16 February 2010 | boblipton
Just Starting Out
Before he was lured away to produce comedy shorts for Keystone, Mack Sennett served an apprenticeship under D.W. Griffith at Biograph. He worked as actor, writer, crew of the captain's gig and for the last couple of years, as the director of the comedy output. Although these shorts were labelled "Farce Comedy" as they would be at Keystone, they were not the wild burlesque slapsticks that made him famous. Instead, they were more situational comedies, well if conservatively photographed -- although in this one at least, Sennett seems to avoid the famous 'Biograph Right Wall' and frames his interiors with the left wall -- and the characters were usually recognizable, human types, instead of the wildly gesticulating askew images of stage types.
In this one, Mabel Normand plays the title role, a wild child who keeps tormenting people and getting into scrapes. Mack is courting Kate Toncray, who plays Mabel's aunt and William Butler plays Mabel's father and Kate's brother, who tells Mack he may marry his sister if he amuses his daughter. This consists of letting her torment him and of setting a local chicken farmer on them all. The result is amusing but not particularly so.
It would take the wildness that Sennett infused into his own productions, as well as the best editing in the world, which he also had, for his stuff to be really good. In the meantime, this is still interesting, albeit as a transition piece.