September Slapstick: The Tramp Appears | Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)

The first film appearance of Charlie Chaplin’s famous character, The Tramp.

Note that this was not the first time Chaplin donned the costume – that occurred for the filming of Mabel’s Strange Predicament. However, Kid Auto Races at Venice (directed by Henry Lehrman) was released on February 7th, 1914, two days before Mabel’s Strange Predicament.

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September Slapstick: Chaplin’s First Film | Making a Living (1914)

An entire blog series can be created just for the shorts of Charles “Charlie” Chaplin, and I plan to do this for the next month starting with the letter ‘C’…maybe I should choose a different time.

Regardless, Chaplin made his film debut in the appropriately titled, Making a Living, playing a swindler and not his lovable tramp character. It was directed by Henry Lehrman and is the 6th of 12 movies featuring Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops.

September Slapstick: The 1st Fatty | Peeping Pete (1913)

Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle. One of the most influential, controversial, and tragic stars from early cinema. He was a mentor to Charlie Chaplin, discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope, signed one of the first million-dollar contracts, was accused (and acquitted) in the rape and accidental killing of Virginia Rappe, had his films banned during the height of his career, and then died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

Below we have the oldest surviving film appearance of Fatty Arbuckle: Peeping Pete, starring Mack Sennett (who also directed) as the movie’s titular character. It was released as a split reel along with A Bandit, which also features Arbuckle.

September Slapstick: Villainy Defined | Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913)

Barney Oldfield — 1st car racer to break 60mph on an oval, and later 100mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — is the celebrity focus of the title, but it is Ford Sterling who steals the show, hamming it up as the sneering, mustache-twisting, henchmen-having villain.

This 4th Keystone Cops movie also features Mabel Normand and Mack Sennett, who pulls double-duty as Mabel’s boyfriend as well as the film’s Director. It contains one of the earliest examples of a young damsel (Normand) tied to the tracks of an oncoming locomotive train. The rescue chase is thrilling, and the ending left me jaw-dropped stunned.

September Slapstick: Keystone “Cops” | The Bangville Police (1913)

I place “Cops” — sometimes spelled “Kops” — in quotes only because the officers in The Bangville Police more closely resemble a militia or rural vigilantes instead of the uniformed bumblers of later movies.

Regardless, this is the oldest surviving appearance of the Keystone Cops (Hoffmeyer’s Legacy is considered their first appearance, but that film is currently lost), and Mabel Normand steals the show.

 

September Slapstick: Keystone Mack [Sennett] Daddy | The Water Nymph (1912)

With The Water Nymph (aka The Beach Flirt) — the very first Keystone Comedy — begins an era of dominance in movie slapstick by Mack Sennett and his repertory players.

Those who either received their first break in the movie business at Keystone, or rose to prominence therein, include Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Ford Sterling, Gloria Swanson, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, and Chester Conklin. And, of course, there’s the Sennett Bathing Beauties.

P.S. If anyone can find a higher quality version of this film, please let me know.



World’s Oldest Color Film (just newly discovered)

Here is video of recently discovered footage, considered to be the world’s earliest color film:

Additional information about these first color films can be found HERE.

September Slapstick: Laugh With Linder | Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912)

The Golden Age of Slapstick was ushered in by Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle, better known by his stage name and most popular character: Max [Linder]. Widely considered the first international movie star, Linder appeared in over 500 films (100+ as the top-hatted, dandy), and by 1912 was earning a salary of one million francs. Charlie Chaplin called Max “his Professor”, and himself “Linder’s disciple”.

In Troubles of a Grasswidower, which was also directed by Linder, the influence upon Chaplin (and Sennett, Arbuckle, etc.) is easy to see:

Slapstick Summer Series: Before The Fame | Troublesome Secretaries (1911)

I was very surprised to stumble upon this [incomplete?] movie starring a pre-Keystone Mabel Normand alongside John Bunny, America’s 1st major film comedian. This was the first (and only surviving) pairing of these film comedy forebears as Normand left Vitagraph very soon after.

With an alternate title of How Betty Outwitted Her Father, The Troublesome Secretaries also features Ralph Ince — youngest of three filmmaking brothers — pulling double-duty as both actor and director.

Slapstick Summer Series: Comedic Timing | Onésime, Clockmaker (1912)

With the inception of recurring movie characters, Onésime portrayed by Ernest Bourbon in 63 different films over the span of just 2 years — was arguably the most popular from the pre-Keystone era.

However, the star of today’s spotlight film is not actually Onésime and his fewer than 2 minutes of onscreen time. That honor instead goes to the city of Paris. Vibrant and alive in triple-time, pre-WWII Paris is captured in hi-speed compositions by Director, Jean Durand.

Also of note: Onésime Horloger was written by heir to the Gaumont director’s throne, Louis Feuillade.

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