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.

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