Mabel’s Strange Predicament (Henry Lehrman, 1914)

Over the next week, I will release three posts about some of the earliest surviving Charlie Chaplin films. This is the third of the three – the first film Making a Living and Kid Auto Races at Venice are easy to find by clicking apporpriately. To make it even better for you the readers, is how you will be able to watch the films yourself too as the films are so old, no one owns the copywright!
It is Established

This third film confirms Chaplin’s ‘character’ of ‘The Tramp’ for the future. Unlike Kid Auto Races at Venice, Chaplin is not the centre-point of the film. Instead Mabel (Mabel Normand), a married woman locked out of her room in her pyjamas, Charlie bumps into and he takes a liking too. And comedy ensues – but there is much more screen time for Mabel’s difficulty in hiding from her husband and hiding from Charlie – rather than Charlie himself. According to Merton in Silent Comedies Lehrman initially started directing the film, but Mack Sennett took over midway through “presumably due to more trouble between Henry and Charlie”. Having said that, IMDB credits Mabel Normand herself as the director.

Drunk and Smoking

Everyone always mentions the trademark icons of Charlie is the hat and cain – but I think the drunken element and smoking-cigar are rarely mentioned. The character is rooted in this ‘bad behaviour’. The film opens as drunken-Charlie is in the lobby and attempts flirting with Mabel before the film continues to show Mabel locking herself and finding herself face-to-face with Carlie again – a chase ensues to finish with Mabel hiding under the bed of a neighbour. Cue her husband arriving and looking for her and, to his shock finding her underneath the bed of another man. Then, I assume her Mother arrives, and is equally shocked. Fighting ensues – and then Charlie re-appears and the fights continue. Paul Merton notes how the fighting in the final act of this film, you can see, is much more playful and in jest, opposed to Lehrman’s antics in Kid Auto Races at Venice whereby the force may be a little more than just comedy.

I will go through another three in due course, but feel free to comment below. The book by Paul Merton, Silent Comedies, has been indispensible as I have watched these films and I strongly recommend you track it down.

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3 comments

  1. An excellent cause you've got yourself into here with Chaplin. I think was people also overlook along with the Tramp's drinking and whatnot is that in his early keystone movies Chaplin wasn't very likable at all an it wasn't until 2 or 3 tries in at making a memorable character did he give birth to what we know all know of as The Tramp.

  2. Well, I think I will do another three-at-a-time in due course! Thanks for the interest … I don't think everyone has been too keen on these Chaplin posts! A little bit too old-skool…

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