An underappreciated gem of the silent era gets a welcome return to the big screen with the rerelease of four classics
The BFI is releasing this collection of four short films from the neglected pioneer of silent comedy, Mabel Normand – a performer, producer and director who worked with Charlie Chaplin, Mack Sennett, Roscoe Arbuckle, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. It was in a film she directed, Mabel’s Strange Predicament (1914), that Chaplin first wore the “tramp” outfit, although that is not included here.
The shorts are Mabel’s Blunder (1914), in which Mabel misreads her fiance’s apparent dalliance with another woman; Mabel’s Dramatic Career (1913), with Sennett, in which she heads off to Hollywood after her cruel fiance rejects her, and he suffers the poetic justice of seeing her triumphantly up on the silver screen in a Keystone production – surely one of the earliest meta-cinema moments; His Trysting Places (1914), directed by and starring Chaplin with Mabel as his wife; and Should Men Walk Home? (1927), in which she plays a cheeky chancer who teams up with a professional burglar.