This is how Mary spent her time away from Biograph
Mary Pickford began her movie career with D. W. Griffith at Biograph in 1909, but after a couple of years she left the company (temporarily, as it turned out) and joined her actor-husband Owen Moore at Carl Laemmle's Independent Motion Picture Company, known as IMP. I've seen a few of the short films she made at IMP and while they're competently made and generally satisfying they lack the intensity and technical innovation Griffith brought to his work. WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY is a brief and lightly amusing little comedy based on a simple premise that has been re-used many times since in many a sitcom.
When Mary's husband is called away on business she decides to visit her mother. In the couple's absence the janitor who works in their building decides to make some money on the side by sub-letting their apartment. He quickly finds another young couple who rent the place under the assumption that their sub-let is legit. The janitor races home with his ill-gotten gain and dances a jig with his wife. (The janitor's wife might have been played by Mary's sister Lottie Pickford, but I'm not certain about that.) Needless to say, there are complications. Mary receives word that her husband's business trip has been canceled, so she returns home, sees the other man from behind, mistakes him for her own husband, sneaks up on him and plays "peek-a-boo" and then gives him a kiss just as the man's wife and her actual husband walk in. There is much confusion, agitation and explaining to do before order is restored.
And that's about it! This is a one-joke movie but the situation is sure-fire, which is why this premise has been used again and again. WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY is an amusing little sketch but it makes me wonder why Mary left Biograph. Perhaps she wondered this too, because a few months later she went back and resumed working with Griffith.
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