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Mabel’s Married Life & Face on the Barroom Floor

Mabel’s Married Life (1914)


Life is rough for the Tramp, but perhaps some of his follies can be blamed on his excessive drinking. Charlie Chaplin in his first year making movies subjected his star character to a lot of bar time. In the short Mabel’s Married Life, Chaplin collaborated with Mabel Normand in writing  and directing one of a handful of flicks that year that dealt with the predicaments of “Mabel”. Mabel and the Tramp get mixed up with another couple in this one as the bulky spouse of another makes advances toward Mabel while her husband is stealing booze at a bar. When the Tramp returns to find the two together, he punches the man in the dusty rear several times but gets no attention. He eventually dukes it out with the bloke but is already worse for the wear.

Later, to get back at her husband, Mabel purchases a mannequin and positions it inside their apartment so her drunk spouse will mistake it for another man. Although it takes a few minutes, the Tramp does eventually notice the “man” and finds himself berated by the wobbling dummy that once pushed comes careening back towards its foe. The situation becomes increasingly absurd as Mabel joins the argument and finds herself knocked about by the dummy.

Face on the Barroom Floor (1914)

The next short, Face on the Barroom Floor, was a difficult-to-follow tale of a man who spends half his time staggeringly drunk in a bar and the other half in his flat painting subjects. The best I can tell is that one man whose portrait he is constructing meets in passing the artist’s next subject, a lovely woman. The two eventually take off together and we learn that the woman was the Tramp’s girlfriend.

The most comical moments for me are the Tramp’s instances of oblivion with regard to his paintbrush. Coated in black paint, the man taps it against his chest, marking up his white suit shirt, or puts it in his mouth thoughtfully as though a pencil before realizing he’s just painted his tongue.

Having watched a handful of Buster Keaton movies recently, I cannot help but note the differences between that silent comedian and Chaplin. Unlike old stone face, Chaplin was wonderfully expressive, as was necessary with these shorts that had an abject lack of intertitles to explain the circumstances. His wonderful “tramp” style is particularly emphasized in Mabel’s Married Life as barmates mess with his tie and jostle his oversized trousers. With all the experience he got in 1914 making an almost endless number of shorts, Chaplin certainly had his style down to a science.

  • To watch YouTube videos of the short movies, click on the related photos.

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