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Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (1913)

 -  Comedy | Short  -  2 June 1913 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 188 users  
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Virtuous Mabel rejects the improper advances of a villainous cad. The furious villain and his henchmen then seize Mabel and chain her to a railroad track. Mabel's anxious boyfriend turns ... See full summary »


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Cast overview:
Mabel's Boyfriend
Ford Sterling ...
The Villain
Raymond Hatton ...
Loyal Henchman


Virtuous Mabel rejects the improper advances of a villainous cad. The furious villain and his henchmen then seize Mabel and chain her to a railroad track. Mabel's anxious boyfriend turns for help to the great Barney Oldfield, who jumps in his racing car and speeds to the rescue. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Short





Release Date:

2 June 1913 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Fourth of twelve movies that starred The Keystone Cops. See more »


Referenced in Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913) See more »

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User Reviews

A goofy treat for silent comedy fans
4 November 2001 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

I'm sure most silent comedy buffs are familiar with this beloved chestnut, now available in Kino's "Slapstick Encyclopedia" collection, but even viewers unfamiliar with Keystone comedies are likely to get a kick out of it. 'Oldfield' pokes fun at conventions of stage melodrama that were considered hokey even in 1913, and the actors overplay with great vigor. Legendary producer Mack Sennett portrays the lovesick rube, and Mabel Normand flashes her big brown eyes at the camera, but it's Ford Sterling who makes the strongest impression. This may well have been Sterling's most memorably hammy performance, and he certainly looks like he's having the time of his life: he struts, grimaces, and twirls his mustache, then summons his henchmen with a snap of his fingers, and they instantly appear. Sterling was the biggest male star on the Keystone lot before Chaplin arrived, usually in villainous roles, and he gives this one everything's he's got. Hero Barney Oldfield is the only one who underplays; he was a celebrity when this movie was made, a real-life race track star, back when they still wore goggles and scarves. Mr. Oldfield comes off as a rather bland, good-natured guy surrounded by lunatics.

This is the kind of movie (much parodied in later days) where the villain, jilted by the girl, seeks vengeance by having her tied to the railroad tracks. The suspenseful finale features the frenetic Keystone Cops, a last-minute rescue, and a surprise closing gag that is genuinely funny. As noted above, the melodramatic plotting would have been familiar to audiences of the time from stage plays, but the cinema itself was still such a novelty it all must have seemed new again, what with the added bonus of verisimilitude, i.e. real train tracks and a real train, enhanced with a bit of rudimentary cinematic trickery in the shot where Mabel is rescued, right in the nick of time. No wonder the actors threw themselves into the project with such gusto: despite the familiar trappings, they must have enjoyed participating in something so new and exciting. That exhilaration still comes across when we view this film today.

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