The World’s First Feature-length Comedy

Tillie’s Punctured Romance
R: Mack Sennett, Charles Bennett. D: Charles Chaplin, Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914
Print: UCLA Film and Television Archive, BFI National Film and Television Archive

“The comedy in Tillie comes in several forms. The bulk of the humor, as in most Keystone films, comes from simple, unscripted physical gags. Chases, dancing, thrown objects, trips and falls (deliberate or otherwise) are all standard fare. Other gags are far more sophisticated. In one of the most well-developed scenes in the film, the Stranger and the Other Girl are sitting in a movie theater, watching a film that is touching on their situation a little too close to home. In the film, a man and woman have stolen some money from a poor, naive girl, and are found out by the police. As they watch the film, we see them getting more and more uncomfortable, obviously feeling guilty when confronted with their crimes (or at least afraid of getting caught). As the movie ends, the man sitting next to them (Charley Chase) shifts so his coat opens slightly, revealing a police badge just like the detective in the movie they were watching, and the pair dash out of the theater in terror. This parallel is slowly and elegantly revealed, showing a forethought and steady hand not frequently found in Keystone films.”
Allex Crumbley
Spellbound Cinema

“Eine Prestigeproduktion, der Birth of a Nation der Heiterkeit. Und: Chaplins erster Auftritt in einem Sechsakter, der wahrscheinlich welt­weit ersten abendfüllenden Komödie. Tillie’s Punctured Romance war Mack Sennetts Versuch, mit Keystone eine neue Mittelstands-Respektabilität zu erlangen. Das zeigt schon die Wahl der Hauptdarstellerin: Superstar Marie Dressler spielte (wie schon hunderte, tausende Male am Broadway zuvor) Tillie, die fidele Unschuld vom Lande. Charlie und Mabel Normand sollten La Dressler eigentlich nur zuarbeiten, stehlen ihr aber doch immer wieder die Schau, und zwar stets dann, wenn der Film seine Bühnenbasis vergisst, im Keystone-Tempo loslegt und Chaplin seine ganze Pantomimen-Theater-plus-Kino-Erfahrung zum Tragen bringen kann. Ein faszinierender Eiertanz zwischen den Medien, der aus seiner hybriden ­Natur eine ganz eigene Verve gewinnt.” (R.H.)

Mabel’s Blunder
R: Mabel Normand. B: Mabel Normand. D: Mabel Normand, Harry McCoy, Charley Chase, Charles Bennett, Wallace MacDonald, Edward F. Cline, Al St. John. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

Only 25 movies were selected to be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2009. This film was elected to honor Mabel Normand for her enduring contribution to American culture.

“Besides trading on the comedy staples of mistaken identities and misunderstood intentions, Mabel’s Blunder also features a double-dose of another standard of farce: gender-impersonation, with Mabel disguising herself as a man, and the uniden-tified young actor playing Normand’s brother donning drag to impersonate his sibling. Normand had been impersonating males for comic result ever since her Biograph days. An early Keystone, Mabel’s Stratagem (1912), had also featured Normand as an office worker who is fired when her boss’s wife feels her husband is being too affection-ate to his stenographer, and insists that he hire a man for the job instead. Mabel later dons male drag and gets the job — only to find herself now becoming an object of flirtation from the wife.”
Brent E. Walker
Library of Congress

Mabel’s Stratagem
R: Mack Sennett. D: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Alice Davenport, Arthur Tavares. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1912