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.



Happy Birthday, Lois Weber – America’s 1st Female Filmmaker

Born on this day in 1879, Lois Weber was a child prodigy pianist and silent film pioneer – an actress, screenwriter, producer, and director (the 1st woman as such in the United States) of over 100 known films. As a progressive activist, Weber’s movies often contained her ideals of social justice, which included support for women’s rights and birth control, as well as opposition towards censorship and the death penalty.

Her films are also known for being technically and narratively advanced for the time, groundbreaking in their usage and advancement of existing film language. One such example is the pre-Hitchcockian Suspense, directed in 1913 by Weber, below with a piano score by the lovely and talented Robbie Kaye from Beauty and Wisdom.

That Weber has been largely forgotten with the passage of time is as much a tragedy as the final years in her own life. I hope this changes and she begins to receive a more recognized and deserving place in history.