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Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)

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Long after jilting his girlfriend, Mabel the kitchen maid, Mack is startled to see her onscreen at the local cinema.


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Title: Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)

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Cast overview:
Mabel, the Kitchen Maid
Mack - Mabel's Sweetheart
Alice Davenport ...
Mack's Mother
Virginia Kirtley ...
City Girl - Mabel's Rival
Charles Avery ...
Farmer / Movie Crewman
Ford Sterling ...
Actor / Onscreen Villain
Man in Audience
Billy Jacobs ...
Mabel's Son (as Paul Jacobs)
Charles Inslee ...
Film Director
Dave Anderson ...
Driver / Man in Audience


A young man falls in love with his mother's kitchen maid, Mabel. But his mother objects strongly, and arranges for him to meet another young woman whom she considers more suitable. Mabel confronts the young woman, and is dismissed from her position. Later, when the young man learns about the new career that Mabel has found, he begins to act in an agitated and unpredictable manner. Written by Snow Leopard

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Comedy | Short





Release Date:

8 September 1913 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Her Dramatic Debut  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


References At Twelve O'Clock (1913) See more »

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User Reviews

Beginnings of Self-Referential Comedy
11 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

The humor of "Mabel's Dramatic Career", as typical of Mack Sennett's Keystone, is crude, very unsubtle and outdated knockabout slapstick, but it's nonetheless interesting to see the origins of screen comedy. This Keystone short in particular is worth viewing for its self-referential farce; it's the beginnings of a trend that continues to this day of movies where the jokes are based in making fun of movies, including itself.

The story has Mabel Normand becoming a movie star after leaving home and her former boyfriend, played by Mack Sennett. Sometime later, Sennett watches a Keystone film, titled simply "Keystone-Film", where he reacts rustically to Mabel's presence on screen, as though he doesn't realize it's just a movie. Making fun of a film's own viewers dates back to "The Countryman and the Cinematograph" (1901) and its American copy "Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show" (1902). It's worked out much better here. There's a lot going on in this scene of a film-within-a film, thus requiring active viewing. It's an ingeniously created scene, which Sennett also worked out in other films such as "Tillie's Punctured Romance" (1914) and "A Movie Star", (1916) and of which the basic mise-en-scène can be traced back to "Those Awful Hats" (1909), which starred Sennett and was made by D.W. Griffith, whom Sennett began his film-making career under and whose films Sennett would parody, such as in "The Bangville Police" and "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life" (both 1913), thus further initiating self-referential screen comedy.

The scene-within-a scene in "Mabel's Dramatic Career" also involves "Fatty" Arbuckle trying to calm down (or, rather, telling him to shut up) the overreacting Sennett, who does seem to be almost provoked by Ford Sterling's villain--the sort he typically did play, such as in "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life"--upon the screen. Sterling is taunting in his breaking down of the fourth wall within the film-within-the film, while Normand similarly describes her thoughts, including on a movie set where a scene is being filmed, in the outer film.

Arbuckle made similar guest appearances in other self-referential Keystone shorts that starred Charlie Chaplin ("A Film Johnnie" and "The Masquerader"), who would later direct his own, more refined, backstage parodies ("His New Job" and "Behind the Screen"). Additionally, Arbuckle would break down the fourth wall more effectively and comically in his own film "Moonshine" (1918), which costarred Buster Keaton, who would in turn make the early masterpiece of reflexive comedy, "Sherlock, Jr." (1924).

The history of screen comedy about itself, other movies and the business of movies, and, in fact, the entire history of screen comedy begins here--with Mack Sennett.

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