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Mabel at the Wheel (1914)

 -  Short | Comedy  -  18 April 1914 (USA)
5.8
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 385 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 4 critic

Charlie, competing with his rival's race car, offers Mabel a ride on his motorcycle but drops her in a puddle. He next joins some dubious characters in abduction of his rival just before ... See full summary »

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Title: Mabel at the Wheel (1914)

Mabel at the Wheel (1914) on IMDb 5.8/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Villain
...
Mabel
Harry McCoy ...
Mabel's Boyfriend
Chester Conklin ...
Mabel's Father
...
Reporter / Newsreel Director
Dave Anderson ...
Henchman (as Andy Anderson)
Joe Bordeaux ...
Dubious Character
Mack Swain ...
Spectator at Races
William Hauber ...
Mabel's co-driver
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Storyline

Charlie, competing with his rival's race car, offers Mabel a ride on his motorcycle but drops her in a puddle. He next joins some dubious characters in abduction of his rival just before the race for the Vanderbilt Cup. With her boyfriend locked up in a shed, Mabel takes his place. Charlie does what he can to sabotage the race, even causing Mabel's car to overturn. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy

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Details

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Release Date:

18 April 1914 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Hot Finish  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Charles Chaplin's quarrelling with Mabel Normand on this film almost ended Chaplin's film career. He disagreed with her ideas for comedy and she was quick to dismiss his own ideas for more refined comic business. An argument ensued (according to Chaplin in his autobiography, one or two extras had wanted to 'slug' him but Normand had stopped them) and filming for that day was called off. Mack Sennett heard about the argument and planned to fire Chaplin at the end of the week. However, the day after the argument, Sennett received a telegram from New York asking frantically for more Chaplin films. Sennett smoothed things over between Normand and Chaplin by taking them to dinner and the film was happily completed. See more »

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Featured in Birth of Hollywood: Episode #1.1 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Funny Mix: Action, Heroic Mabel, and Chaplin Imitating Sterling Ford
19 December 2012 | by (Orlando, United States) – See all my reviews

The plot of this movie is based on a Vitagraph movie from 1908: "An Auto Heroine" In that film, a woman's father gets kidnapped and she drives his car to win the race. In this film, a woman's boyfriend gets kidnapped and she drives his car to win the race, while her father cheers from the stands.

In an article called "Speeding Sweethearts of the Silent Screen," film historian William Drew notes that after Mary Pickford's car chase movie "A Beast At Bay" (Griffith, 1912), this is only the third movie to feature a woman's driving. It will only become standard in movies starting in 1915. Drew notes, "In fact, one can view Mabel at the Wheel as a kind of feminist parable with the heroine defeating the male competitors on the race course as well as the villainous Chaplin." Besides seeing Mabel Normand's feminist heroics, the other reason this film, directed by Ms. Normand, is noteworthy is Chaplin's unique performance. He plays the villain wearing a trench coat and whiskers. Through much of the film, he does what seems like a perfect impression of comedian Ford Sterling. At one point, Chaplin even crosses his eyes like Sterling. It should be remembered that Chaplin was hired at Keystone to replace Ford Sterling. In fact Chaplin's tramp costume uses Sterling's large size shoes, perhaps symbolizing the fact that he was hired to fill Sterling's shoes literally as well as figuratively.

The first five minutes of the film is quite different from the rest. Chaplin plays simply Harry McCoy's rival for Mabel Normand. This is exactly the same triangle we saw in Chaplin's first film, "Making a Living." The second five minutes of the film is different with Chaplin suddenly turning into a ridiculous villain caricature. He goes around jabbing people and tires with a pin.

There is a scene where Chaplin takes out a water hose to water a race car course. Apparently, Chaplin refused to do it. Chaplin probably did not see the humor in endangering people's lives. Slapping, punching, pricking and kicking people is one thing, but actually endangering people's lives is another. He worked off the set.

Famously, Mack Sennett threatened to fire him. He submitted and played the rest of the movie as Normand wanted him to, in Ford Sterling absurdist style. We should remember that Chaplin's humor was based on the funny drunk sketch he made famous. The drunk is funny, but not absurd. The absurd humor that Keystone dealt with was simply not something that Chaplin appreciated.

This is really a Mabel Normand film and it seems unfair to give Sennett credit for directing it when all he did was discipline Chaplin. Normand had her own problems with Sennett and was probably only staying with him at the time because he gave her the opportunity to direct.

There are some powerful images in the film: Mabel falling off a motorcycle, Mabel behind the wheel of the car with mechanic William Hauber, Charlie sitting next to Mabel and jabbing her with a pin and her jabbing him right back, and Mack Sennett as a country bumpkin in a cameo appearance. It seems possible that Mabel was expressing how she really felt about Sennett by having him act this way.

The original film was 1900 feet and the restored version is about 1400. Please keep in mind that over 25% of the film is still missing. Probably the jumpy, quick shots in the racing scenes were much smoother with longer shots in the original.

Sennett supposedly got a telegram from his partners in New York demanding more Chaplin films during the production of this film and only this telegram stopped him from firing Chaplin. I tend to think that it was the success of this movie that really put Chaplin on the map. While Chaplin was fine in his first ten films, there was nothing particularly distinguishing about him. This two-reeler would have established him as the real replacement for the popular Ford Sterling.


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