The Hand Bag – An Unstable Object

The Hand Bag
R: Unknown. D: Flora Finch, Frank Bennett, Rosemary Theby. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Although the outings with [John] Bunny were some of her most popular, Flora [Finch] did plenty at Vitagraph on her own, and while limited in her roles by her distinctive appearance, she still managed to find variation in her characters and never played stock harridans or shrews. The Hand Bag (1912) stars Flora as an old spinster who drops her hand bag on the street while out shopping. (…)”
Steve Massa: Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy. BearManor Media 2017

“A paragon of portability and mobility in and of itself, the bag is an inherently unstable object in both its spatial positioning and its internal constitution. To a great extent, the same can be said of the New Woman, a figure who was largely ‘a product of discourse,’ as Sally Ledger has suggested, and thus inevitably a locus of semantic disagreement. Most critical accounts of this fin-de-siecle phenomenon begin, indeed, by drawing attention to the impossibility of defining the New Woman as a single entity. (…) The bag was a perfect metonym for this restless modern woman. As such, it can be differentiated from other common accessories in stock sketches of the character. While both the bicycle and the latchkey captured the keynote of restlessness as well as the gender ambiguity associated with the figure, neither quite conjured the sense of semantic variability and contestation so aptly conveyed in the visual iconography of the woman’s bag. Moreover, as a material mediator in traditional enactments of chivalry, the bag, unlike the bicycle and latchkey, was an object around which interrogations of chivalry might be dramatized. Most importantly, the bag held a unique status as a framing device for character development in the novel and an analogy for literary form.”
Emily Ridge: The Problem of the Woman’s Bag from the New Woman to Modernism. In: Modernism/modernity. Volume 21, Number 3, September 2014, p. 757-780. Project MUSE. Johns Hopkins University Press

>>> Flora Finch and John Bunny

>>> John Bunny and Flora Finch