Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

2018 Mabel's Log

Does it matter what Kyp Harness writes

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 7:44 PM

Be prepared, I am on a bit of a rant�over the weekend another one of those �talking heads� on c-span, was bemoaning and lamenting the errors in the material on the internet and how as a culture we were losing as we were moving from a print society to a image society.  Ok yes, I realized the egotism that I have and the narcissism of minor differences and yes, more information doesn�t always create more clarity but� the quality of scholar�s thinking and research isn�t enhanced or diminished by the quality of the paper or light beams used. A non-reality belief system is a non-reality belief system; fact � fact, belief � belief and facts are not beliefs nor are beliefs facts 

Posts on the internet can be corrected but books get printed and their errors are with us forever. Case in point; �The art of Charlie Chaplin: a film-by-film analysis� by Kyp Harness. 2008 - 222 pages.

�This thorough critical study of Chaplin's films traces his acting career chronologically, from his initial appearance in 1914's Making a Living to his final starring role in 1957's A King in New York. Emphasizing Chaplin's technique and the steady evolution of his Tramp character, the author frames the biographical details of Chaplin's life within the context of his acting and filmmaking career, giving special attention to the films Chaplin directed/produced.�

Any book about Charlie Chaplin in movies is a book about Mabel Normand. Sadly a small error but one that can�t be fixed in print (without a new edition), which would be so easy to fixed within the internet.  This author isn�t the first to make this error as after all he could have read it in another book.  Small errors layered on top other small errors create false �truth.�

�Chaplin was next thrown into Mabel at the Wheel, a production staring Mabel Normand, by whom it was also directed.  Intended as a satire on the Pearl White serial thrillers of the time, the film features Mabel being courted by a car racer, who is temporarily usurped by a villain.  He makes off with Mabel on his motorcycle but is defeated when Mabel returns to her boyfriend.�

There is a post at Looking for Mabel about �Mabel at the Wheel� within a larger article about Mabel and her motorcycle.  http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/cars.htm  I relied on the work of experts that I trust, William M. Drew, author of �Speeding Sweetheart� and the Pearl White scholar; Thierry Georges Mathieu, La Naissance De Charlot, Keystone � 1914Revue #6, the scholar who has amassed a immense amount of material; William Thomas Sherman�s marvelous �Mabel Normand Source Book� and I read the Sennett Papers that the Herrick Library holds before I wrote the piece.

What I found is that �Mabel at the Wheel� was released April 18, 1914.  It was filmed between February 26 � March 16.  Mack sent the negative from Keystone in Edendale, California on March 31, 1914.  The New York office got the negative on April 6, 1914 and was in the theaters on April 18, 1914.

According to William Drew, the first episode of "The Perils of Pauline" was released nationwide on March 23, 1914.  Mabel at the Wheel� was already in production and couldn�t have been done as a satire, Drew writes that the serial genre can perhaps be said to begin with Edison�s �What Happened to Mary?� (1912) but his research shows the first true American serial is "The Adventures of Kathlyn" (1913).  He states that although there is a �definite parallel in plot, theme, situation and setting between "Mabel at the Wheel" and "The Perils of Pauline," including an episode in the latter in which Pauline aspires to be a race car driver; it is a parallel, not a direct influence.�

Does it matter if Kyp Harness writes that �Mabel at the Wheel� is a burlesque of "The Perils of Pauline"? Yes, to me.


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Reply Gordon Dima
1:03 PM on August 25, 2021 
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