The Soap-Suds Star (1915) Poster

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Play-within-Play Slapstick
Cineanalyst19 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This one-reel knockabout slapstick comedy isn't very funny today, if ever it was. The humor is supposedly in two grotesque muggers wreaking havoc. Yet, "The Soap-Suds Star" is somewhat interesting for self-reflexively having plays-within-a-play. Two amateurs are recruited to recreate on vaudeville some knockabout they're caught doing in a "real" laundry store. After that success, the two demand to perform Shakespeare, so the manager arranges for a parody of the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet", which ends with the two comedians running off the stage for the comedic staple of a chase. The vaudeville audience's laughter at these two acts serves to reflect the anticipated and encouraged laughter from us, the movie's audience.

D.W. Griffith, for instance, had already pioneered the audience reaction and play-within-play in "A Drunkard's Reformation" (1909). As for comedies, Keystone, in particular, made a few film-within-films and backstage parodies.
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