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Mabel's Married Life (1914)

 -  Short | Comedy  -  20 June 1914 (USA)
5.8
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 617 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 5 critic

Accosted by a masher in the park and unable to motivate husband Charlie into taking action, Mabel gets him a boxing mannequin to sharpen his fighting skills.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Mabel's Husband
...
Mabel
Mack Swain ...
Wellington, a Ladykiller
Eva Nelson ...
Wellington's Wife
Hank Mann ...
Tough in Bar
Charles Murray ...
Man in Bar
Harry McCoy ...
Man in Bar
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Storyline

Mabel goes home after being humiliated by a masher whom her wimpy husband won't fight. The husband goes off to a bar and gets drunk. She buys a boxing dummy hoping it will inspire her husband, but when he returns he gets in a fight with it, taking it to be the ladykiller. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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Genres:

Short | Comedy

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Release Date:

20 June 1914 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Squarehead  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Connections

Featured in Charlie Chaplin: The Little Tramp (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of Chaplin's better Keystones-- plus, Mabel looks awfully cute in pajamas
1 July 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Once you've seen a few Keystone comedies made before Charlie Chaplin arrived on the scene you get a sense of the impact he had on contemporary viewers. The best of the 1912-13 Keystones have a rough vitality but they're generally very crude little movies, haphazardly constructed and often quite violent. This is not to say that Chaplin's arrival brought about an instant upgrade in quality, of course, for his earliest directorial efforts such as A Busy Day or The Property Man are easily as primitive as the rest of the studio's output, but in his better Keystones we can see Chaplin beginning to find his style. As a director he smoothed out the stories and slowed down the pace, while as an actor he showed more finesse than most of his colleagues, and also influenced them to temper their usual mugging and gesticulating. Mabel's Married Life is one of the more enjoyable Keystones. It tells a coherent if simple story, violence is kept to a minimum, and it builds not to a wild chase but to a genuinely amusing, leisurely routine: Charlie's drunken encounter with a boxer's dummy. Compared to Chaplin's own later work this short is still somewhat ragged; the routine with the dummy isn't as fully developed as it might have been, and the character Charlie plays is far from admirable, but there are laughs along the way and the tone is agreeably lighthearted, despite the saloon sequences and the heavy drinking Charlie engages in.

Like so many Keystone comedies this one begins in a park. Charlie and wife Mabel Normand sit together on a bench, but Charlie is miserly and only grudgingly shares some of the banana he's eating. When he goes off to drink in a nearby saloon a burly gent played by Mack Swain attempts to make time with Mabel, who is decidedly uninterested. (Swain is clean-shaven here, and rather less cartoon-y than usual.) Charlie returns but finds it difficult to assert himself against the big guy, who treats him as an ineffectual pest. Eventually Swain's wife must intervene and call him off. When Charlie returns to the saloon Mabel, exasperated, purchases a boxing dummy so that her husband can learn self-defense. That night when Charlie returns home tipsy he thinks the dummy is Swain, and has a hard time ejecting him while Mabel watches in amusement.

Charlie's encounter with the dummy is by far the highlight, but Mabel has some nice moments, too. Whenever I see this film I always enjoy her disgusted impersonation of her husband's waddling walk, and she has her own lively confrontation with the dummy before Charlie returns home. When we watch Chaplin's early films we tend to compare them to his mature work, so of course they tend to come up short, but Mabel's Married Life stands as one of the better comedies he made for Mack Sennett during his apprenticeship.

P.S. I was lucky enough to acquire a Super-8 print of this comedy from Blackhawk Films in the '70s, and when I screened it again recently I appreciated the quality of the musical score they provided, a series of peppy themes played on a Wurlitzer organ. Normally I find organ music inappropriate for comedies, but this score really works, and definitely enhances the impact and value of the film. Thanks, Blackhawk!


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