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  • This Keystone comedy begins with one of the more intriguing introductory titles I've encountered: "Music and onions cause family discord." We soon get an explanation: Mabel Normand is sitting with her parents at an amusement park, and she's clearly unhappy. For one thing, there's a nearby band playing oompah music that makes her grimace, and for another thing her parents are stern and uptight, and it doesn't help that her mother is chewing on a sprig of raw onions. No wonder Mabel is unhappy, or that she seizes the earliest opportunity to flee and go off to enjoy the day on her own.

    We next meet Roscoe Arbuckle and Edgar Kennedy, a pair of "short- funded pals" who are strolling through the park basically cruising for chicks -- and I'll bet that phrase was already in use in 1915! It isn't long before Roscoe has made an enemy of cop Joe Bordeaux, while Edgar manages to antagonize Mabel's father. Working fast, Roscoe makes time with Mabel, buying two ice cream cones with a coin he has swiped from the ice cream vendor's own cash register. In the zoo, they toss their ice cream to a bear who eats it happily, then head for a giant slide, where Mabel (somewhat obscurely) becomes offended and departs. Roscoe has another run-in with Joe the cop, Edgar and Mabel meet up and flirt, Roscoe offends Mabel's mother, and so it goes.

    As my description is meant to suggest this is a very casual effort, mildly amusing on its own terms but not especially memorable. Viewers accustomed to the more polished comedies of the 1920s produced by the likes of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, etc., may find they have to readjust their expectations for these earlier Keystone films, which were obviously made quickly and spontaneously. We enjoy the antics of the performers but the plotting is totally off-the-cuff, and the characters behave in inexplicable ways. For example, the cop in this movie takes an instant, unmotivated dislike to Roscoe and clubs him with no provocation, then follows him through the park looking for any excuse to beat him. If Mabel's Wilful Way had been made a few years later the filmmakers surely would have come up with a better reason for the cop's wrath, but at this early stage in the game they didn't bother with such niceties as logical behavior; the idea was to get the players fighting as soon as possible, and make the falls funny.

    There are a few points of interest here for buffs. For starters, Mabel wears a fascinating outfit, a long dress of black-and-white vertical stripes with a blouse of horizontal stripes, topped with a truly bizarre hat better seen than described. There's some nice cinematography of Edgar Kennedy riding a merry-go-round, and later, in the giant slide sequence, some experimentation with footage run backward. There's also one of those moments that reminds us that life has changed a lot since 1915, sometimes for the better: it comes during a sequence on the carnival midway in which Kennedy pays a nickel to throw baseballs at a man sticking his head through a hole in a canvas. The man wears minstrel show makeup, black-face that is, although it's unclear whether we're supposed to accept him as an African American, or as a white guy in black-face. Either way, it's a brief bit and nothing much comes of it, but it's the kind of thing that makes people gasp today. We've come a long way, baby.
  • This entertaining short comedy has plenty of energy, in addition to some good material and a good cast headed by Mabel Normand and 'Fatty' Arbuckle. The comedy builds up nicely as things develop, and the two stars get plenty of help from the supporting performers.

    The story has Mabel wandering off from her parents, and getting involved in some fairgrounds antics with Arbuckle and Al St. John. Most of them are amusing. One or two of them might perhaps be just a bit off-putting, but the tone is good-natured enough that it isn't a real problem. There is one very funny sequence with Mabel and Arbuckle on a slide, and a number of the sequences have some nostalgia value, in the way that they preserve the feel of an old-fashioned fairground, in addition to the comedy itself.

    Things also build up pretty well when Mabel's parents come back on the scene, and the last part works pretty well in capping off a good comedy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a very enjoyable comedy about a family of three, and their amusing but frustrating day, spent at an amusement park. Mabel Normand couldn't be anymore irresistible as she plays the adventurous daughter, who steals away from her boring parents and meets up with Fatty Arbuckle for some real fun. The pacing of this comedy is perfect, but what fascinated me the most about the film , is the amazing Idora Amusement Park in Oakland, California. A perfect location for the comic antics of Mable Normand and Fatty Arbuckle. I found an 1915 newspaper article of that day describing the filming of this comedy. It quotes; "Idora Park would make an ideal motion picture studio for comedy stuff", declared Roscoe Arbuckle at the close of a big day at Idora, making movies for the public. Also from the public; It is more fun making movies than seeing them, according to the throngs of visitors. Many of them "got into the picture". Those who were brought into the "movie" will watch anxiously to see themselves on the screen!. It also describes Mabel having to go down the slide many times before her dress behaved just right,much to the delight of the gathering crowd. The merry atmosphere of the day displays easily on the screen, and each character's performance is good. Along with the most amazing cinematography of the time, the carousel scene is marvellous and even the ice-cream cones look delicious!. This film was a lot of fun to watch and a lovely nostalgic view of the past.
  • Mabel's Wilful Way (1915)

    *** (out of 4)

    Mabel Normand gets tired of sitting with her parents so she sneaks out to the park where she runs into Fatty and trouble follows. This is a pretty good short that goes by very quickly and also contains a lot of laughs. There are many highlights including Fatty feeding a bear with his mouth, a cop who likes to hit up on Fatty and a wonderful sequence with Fatty and Mabel on a slide.

    Film can be found on The Forgotten Films of Fatty Arbuckle, which contains four discs worth of material including items directed by Arbuckle after he was blacklisted from Hollywood.
  • Mabel's Wilful Way casts Mabel Normand as a young girl just out on the town with her parents at what looks like a fine eatery. But the orchestra is not playing music to her liking so she sneaks off to a nearby amusement park.

    Where she meets up with a couple of young man looking to pick up some women which was a bit more constrained in those more puritanical times. The young men are Roscoe Arbuckle and Edgar Kennedy. Kennedy would go on to develop that famous slow burn of his in so many films as a character player.

    Here he's just a sidekick of Fatty's and the two with Mabel enjoy the rides, the carousel, the chute the chutes, etc. One time Kennedy throws baseballs at a man clearly in blackface. In those more racist times and this was the year of Birth Of A Nation the man in blackface is none other than Billy Gilbert of the famous sneeze. He like Kennedy also enlivened many a film as a fine character player.

    Such was not the case for the leads Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand. A pair of the earliest of Hollywood's scandalous tragedies.
  • While I've seen Mabel Normand is some feature silent-movie compilations from Robert Youngston, this is the first time I've seen her in an entire film. Both she and Fatty Arbuckle provide some good chemistry as they get some ice cream (which Fatty pays with a coin he snuck from the register after Mabel inadvertently stole some ice cream earlier), go down some slides (with Fatty accidentally hitting a cop who hates him and accidentally lands on Mabel too), and meet her parents (with the father hating a friend of Fatty's, Edgar Kennedy, because of an earlier encounter and likewise for the mother with Fatty). Not too much logic here but this short is fast-moving and pretty amusing throughout with a nice reverse-film sequence of Fatty sliding up. Only a brief blackface sequence partially ruined Mabel's Willful Way for me. Recommended for any silent film buff.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is not the most original Arbuckle short I've ever seen but it does the formula pretty well. Mabel is out with her parents and slips away and meets Fatty and his friend, played by Edgar Kennedy (a common supporting actor with Fatty). When the parents go looking for her, both Edgar AND Fatty end up insulting one of her parents. Finally, when the parents find Mabel, she insists on introducing them to Edgar--who the Dad hates due to their earlier meeting. Then, when she introduces Fatty, Mom attacks him due to their meeting! Apparently, both guys had the lousy luck of insulting only one person and that one person happened to be one of Mabel's parents. Contrived but fun.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This Keystone film has Fatty Arbuckle meeting Mabel Normand at a fair. Mabel is frustrated and/or bored with her parents and heads to a fair. Meanwhile Fatty Arbuckle and his pal Edgar Kennedy are looking for girls at the fair. Each insults one of Mabel's parents. Fatty eventually meets up with Mabel; they buy ice cream, feed a bear, and go for a ride on a giant slide. Fatty of course runs into trouble with a cop, which is a standard occurrence in these films. Some very funny moments are marred by the man in black-face scene. It wasn't often that the context of the times clashed with the content of a film in Fatty's or Mabel's films, but when it did happen (as it did here), everything came to a screeching halt. ** of 4 stars.