own right.
Broad gestures and exaggerated facial expressions are still noticeable in acting by different actors and it is understandable, as the transition to a more natural acting style was still ongoing in American films in middle 1910s. However, a more natural style was starting to take root and it would not take a long time until the theater-based gestures and mannerisms was overcame.  For example, films by D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford were already popular when this serial was launched and the subtle acting portrayed in them would soon become the norm in Hollywood.
Although associated with the stereotype of “damsel in distress” Pauline was less helpless than typical women of her era and despite all problems, she did get to have adventure moments. The plot has a plenty of adventure and exoticism, both of which were into fashion back to the 1910s. In this first chapter we can even see Pauline in a balloon. In an era when travelling was difficult and time-consuming, audiences could experience different things, even though those things were often portrayed in a stereotyped way.
It was originally filmed 20 chapters, but the only surviving version is from a French print edited into nine chapters, released in 1916. We can also observe that the villain had a German name (Koerner) due to animosity against Germany during World War I. There were also problems with the re-translation into English of intertitles which were previously translated into French in this nine-chapter version which gives modern audiences the impression of involuntary humor due to typos and weird structure of sentences.
Actress Pearl White made most of stunts of this serial and while filming it she suffered a spine injury which would bother her for the rest of her days. White was athletic in real life and her physical skills matched her role completely.
As it was previously said, many chapters were cut off this re-release, but the remaining ones give a good overall idea of how this serial was like. In an era when cartoons were not popular yet, it was real-life actors who had to make the dangerous stunts, so audiences would get their own thrill. Years later, it would become hard for actors to keep up with cartoon characters and the nearly infinite possibilities of what they could do to endanger their lives and remain alive anyway, but it was not yet a reality back to the 1910s. It must also be added that this series does not use the cliffhanger, but the episodes are self-contained instead. It was a popular hit and made Pearl White become a star. She remained in high demand in serials until the end of the decade and after this time she worked in Europe until her retirement some years later. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Broken Spring Rose (Sweden, 1912)

A fine melodrama, with good and subtle acting, good use of nature landscapes and a narrative, straight plot. That means the plot has a narrative style which would become the norm in cinema ever since, opposite to so-called “trick films” (like those made by French director Georges Méliès on early XX century). When it comes to acting, the plot developed without broad gestures or epic plot twists, differently from some other melodramas of the 1910s.
Although the plot may seem manicheist and outdated, it is not very different from what many other directors produced at the same era, such as D.W. Griffith in the United States, Urban Gad in Denmark, Yevgeni Bauer in Russia, among many others.
The film starts in a rather idyllic way, with good country people enjoying their lives in total connection with nature. The landscape helps to settle the atmosphere of tranquility to the audiences and gives an extra nostalgic touch to the film of an era that was already fading due to early XX century urbanization. Unfortunately, this tranquility is suddenly shattered due to an unsolved love story. 
The engagement between a wealthy boy and a girl who worked to his family was suddenly broken up by his father, which caused a big heartache on the couple. To make things worse, the boy’s father suddenly took an interest to the girl, until the point he started chasing her and raped her, which truly disgraced her life and made her fall into prostitution. The theme of the innocent girl who has a tragic fate due to circumstances had already been common both at the stage and cinema.
This film is also considered the first to ever be censored in Sweden. Although there were not any actual rape scenes and the event was mostly suggested rather than shown, this per se was enough to shock the censors. It was also considered a lost film for many decades until it was found in 1980 and it seems some scenes were removed from this printing compared with the original full film. 
The director Victor Sjöström, after already been successful in his native Sweden, became known worldwide in the 1920s due to his work in Hollywood, where he directed high-budget films and worked with the stars of his day. When the talkie era took over, he returned to Sweden and barely directed again, devoting himself solely to acting. This film shows that Swedish silents have already been quite well developed in the previous decade to such 1920s golden era and that professionals who went to Hollywood were already active and producing films at the same level of best silent films from Europe and the United States.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Close Call (USA, 1914)

Until Our Gang series of comedy short films started being made by Hal Roach studios, in the 1920s, it was not a commonplace in Hollywood children being portrayed simply playing and with their own universe being shown in films, where children played themselves in main roles, rather than being portrayed by adult actors, without plots being grounded on fantasy.
Without doubt, the most famous 1910s adult actress who played such fantasy roles was Mary Pickford. Pickford’s superstardom and the undeniable commercial success of her films, did trigger the appearance of other petit actresses playing children roles on screen, like Marguerite Clark, who would star Snow White (USA, 1916), among others. But, although those films did portray the children’s universe on screen, the actors were still adults and situations were not often real life ones.
In the 1910s, children did take part in films, more often in supporting roles when the plot was not really related to them. They could even be shown in films revolving around their matters, but studio moguls have not yet found out the potential of showing children’s actors in naturalistic acting, simply being themselves. But this situation would slowly change with time.
In this film we can see some cute children, boys and girls together, walking outdoors in a beautiful and tranquil nature landscape. A pair of children is younger than the other one. All of them are portrayed unaccompanied by adults and even mischievous. After a while, the youngest girl started walking all by herself and ended up falling down a cliff in a deserted place. 
The older children realized something wrong had happened and cried for help. Meanwhile, the young boy tried to save the younger girl. The mother of the little girl was located and she gathered more adults to help saving her daugther. 
While the adults tried so hard to save the little girl, she was actually being saved by the little boy, who got to find his sweetheart before anyone else. As time passed and the adults could not find the girl on the cliff they got very nervous, but after a while the girl was found safe and sound in the company of the boy. Everyone was very happy and after the girl had told what happened and how she was rescued, both children embrace.
Something that may have helped giving a naturalistic touch to this film is that some of those children were too young to read, which made them not adhere to a script and it consequently gave more freedom to improvisation. The landscape, not much altered by the human hand and without cars and big cities around also give a good atmosphere. We can also observe that first love was shown subtly and innocently, which was also something uncommon in children’s films of the era. At this time, the border between films to adults and children was not still very clear, so this film was surely watched by both adults and children cinema audience members alike. All those elements reinforce the innocence of the playing. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

True Heart Susie (USA,1919)

With a plot that was already outdated to its own era, reflecting the recurrent theme of D.W. Griffith of portraying Victorian, virginal young heroines, this film gets to touch the audience and make them nostalgic about an era gone a long time ago. An era of good country people, a more peaceful interaction with nature, and without all worries that come with a more urban environment.
In addition to it, the fate of two actors who played important roles in this film proved to be dramatic, as both actors Robert Harron and Clarine Seymour died young, not too long after this film was launched.
Actress Lillian Gish -in a surprisingly stiffy and exaggerated acting -is True Heart Susie, her love interest is her old childhood friend, William -played by her brother in law in real life - Robert Harron. Susie has always loved William since they both were very young, but William has never seen her in the same way. However, Susie was a completely innocent girl and kept her hopes high that someday William would correspond to her love. She lived with her elderly aunt, her mother having previously passed away and there was no mention to her father.
William has always dreamed about attending college, but his ambitions were not encouraged by his family, who thought he would do better if he focused on farming. His father even claimed: “A good farmer is better than a poor lawyer or preacher”, as it is written in one of intertitles.
Once, when both William and Susie made a trip to the village, it was evident how he enjoyed flirting with the more “modern”, “flirty”, “better-dressed”, “not too innocent” girls along the way. This fact per se must have alerted Susie that William was not really interested in her, but her love remained. Fortunately, Susie had a “sister” called Daisy who liked her much more. It was actually a cow she loved as her sister.
Touched with William’s dream to further his education and determined to help him, Susie decided to sell many of her belongings, including her beloved cow, to help sending William to the country college. Lillian got the money and made William believe that the money for his tuition plus a sum for extra expenses came from a philanthropist.
After a hard adaptation period at college, William graduated and returned home being a different man. This was inevitable, as time passed and he broadened his social and intellectual horizons. He eventually became the minister of the village and married Bettina, a gold digger and city girl. In addition to Bettina has never loved William she was too used with the bright lights of the big city and could never adapt to the life in a village. Their marriage, as expected, quickly deteriorated and both William and Bettina regretted their decision. Bettina felt trapped and bored and Willian did not have a domestic goddess at home, somebody who would take care of him as he liked.
Susie continued with her life and kept in touch with both William and Bettina, always being polite and self-contained, never disclosing her love to William to anyone although her sorrow hunted her mind all along.
After a while, Bettina could no longer avoid the parties she loved so much. One night, she told Willian she was indisposed and used it as an excuse to sleep in a spare room, but she actually left to go to a party with her friends behind William’s back. Bettina’s home key ended up being dropped at the party without her realizing it and after she left the party, she was caught in a rain storm. She only realized her key was gone after she was on her doorstep and she took shelter at Susie’s house. Susie took care of Bettina, but both the strain and the rain ended up making Bettina seriously sick.
Bettina had told William before dying that she had taken with a neighbor a reference book William needed and she had also seen Susie and they both got caught in the rain that night. Having believed that Bettina died while doing him a favor he vowed that no other love would ever come to his life. However, without knowing about it, Susie’s aunt inadvertently delivered to William the receipt of his college tuition, claiming Susie had sacrificed herself so much to get the money. William got very touched, but he still wanted to stick to his vow. However, things changed when one of Bettina’s friends visited William because she had a guilty conscience that Bettina had passed away because she had attended her little party and asked for William’s forgiveness. Thus, the truth was suddenly revealed to William.
Having realized he loved Susie all his life, William proposed to her and in the end the audience is led to believe that they both got to recover the bliss they both enjoyed back to the time when they were two country youths.
This film does not really solve the everlasting enigma if men marry plain, simple girls or those who put on paint and powder on their faces, but it definitely provides a beautiful witness of self-sacrifice and romantic love. Perhaps due to the fact we do not see such deep manifestations of love that often nowadays, it makes us miss that simple, past era, when material comfort was not abundant but it seems for some people it was easier to give themselves that much. It might be the biggest appeal of this film, even greater than the good production values.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Peeping Pete (USA,1913)

The subject of peep hole had been explored in films virtually since the invention of cinema and this split reel (a film shorter than a one-reeler, in other words, lasting less than 11 minutes) shows this theme in a typical slapstick fashion. 
The greatest distinction of this film is not really its simple plot, but the fact that it is the earliest surviving appearance of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in films, back to 1913. He worked at Keystone up to 1917, and it did not take long until he was very popular among the audiences. During this time, his pairing with Mabel Normand was also very successful, which can put those actors among the pioneers of romantic comedies, a genre that would end up establishing itself in the next decade.
Pete (played by Mack Sennett, the head and founder of Keystone studios) spies on the wife of a neighbor through a hole on the fence. Her husband (Ford Sterling) finds it out and gets furious. 
Sterling had his typical acting of broad gestures, ridiculously fake mustaches and an almost surreal temper. However, Sterling is less over the top here than in other films because all the other actors are equally exaggerated. The wife is played by Fatty Arbuckle in drag, which gives an. extra funny effect to the film. The trend of appearing in drag on screen was with Arbuckle throughout his career and he performed quite well in this type of role. 
Sterling also had some quite funny scenes when he tried to take revenge of Sennett for spying his wife and carried a revolver (which shot lots of smoke) with him, causing a plenty of confusion and misunderstandings when he inadvertently intimidated and scared people away while he was trying to find Sennett.
We can also see Arbuckle falling and tripping often in this film. Do not be fooled by his overweight, as Fatty was a quite skilled physical comedian and dancer and he often displayed such skills on screen. Arbuckle also had a very pleasant voice and it is said he could sing very well. Were not for the scandal that virtually ended his career in 1921 and it seems he could have made a smooth transition to talkies, if only he had a chance of doing so. 
In the end, both husband and peeping Pete ended up forgetting their disagreements and became friends. Not before the wife and a plenty of other neighbors got desperate in fear that a double murder would happen (as one of intertitles of the film) said. 
Not really an easy film to be understood by modern-day audiences, as the film is very short and it’s logically not possible to develop the psychological profile of characters well. The plot is also not narrative, but revolves around a simple premise and random gags. Still, it’s interesting to see how Arbuckle was a good comedian from the start and how comedy shorts would develop more and more each year. On the following year. Keystone studios would hire Chaplin (who was also starting his career in films) and produce its first feature-length comedy with most of famous Keystone comedians + Marie Dressler (already a famous stage actress). But this is another story.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mabel at the Wheel (USA,1914)

This is a very well-known and famous Keystone short but perhaps more because of Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin feud in the backstage than the film itself. Supposedly Chaplin had disagreements with Normand on the type of humor of the film and he also did not like the fact that he was directed by a very young woman. Apparently, Mack Sennett (the head and founder of Keystone studios) intended to fire Chaplin, but he had requests of more Chaplin’s films by film exhibitors, which showed Sennett that it would not be a good idea to get rid of an actor who was actually being successful.
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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fatty's Plucky Pup (USA,1915)

The comedy shorts of Keystone studios of the 1910s were usually one reelers (circa 11 minutes long), but this one is a two reeler (circa 22 minutes long). The main impact on the plot is that the psychological profile of character of actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is slightly better developed than it would be in a one reeler. 
As expected in a Keystone film, we can see a snapshot of life of working class citizens, lots of rough physical gags and pretty straightforward situations. Fatty is an adult man who still lived at home. It seems he did not have a job and often found himself in trouble and relied on the protection of his temperamental mother even to simple tasks.  But those problems did not prevent him from having a sweetheart just around the corner
Fatty saved a dog who was being maltreated by two men and released the other dogs who were caged by those tough guys. This was the beginning of a new friendship. Actually, in real life this friendship was old as Fatty was the owner of Luke and the one who decided to put his dog in films. 
After that, Fatty’s character brought the dog home and there is a quite funny scene where he gives Luke a bath, with “the finishing touch” of taking care of the nails of his new friend in a rather awkward way. Unfortunately Fatty’s mother did not like Luke very much, perhaps because Fatty washed the dog on the same bucket where she washed clothes. 
The utmost trouble happened after Fatty disrupted a game two unscrupulous men were playing on the street. The men decided to take revenge on Fatty by kidnapping his sweetheart. Luke was the first to realize what happened and came to the girl’s rescue. He followed the kidnappers to the shack where they hid her. Thus, when the girl finally got to call Fatty’s house in a moment of distraction of the guys, Luke was already outside, barking and terrorized some of the though men. 
As soon as Fatty received that call, Luke returned to Fatty’s home and promptly guided him to the shack. The timing was perfect, because the guys were quite close to kill the girl. Meanwhile, Fatty’s mother called the police station, Fatty looks for help at that same place and then we can see the Keystone Cops coming to the scene. A frantic chase happens, but they all got to find the girl.
Luke found the girl even before the policemen did, he untied her, which was particularly important considering how unskilled Fatty was to handle the rescue by himself.  She fainted for a brief time, which was a typical reaction of a 1910s damsel in distress, but we can soon see the girl, Fatty and Luke happily sitting on the shack, reunited and happy.
A noteworthy detail is the ridiculously fake mustache of nearly all villains. It is also a delight to see the urban landscapes of the era, with lots of empty space and only a few cars here and there, symbols of a way of life that has been gone for many decades. 
Not a particularly innovative or hilarious short, but it remains entertaining and with a plenty of historical value and it is worthy watching. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mabel's Wilful Way (USA,1915)

In this one reeler, Keystone studios remained faithful to his formula of a park (a perfect scenery to benefit from the sunny weather of California), some cops and a girl. But she was definitely not a delicate flower.
Mabel Normand, at the height of her youth and popularity, had another ground-breaking performance. And she was a rather innovative actress because, despite her beautiful and delicate looks, she was not only a “damsel in distress” or a cute woman in the scene only to give some “atmosphere”, but she was also a daredevil, both on screen and real life. She did a plenty of her own stunts in her films and was even an airplane driver in real life back to the 1910s. 
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was already a known comedian, having started in films in 1913 at Keystone studios itself. Arbuckle still plays in this film the role of a baby-man, who was incapable of controlling his own impulses, which is a standard of a plenty of his early films at Keystone studios. This limited a lot his comedic potential and fortunately he abandoned such characters as time passed. Since this film is a one reeler and it was no required a deep psychological development of his character, his broad, unrealistic gestures and behavior are fortunately barely seen by the audiences.
Much has been said about the 1920s romantic comedies by Harold LLloyd, but the Normand x Arbuckle duo had already engaged in the genre in previous decade with successful results. Part of the excellent chemistry they had on the screen came from their close friendship in real life. 
In this film, Mabel was out in an amusement park with her parents, but she felt bored and decided to have some fun without them. She ended up meeting two suitors (Arbuckle and Edgar Kennedy) and enjoyed the park with them in a mischievous, but innocent way.  Then we can see one of the highlights of the film, which showed how a genuine amusement park was like back to the early XX century, and how much fun people seemed to have there.
Unfortunately -to the guys -they inadvertently had problems in the park with some people who happened to be Mabel’s parents. Needless to say, it was a ticklish situation when Mabel decided to introduce her new friends to her parents, who were not really happy to see their old antagonists again.
We can see some rough scenes for nowadays’ standards, especially where Arbuckle feeds a bear with a cone of ice cream and a rather ethnically insensitive scene where some balls are thrown on a man in blackface for sheer entertainment purposes. It is also a bit disturbing to see Mabel spanked by her parents for her misbehavior at the end of the film.
In addition to still being enjoyable, this film also provides us with an interesting historical witness of an old era. Amusement parks were still at their beginning (at least in the USA) and at the turn of XIX and XX the entertainment of middle classes in Northern hemisphere started to change greatly. Cinema itself was part of this change. Consequently, although this comedy is clearly outdated we can still laugh at some of its gags.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cruel, Cruel Love (USA,1914)

This film was made during the first year of Chaplin in films, which he spent working for Keystone studios. Thus, the style of this comedy short was typical of the output of Keystone films of the era: Knockabout slapstick, actors in broad gestures to the point of situations often have a surreal aura, fast pace of films, misunderstandings, chases, fake facial hair. We can see it all in this film. Therefore, the pathos, slow pace of subsequent Chaplin films -which made him a legend of cinema worldwide – were still absent here. 
Another important fact is that this short film was considered lost for some decades and the existing footage was found in South America, with some missing minutes compared with the original film. Thus, current audiences must take it into consideration before analyzing this cute little slapstick comedy.
It must be highlighted that the actors do engage in broad, stagy gestures, which was an acting style already out of date back to 1910s films. This is particularly true when we realize that the subtle style of actresses like Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, etc were already quite successful in Hollywood at that time. Minta Durfee had the most exaggerated acting among all main actors of this film, but it is really no surprise as she always acted quite stagy in her Keystone films.
The character of little tramp existed only as a rough draft of what the audiences would see years later. Actually, Chaplin plays a wealthy man who was left by his love interest (played by actress Minta Durfee, who in real life was back then the first wife of another silent comedy star of the same studio, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle) after she caught Chaplin in an apparently compromising situation with the maid. In reality, Chaplin was only trying to help the maid, who had just hurt her foot and the supreme irony is that the maid had hurt herself right after meeting her own boyfriend (who, obviously was not Chaplin, as she already had another sweetheart).
Chaplin, in despair, tried to kill himself by taking poison even though he did not know that his butler had replaced the poison by water and was laughing out loud at Chaplin’s near-death reactions. As Chaplin was not aware he had only drank water, he thought his death was imminent. 
The real boyfriend of the maid showed up and explained the entire situation to Durfee, that Chaplin had not done anything wrong. Durfee sends Chaplin a letter saying she wants him back and the film has a happy end. 
Although those who are not familiar with Chaplin’s short films in his first years in Hollywood (before he took over full creative control on his films and when he was not a cinema star yet) will barely recognize him in this film, it is still worth watching. This comedy perhaps looks a bit “primitive” to nowadays’ standards, but they were quite usual and popular back to the 1910s and they were vehicles to catapult a plenty of actors into stardom, being Chaplin only one of them. 
The production values of Hollywood were already being consolidated back them. An example of it is that the first comedy feature-length comedy of Hollywood was produced exactly in 1914 by the same Keystone studios, having Charlie Chaplin in the cast and also Marie Dressler (who was already a famous theater actress). This short film was definitely part of all evolvement cinema was witnessing on early XX century. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Two Tars (USA,1928)

This film is arguably among the most known silent shorts by Laurel and Hardy. This is a delicious mix of situational comedy and slapstick, of standard material of late 1920s with some subtle influence of slapstick of previous decade. Everything adapted to the so-called Jazz Era. 
Laurel and Hardy play the roles of two Navy men on their day off. They decide to rent a car, get involved in an accident and it does not take long until they meet two beautiful girls and get interested in them. An awkward conversation takes place, where the guys try to act though to impress the girls -without much success. 
The girls were having some problems with the candy machine, Laurel and Hardy tried to help them, but ended up worsening the situation by inadvertently breaking the machine and making all candies fall on the sidewalk. A furious employee of the store shows up. At first, Laurel and Hardy tried to comfront them, but after it was clear that they were not as though as they seemed, the girls took the problem into their own hands and one of them even beat up the store employee. This was a very interesting scene, as it was reversed the standard of “damsels in distress”, so popular in the 1910s, in favor of a new sort of woman that blossomed in the 1920s: The flappers, strong-willed young girls, who attended parties, smoked, and were much more liberated. 
Although the Laurel and Hardy were not exactly brave or skilled, the girls ended up going out with them in their car. The day was beautiful and everyone was happy, but then there was a traffic jam, and it is where it started the most famous part of the film. Actually, the idea of making a film in a traffic jam was pretty ingenious for 1928, as cars have not been around for too long yet. The drivers involved in the jam were understandably stressed and angry there and what started as a minor argument ended up having greater proportions, involving all drivers -including the girls themselves. 
Chaos happened and a fight started, with typical knockabout gags we could easily have seen in a slapstick comedy. This even included things being thrown, people falling down and getting dirty. This is not a very common type of a gag in Laurel and Hardy’s films, considering they have always been situational-oriented since the beginning of their duo. However, despite the clearly physical scenes of the fights during the traffic jam, we can also observe that the mechanical gags of the broken cars were well-elaborate and quite expensive for its era, especially because it was employed lots of damaged cars. Even the type of destruction each car endured were funny by themselves. 
Another noteworthy detail is how the policeman’s attempts to restore order ended up failing terribly and his authority was mercilessly ridiculed. We can see it clearly when his motorcycle was smashed in the middle of all confusion and how the policeman’s vehicle was so powerless in comparison with all those cards around him. This idea of making fun of authorities was very common in films by Keystone studios back to the 1910s, especially in films by the Keystone Cops. Although a full decade had passed and this film was produced by another studio we can see that cinema audiences still liked to laugh at the same things. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Unaccustomed As We Are (USA, 1929)

Although this film was Laurel and Hardy’s first talkie, some silent versions of this film with intertitles were also released. So, both silent and talkie versions of Unaccustomed As We Are can still be seen nowadays, even in DVD. And it was the silent version that was watched before writing this review. 
The acting of Laurel and Hardy did not change very much compared with their previous silent films. Both actors had a more situational-oriented acting, not resorting too much on physical gags, even in the silent era, therefore sound films were actually quite favorable to those comedians. They also had pleasant voices, Stan Laurel even had an extensive experience on stage back to his native England (where he even worked with Charles Chaplin) and was pretty much used to dialogue in his career. 
The themes of battle of sexes, henpecked husbands and rebelling wives have already been widely explored throughout the 1920s domestic situational comedies. Thus, the plot of this film was not really innovative, but it stands out due to the reliable acting of experienced comedians. 
Oliver Hardy brings his good friend, Stan, to have dinner at his home to taste the delicious food of Mrs. Hardy. But unfortunately Oliver forgot to let his wife know about the visit in advance, so she could have proper time to make the arrangements. Mrs. Hardy got furious with that and says she will not cook for another crazy friend of Oliver and she leaves home rather angry, claiming she would spend some time in her mother’s house.
Oliver decides to cook for Stan, although he does not seem to be a skilled or experienced cook. Stan tries to help him, but he did not seem to be skilled with the housework either. Oliver’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Kennedy, realized both men were having problems and offered help for them to cook. However, there was an accident with Mrs. Kennedy while she was at Oliver’s house and her dress caught fire. When she was on her way back home to put on another dress, Mrs. Kennedy’s husband (Officer Kennedy) returned home.
Her husband was a though cop and Mrs. Kennedy was afraid that he would think she was actually cheating on him and would not believe she was half naked only because her dress was accidentally on fire. At first, Oliver volunteered to tell the truth to Officer Kennedy, but then he was also afraid of his neighbor’s reaction and the only solution was Mrs. Kennedy hiding herself in a trunk at Oliver’s house.
Since the silent era comedies could often revolve around misunderstandings it was not different in this film. Regretting her rant, Mrs. Hardy returned home very sad, determined to be in good terms with Oliver. She even said she would cook for Stan, but Mrs. Kennedy was locked in a trunk and had to leave the house. To disguise the delicate situation, Oliver claimed he was leaving Mrs. Hardy to go to South America and tried to go away from home taking the trunk with him. 
Mrs. Hardy was furious, blaming Stan for Oliver’s decision and she got very angry again. In the middle of this chaos, Officer Kennedy arrived at Oliver’s house. Officer Kennedy volunteered to talk to Oliver, so Oliver would not abandon his wife. 
He immediately realized Oliver was hiding a woman in the trunk and took it to his house, so Mrs. Hardy would not find it out what was truly happening with Oliver. What Officer Kennedy could not really imagine was it was his own wife who was in the trunk and he inadvertently started to talk to Oliver about his extramarital affairs, claiming he met some cute girls while out of home and that Mrs. Kennedy had never a clue about it.
Mrs. Kennedy heard everything while inside the trunk and was obviously furious. As soon as Officer Kennedy returned home she started arguing with her husband and even broke things on him. On the other hand, Officer Kennedy was furious with Oliver and Hardy, blaming them both for his marital problems.
Actress Telma Todd (Mrs. Kennedy) managed to show her good comedic time, funny facial expressions and a beauty that was very much within the 1930s standards. Although she was already acting back to the silent era, it was only in talkies where she could show off her comedic skills. Although she was mysteriously murdered in the 1930s, Todd made a name to herself.
Australian actress Mae Bush (Mrs. Hardy) was already an experienced comedienne when this film was made and had been in films since the 1910s. The same applies to Edgar Kennedy (Officer Kennedy), who worked with some of the best film comedians of Hollywood and had the distinction of being one of original Keystone Cops back to the 1910s. During silent era he also worked for both Mack Sennett and Hal Roach, who were among the most famous producers of comedies at the time.