The Bangville Police
R: Henry Lehrman. D: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Nick Cogley. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1913
“The Keystone Cops (often spelled “Keystone Kops”) were fictional incompetent policemen, featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century. The movies were produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917. The idea came from Hank Mann who also played police chief Tehiezel in the first film before being replaced by Ford Sterling. Their first film was Hoffmeyer’s Legacy (1912) but their popularity stemmed from the 1913 short The Bangville Police starring Mabel Normand.
As early as 1914, Sennet shifted the Keystone Cops from starring roles to background ensemble, in support of comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. The Keystone Cops serve as supporting players for Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, and Chaplin in the first full-length Sennett comedy feature, Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), as well as in Mabel’s New Hero (1913) with Normand and Arbuckle; Making a Living (1914) with Chaplin in his first screen appearance (pre-Tramp); In the Clutches of the Gang (1914) with Normand, Arbuckle, and Al St. John; and Wished on Mabel (1915) with Arbuckle and Normand, among others. Comedian/actors Chester Conklin, Jimmy Finlayson, Ford Sterling and director Del Lord were also Keystone Cops.”
“The Keystone Kops were a ragtag gang and began as prize fighters, race car drivers, circus acrobats, strongmen, clowns, roustabouts and vaudevillians. They were a wild bunch, up for nearly any stunt the Sennett writers could concoct, and left behind a hilarious legacy of diverse performances. They were doused in oil, tossed off rooftops, launched into the ocean, butted by wild animals and plastered with pie. Their wacky “Kopwagon” was rigged to handle outrageous chases, near misses, collisions and explosions. Through improvisation and experimentation they developed many stunts and stunt techniques that remain popular today. The Keystone Kops were the first Movie Stunt Team and is a great example of why being a great acrobat is of so importance as a stunt performer.”
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