Saturday, September 11, 2021

Mabel and Fatty's Married Life (USA, 1915)

Comedians Mabel Normand and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle are paired again, this time as a married couple and the plot of this film deals with another commonplace in silent films (both comedies and dramas): A wife -within the typical damsel in distress stereotype – has to face a burglar all by herself while her husband is away to work. Sometimes the danger was genuine, but it could also be a false alarm.

In the beginning of the film it is shown the intertitle “She reads exciting books” and Mabel was sitting on a park bench while she was reading books and Roscoe was her company. They were likely discussing the book and then Roscoe spotted an organ grinder and a short time later the monkey ended up jumping on Mabel, who was really scared. Roscoe got the monkey, threw it away and the organ grinder was furious when he saw it. Both Roscoe and the organ grinder started to fight and Roscoe beat up the guy. Feeling deeply insulted and humiliated by this defeat, the organ grinder takes “an oath of vengeance”, as one of intertitles stated. Roscoe did not feel intimidated and beat up the organ grinder even more.

The couple left the park shortly afterwards, but it was only the beginning of problems. Roscoe left Mabel at home and then went out, but he soon realized that he had forgotten his papers at home and returned home to get them. Roscoe was followed by his driver, who Roscoe asked to wait for him in the livingroom. Meanwhile, Mabel was apparently a little bit uneasy for being alone at home and started reading the newspaper in order to distract herself. She read a headline saying that there were bands of thieves operating in the residence district and needless to say that it only made Mabel more nervous.

Roscoe opened the drawers, looking for his papers, Mabel heard the noise and took a revolver to defend herself as she thought the house was being burglarized. Roscoe ended up being shot on the butt and locked himself in the closet in sheer horror. Mabel kept on shooting and the driver entered the house to check what was going on, but he was also scared with Mabel’s shootings. After a while, Roscoe left the closet and Mabel fainted in his arms. When she woke up, Roscoe asked Mabel to calm down. They said good bye, Roscoe left home and met the driver (who at this point was hiding himself in the car after all that mess inside the house).

Roscoe finally left to work and Mabel was not completely calm yet. Meanwhile, the organ grinder and another man arrived to Roscoe’s house and they wanted revenge due to the previous incident in the park. Mabel saw them through the window and engaged in sewing to relax, which did not work. She made a brief phone call and a woman picked up the telephone. Some minutes later, Mabel went to the door and bumped into the organ grinder, who was trying to force his entrance into the house. He eventually got it and Mabel threw all sorts of things on the organ grinder to defend herself but it was not enough to keep the organ grinder at bay. Mabel ran away and locked herself in the bedroom.

The woman Mabel had previously called ended up calling the police and the incompetent Keystone Cops were employed to solve the problem. When the policemen arrived, it looked like the neighbors saw that Mabel was in trouble and there were many people gathered on the porch, which created a huge confusion. The policemen went upstairs while the organ grinder was by the bedroom’s door, trying to enter. Mabel opened the door and guided one of the policemen to the window, as she thought that the burglar was there. In the middle of all this chaos Roscoe and the driver arrived back home. It turned out that the noise that came from the window was made by the monkey, who the organ grinder brought with him. Roscoe thought that all the chaos had happened because Mabel called the police without any reason and got angry with her at first, but after a while he managed to laugh at the situation.

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand were very popular on their era and we can see why. Even though this plot was not new not even in the 1910s, the tenderness of the couple, the innocent confusion and witness of a lifestyle that has been already over for a long time remains of interest to modern-day audiences. Without mentioning the physical gags and the stunts, which are challenging in any era. It is not likely that actors would do their own stunts virtually all the time nowadays like actors did in most slapstick comedies.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Mabel, Fatty and the Law (USA, 1915)

Again we can see the successful pairing of Mabel Normand and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. They made films together in the 1910s that were very popular among audiences and this is one of them. The theme portrayed in this short film is a classic in slapstick comedies: misunderstanding.

We cannot stop love, can we? Fatty and Mabel are a married couple and both of them are bored in their marriage. In the beginning of the film we can see Fatty playing the piano at home livingroom while innocently flirting with the housemaid. Mabel saw it, got furious and expelled the maid out of the livingroom immediately. Fatty kissed Mabel to apologize, but she slapped and physically assaulted Fatty as she was really angry with his flirty behavior. After some minutes Mabel calmed down, regreted her impulsive atitude and apologized with Fatty. Then, she dressed up to go outside with Fatty.

Meanwhile, in another house it is shown a husband (played by actor Harry Gribbon) who was also flirting with the housemaid and his wife (played by actress Minta Durfee, who was real-life wife of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle at that time) saw it and got as furious with her husband as Mabel did in the previous scene. After an argument, it is shown that this couple had also gone out.

Fatty and Mabel sit down on the bench in a park and there was a sign besides the bench saying “No spooning allowed”. This can be an alert to the audience that it will not take long until a misunderstanding happen. Then the other couple arrive in the park and sits down on a similar bench, with a similar spooning sign. The husband starts smoking a cigar and there was lots of smoke, his wife stood up angrily and approached the bench where Fatty and Mabel were sitting down. After a while, she left and Fatty followed this other woman and started flirting with her.

At the same time, the other husband was alone on the bench and started at Mabel (who was also alone) while she was reading a newspaper and got immediately interested on her. Weirdly, he tried to catch Mabel’s attention by throwing some pieces of food towards her. After one of those pieces hit Mabel’s face he started flirting with her and she was enjoying the attention she was getting from that total stranger without realizing that Fatty was actually flirting with the wife of that unknown man.

Finally, the stranger sat on the bench besides Mabel, but he was caught in the act by a hiding policeman, who saw everything while he was sitting on the branch of a tree. Keep in mind that spooning was prohibited and who was called to restore order? The mega incompetent Keystone Cops, who chased Mabel and the other man out of the blue. They both ended up parting their ways after being chased.

However, it was not the end of the problems because that same policeman who was sitting on the branch of a tree saw Fatty flirting with the other woman and the Keystone Cops were called again but this time they got to arrest both Fatty and the woman and both of them ended up being taken to the police station. They would either pay thirty dollars of fine or would be jailed for thirty days. Everyone started to argue but Fatty and the woman could not avoid being thrown in jail.

Both Fatty and the woman called home to ask their respective spouses to take them out of jail and both calls were answered by their maids. The spouses went to the police station, Mabel arrived first and started to argue with the other woman. Then the husband of the other woman arrived a short time later and Mabel realized he was the man who was flirting with her at the park earlier that day. Both couples had finally reunited and continued arguing on the sidewalk of the police station after they were released. A policeman showed up outside in order to stop with the confusion and this is how it ended what was supposed to be a relaxing walk on the park on a sunny day.

Although this film is no different than the average films of the era and is far from revolutionary, it remains an interesting film to simply watch, relaxing without taking things too seriously or analyzing every detail. It is also a nice historical witness of parks back to the 1910s and how people had fun out of home. The gags easy to be understood and the aura of innocence in the so-called marriage life remain appealing to this day.