Pa Droppington sneaks out of the house to go to the theatre. Amid comic capers he is smitten by a dancer. Meanwhile his son is telling Ma that he's in love with a dancer! She is not happy ... See full summary »

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Cast

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Droppington
Fontaine La Rue ...
Cabaret Dancer (as Dora Rogers)
Billie Brockwell ...
Mrs. Droppington
Harry Bernard ...
Mandolinist
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Waiter
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Chef
Josef Swickard ...
Justice of the Peace / Diner in Booth
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Storyline

Pa Droppington sneaks out of the house to go to the theatre. Amid comic capers he is smitten by a dancer. Meanwhile his son is telling Ma that he's in love with a dancer! She is not happy but he takes her to the theatre (for her birthday). She sees hubby and chases him around, he's also chased by another performer. The son calls a clergyman, Pa saves the girl and they marry at the end. Written by trevorha@supanet.com

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Comedy | Short

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12 April 1915 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Oh no! Our son wants to marry a Wiggle Dancer!
2 January 2016 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Long before TV existed, the middle-class American family served as a ripe subject for broad comedy: in comic strips, on stage, and, of course, in the movies. In some of the earliest knockabout films we find supposedly respectable bourgeois families who, despite a public show of decorum, wind up behaving just as outrageously as the proles, tramps and low-lifes they regard with disdain. It's plain to see that audiences have always been amused at these depictions, and enjoy seeing phonies get their comeuppance.

In Droppington's Family Tree, a two-reel comedy released by Mack Sennett's Keystone company in 1915, studio mainstay Chester Conklin is Pa Droppington, head of the household, Billie Brockwell is his wife, and Edwin Clarke is their young adult son. Wife and son look perfectly presentable, but Pa dresses like a sloppy clown, complete with baggy pants, sizeable mustache, and funny hat. The central conceit here is that the parents disapprove of Junior Droppington's interest in an exotic dancer, a lady who dresses like Theda Bara and shakes a mean shimmy. Ma dismisses her as a "wiggling dancer," while Pa is horrified at the thought of what the neighbors will say. "Think of the disgrace!" he exclaims. Meanwhile, however, behind his wife's back, Pa is seeing the young lady himself. So Junior conspires with his lady friend to ensnare his dad, and expose his extracurricular activities to Ma. It all comes to a head at the nightclub where the lady (Fontaine La Rue) performs. Pa's hypocrisy is revealed, Ma is furious, and, in typical Keystone style, it all culminates in a wild mêlée. Junior fetches a Justice of the Peace, and is married to the dancer. To live happily ever after? Well, perhaps.

I wouldn't call this the best Keystone comedy I've ever seen, but for those who appreciate this sort of thing it does supply some chuckles along the way. I enjoyed Conklin's spirited dance with Fontaine La Rue. (Plus, I love her name: "Fontaine La Rue" actually suggests an exotic dancer!) I also liked Al St. John's unrestrained performance as a waiter at the nightclub where Miss La Rue performs. In a predictable yet amusing running gag, every tray of food he carries from the kitchen is knocked out of his hands, until he finally loses it completely, and freaks out in characteristic Al St. John style. I do believe this comedy would have worked better as a one-reel short, as there really wasn't enough material to justify the longer running time. A subplot about a rival suitor for the dancer's affections (a musician, played by Harry Bernard) feels like a hastily contrived device to pad the plot—and to give the principle players an additional character to pummel during the wild finale.

Droppington's Family Tree is typical Keystone, neither the best nor the worst of the surviving films. For anyone interested in middle-class satire from the silent era, I can recommend the delightful comedies of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, which were produced around this same time. Their films are generally sharper, funnier, and better observed than the average run of Keystones, i.e. the ones that did NOT feature Charlie, Roscoe or Mabel in the cast. The Drews aren't big on slapstick, but their take on bourgeois life shows more finesse than Sennett's improvised dust-ups.


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