Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tillie's Punctured Romance

Over the weekend, I watched Tillie's Punctured Romance, having downloaded it from one of the public domain prints available on Youtube. It's also available on DVD, at least according to the TCM Shop. (Note that, because of its being in the public domain, and thanks to various restorations, there are prints of varying length.)

Tillie (Marie Dressler) is a country woman who has come into a bit of money. A City Slicker (Charlie Chaplin before becoming The Tramp) meets her and immediately pretends to be smitten with her; he really wants the money. Anyhow the two get married and head off to the city, at which point the Slicker takes Tillie's money and goes off with his real girlfriend Mabel (Mabel Normand). Poor Tillie is left to wait tables in a restaurant.

Ah, but Tillie has an uncle who likes to go adventuring. And he's far richer than Tillie's father. Uncle goes off to the mountains, but has an accident that leaves him dead, with a will that bequeathed his estate to Tillie. Tillie now has a mansion, and the Slicker decides he's going to try to put the moves on Tillie again. This time the Keystone Kops are on hand to cause all sorts of comedic complications....

Tillie's Punctured Romance is probably best looked at in light of its status as being one of the first feature-length movies, depending of course on how you define "feature-length". The print that I saw was 74 minutes with limited intertitles; other versions might be longer or shorter depending on frame rate and how much time is spend showing intertitles.

As for the comedy, it's underwhelming. Dressler would go on in the sound era to learn how to become a much more natural film actress; here she has a style more suited for silent melodramas. Chaplin isn't yet the Tramp and apparently wasn't involved with the writing. Mabel Normand looks nice, but she's a decided third wheel. It's not terrible, but if I wanted to introduce people to silent comedy, this is certainly not the movie I'd use to do it. (I'd start off with the two-reelers anyway, for people who don't think they can watch a silent movie that's that long.) It didn't help, either, that the print I downloaded didn't have a musical score, probably to make certain it remained in the public domain.

If you're a fan of silent movies, I'd recommend Tillie's Punctured Romance, although if you are you've probably already seen it.

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