21 October 2012 | jayraskin1
Delightful PostModern Comedy from 1912
The first cinematic comedies were made up of practical jokes like "Fred Ott's Sneeze," and the Lumiere's "Watering the Gardner". By 1912, one reel comedies were still centered around one or two practical jokes but they were now well integrated into a story. Here the practical joke is integrated into a story of a romance between Tom (Edward Dillon) and Helen (Mabel Normand).
The movie begins with Tom carrying a ladder for an elopement with Helen. Unfortunately, as soon as Helen climbs down the ladder, her parents, played by Grace Henderson and Frank Opperman, come out armed, and Opperman chases Tom away.
Tom witnesses a movie scene of a marriage being filmed. He persuades the movie company to come with him back to Helen's house. They re-stage a marriage with Tom the groom in disguise and Dell Henderson (or is it Fred Ward) in drag as the bride. When the bride suddenly faints, Helen is recruited to be the bride for the film. Only it turns out that the preacher is real. Tom and Helen are really married. Tom rips off his bearded disguise and Helen's father nearly faints.
The brilliance of this film is that it questions the line between reality and virtual cinematic reality. Fake cinematic reality suddenly becomes reality. It is cinema itself that allows love to conquer in the real non-cinematic world.
The film has the great directors D.W. Griffith and One Shot William Beaudine in the film crew. Mack Sennett is listed in the credits as being in the film, but I am not sure if he is actually in the film.
This is one of the best and most cinematic early Biograph comedies that I have seen. It is very close to Sennett's Keystone comedy off-the-cuff and chase style and may be seen as a great transition piece into that style. Compare this to "The Furs" or "The Engagement Ring" which Sennett directed just a few months before, and it is easy to see that he has taken a leap in his film making style with much faster editing and pacing, and clever staging.
Mable also gets a chance to develop her character and do some excellent acting. She's no longer just pantomiming for the audience, but is really acting with a natural, believable style.
This is an absolute must for silent film buffs, but I think others might get a chuckle out of it too.