Review: Mabel’s Married Life (1914)

>> Friday, November 27, 2009

USA/Silent/B&W-13m./Dir: Charles Chaplin/Wr: Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand/Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Charles Chaplin (Mabel’s husband), Mack Swain (Ladykiller), Alice Howell (The ladykiller’s wife)

Although Mabel Normand’s forename appears as part of the title of the silent comedy short Mabel’s Married Life, her co-star, Charlie Chaplin, was quickly eclipsing the comedienne as the studio’s biggest box office draw. Within five months in the motion picture business, Chaplin had graduated from a featured player at Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios to the writer and director of his own films, bolstered by the audience popularity of his tramp character and the drunken slapstick that the comic had first honed on the stage.

In Mabel’s Married Life, Chaplin is drunk once again. After a minor argument with his spouse (Mabel Normand) over the shabbiness of his shoes, Charlie makes a beeline for the nearest bar and downs a few shots of whiskey. When he returns to the little woman, Mabel is being hit on by a bulky masher in tennis togs (Mack Swain). Chaplin tries to defend his wife, but his punches and kicks barely get the big boy’s attention. Eventually, the masher’s wife breaks up the fracas, and Charlie returns to the bar. Meanwhile, Mabel buys a boxing dummy to try to encourage her husband to become a manly man who can protect her from unwanted advances. Rather coincidentally, the boxing dummy is dressed very much like Mabel’s masher, so when the bleary-eyed Chaplin returns home, he mistakes the dummy for the weighty womanizer. The jealous husband attacks the dummy, which bounces back on its rocking base to knock down the inebriate again and again. Even Mabel gets tangled in the tussle until she manages to convince her soused spouse that he’s fighting with an inanimate object.

Like most of Chaplin’s early Keystone comedies, there is very little plot to Mabel’s Married Life beyond a combination of drunkenness and pratfalls. Still, while Charlie Chaplin would do much better work in the future, the short is worth watching just to enjoy Chaplin and Mabel Normand’s athletic improvisations with the rocking dummy in the latter half of the film. Chaplin fans will be reminded of the comic’s epic mêlées with inanimate objects in his greatest boozy short subject, One A.M. (1916), and Mabel Normand also acquits herself well in the slapstick struggle.

A Note--Mabel Normand played an important part in Chaplin’s development as a comedian. She starred in the first short in which Chaplin donned his famous tramp costume, Mabel’s Strange Predicament. A few months later, Chaplin was first allowed to direct himself after an argument with Normand over how she stifled his creativity when she directed him on Mabel at the Wheel. The two quickly patched up their differences, and they were often paired during the remainder of Chaplin’s year at Keystone, including being cast as swindling sweethearts in the first full-length feature comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, brawling, physical violence, and public disturbance

Potent Quotables--None to speak of

Video Availability--Mabel’s Married Life is included as an extra on Image Entertainment's DVD release of Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914). The film as it currently survives can also be viewed in the embedded video above.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Chaplin next got plowed in The Face on the Barroom Floor (1914).

Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp
The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion
Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema


Booze News: 2010 Silent Movies Calendar

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's that time of year again--holidays, decorations, novelty songs (bah, humbug)--and before you know it another year will be behind us. You know what that means, don't you? You're going to have to replace that 2009 calendar you have hanging on the wall.

I know, I know. You've looked through dozens of 2010 calendars in your local retail establishments, and you haven't been able to find a single one that you wouldn't be embarrassed to hang on your wall. Well, don't worry, old chum, Uncle Garv has the perfect solution... The 2010 Silent Movies Calendar.

Every year Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra produces a calendar featuring rare film stills and photographs of silent movie stars contributed by fans. In addition to a dozen beautiful photos in glorious black and white, the calendar also features birthdays of silent-era film stars and personalities, as well as notable marriages, deaths, film openings, and other significant dates. Best of all, the net proceeds made from the sale of the calendars (after printing expenses) are donated to support silent film restoration. Cool, huh?

Fifty percent of the films made before 1950 (including a number of alky-centric titles) are lost forever, and resources are limited to save those that remain. Here's a chance for you to do something to support efforts to preserve our precious film heritage, while simultaneously solving your calendar woes. The calendar plus postage is just $17.49, so follow the link below and get yours today!

Get it here-->2010 Silent Movies Calendar



Review: Eastern College (2008)

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

USA/C-105m./Dir: James Francis Flynn/Wr: James Francis Flynn/Cast: Jonathan Dicks (Nathan), Noah Applebaum (Justin), Christopher Clark Cowan (Dom), Brandon Lea (Bob), Laure-Lyne Zbinden (Scud), James Francis Flynn (Skydive), Darren Bailey (Professor Pete), Hannah Phelps (Natalie) and Elizabeth Laidlaw (President Garlin)

Sometimes a film grabs hold of you unexpectedly and you find yourself enjoying it a lot more than you had initially expected. Such is the case with Eastern College, a small, independently-produced first feature by James Francis Flynn about four friends spending their last summer together in a college town. It’s a low budget, coming-of-age comedy/drama, and it has the look and feel of a homemade project. The writing meanders at times, some of the editing is haphazard, and the inexperienced cast occasionally comes across as less-than-professional. Still, about a half hour into Eastern College, I fell under its spell, largely because it is one of the most realistic depictions of life in a college town ever committed to film.

Eastern College tells the story of four art school grads--Nathan (the sensitive one), Justin (the funny one), Dom (the Casanova), and Bob (the animal)--who move into the home of their recently deceased Dean during the summer after graduation. Their plans are to drink, chase girls, drink, party, and drink before their inevitable separation. However, plans change somewhat when Nathan (Jonthan Dicks) gets involved in a fight to prevent the new university president (Elizabeth Laidlaw) from closing their beloved art school. At the same time, other members of the group start to look more seriously at their female companions and their future career prospects. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for boozing.

James Francis Flynn based Eastern College on his own university experiences, and it is in the depiction of college town life that the film excels. So many details are dead on--red cup parties, friends crashing on the couch for weeks at a time, garbage-strewn vehicles, unexpected bed companions, and lots and lots of binge drinking. Best of all is the depiction of the friend’s final party, in which the group ends up in the basement, swapping stories of their favorite moments from their college days. The scene is bound to bring back pleasant memories for anyone who ever spent time living on or around a college campus.

However, not all of the writing rings as true and some of it just comes across as lazy. Setting the movie during the summer and about graduates seems a bit of a cheat to avoid having to depict the classroom aspects of college; and unless the characters are independently wealthy, someone should have been depicted holding a part-time job. Worst of all is the way the university president is written. She comes across as a barely one-dimensional stock villain, and she is given no motivations for her behavior. It also must be said that the movie often seems to think it is funnier than it actually is. Still despite these reservations and some directorial clumsiness common to debut films, Eastern College is worth checking out, especially for those who have fond, booze-soaked memories of their college days.

Drinks Consumed--Vodka, beer, bourbon, gin, absinthe, and unnamed cocktails

Intoxicating Effects--Vomiting, stumbling, the giggles, soused sex, slurred speech, passing out, drunk driving, public urination, and unintentional defecation

Potent Quotables--SCUD: Hey, let’s do it.
DOM: I’m sorry?
SCUD: You know, “it.”
DOM: Outside?
SCUD: Yes.
DOM: How? There’s people…
SCUD: Gawd, forget about it. (She takes a drink.)
DOM: Yeah, see, drunk is what’s goin’ on.
SCUD: No, no. I am not drunk. I am just trying to keep my liver limber.

Video Availability--Eastern College DVD (R Squared Films) is now available. You can also get a taste HERE.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--While nowhere near as realistic as Eastern College, National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) is the king of alky college flicks.

468X60 RENTAL - James Stewart Animated Gif (44kb)

About Me

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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