Mabel’s Strange Predicament

A fight follows. 

Synopsis

A drunkard (Chaplin) in a hotel lobby is pestering women, including Mabel (Normand). Later, she finds herself locked out of her hotel room in her pyjamas as she noisily plays ball with her dog. To escape the tipsy womaniser, she hides under the bed of her hotel neighbours (Davenport and Conklin). But she is soon discovered by her dog, her sweetheart, the cross woman who has gone to complain about the noise and her husband! After a fight, the young couple make up. 

Mabel's Strange Predicament - 9th February 1914

Filming dates: January 9th to 12th or 13th 1914
Release date: 9th February 1914
Running time: 1 reel, 11' 51 (film restored by BFI National Archive, London, Cineteca di Bologna and Lobster Films, Paris)
Director: Mack Sennett and Henry Lehrman (and Mabel Normand ?)
Producer: Mack Sennett, for the Keystone Film Company
Distributed by: Mutual Film Corporation
Screenplay: Reed Heustis
Cinematographer: Frank D. Williams (uncredited)Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Charlie Chaplin (the drunk), Alice Davenport (the cross woman), Chester Conklin (the husband), Harry McCoy (Mabel's boyfriend), Al St. John, (the bellboy), Hank Mann (the receptionist)
Working title: Pajamas
French titles: L'étrange aventure de Mabel, Charlot à l'hôtel, Mabel est dans de beaux draps
Re-release titles: The Hotel Mix-up, Charlie at the Hotel





Sources

Harry M. Geduld, Chapliniana. The Keystone Films, vol. 1, Indiana University Press, Bloomington & Indianapolis, 1987, pp. 14-18.
Thierry Georges Mathieu, La naissance de Charlot. Keystone – 1914. Kid's Auto Race et Mabel's Strange Predicament, n° 2, Ars Regula, La Réole, 1999.
Ted Okuda, David Maska, Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay : dawn of the tramp, iUniverse, New York, 2005, p. 21-24.

Chaplin inconveniences all the women in the hotel with his advances. 

The dog finds Mabel hiding under the neighbours’ bed and reveals her presence.

Chaplin appears in the corridor just as Mabel locks herself out of her room while looking for the dog's ball.

Next Publication

Between Showers – February 28th 2014

Mabel's Strange Predicament is the third film with Chaplin to appear on screen. Mack Sennett wanted the “Englishman” to expand the original synopsis with gags. Yet again, Chaplin excelled in his performance of the staggering drunkard that he had played so many times with the Karno troupe in the play Mumming Birds (A Night in an English Music-Hall in the USA)

The earliest cinema studios were not equipped with projectors. There was nothing but a length of muslin overhead to filter the harsh Californian light. Shooting stopped if the day were overcast. This is what happened for Mabel's Strange Predicament and it was probably during this break that Chaplin made the Keystone crew laugh by improvising a drunk sketch – but a drunk decked out in clothes taken from the company’s other actors - Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle’s too-large trousers, skinny Chester Conklin’s tight jacket, the oversized bowler hat from the father of Minta Durfee (Fatty’s wife), a patch of moustache taken from the giant Mack Swain (to age him without hiding his facial expressions) and Ford Sterling’s size-11 shoes.     

In his autobiography, Chaplin says that he was inspired for his character, full of contrast, on his way to the dressing rooms. Sennett and Conklin give a slightly different version of this story, mentioning instead the chance discovery of the clothes in the actors’ dressing rooms. Lehrman confirms Chaplin’s intention to dress as a tramp, dissatisfied with his dandy costume in Making A Living. Childhood memories and the look of other actors of the time, including the English comedian Dan Leno, certainly influenced Chaplin’s creation, but it was at this moment that the Tramp was born. With his convincing “tramp” look, give or take a few minor details (e.g. his cane, and large moustache), the Tramp of the Keystone Studios was a versatile, immoral character that Chaplin then developed.  

Impressed by tThe Englishman’s act and his new costume, Sennett sent him to Venice with a crew so that the day would not be wasted (Kid Auto Races at Venice) – business is business! Improvisation was common practice at Keystone – a few ideas were enough to define a theme; there were no rehearsals and the story unfolded as it went along.  

With the return of the fine weather, Sennett began filming Mabel’s again with Chaplin as a tipsy, stumbling womaniser. This supposedly secondary role made a strong impression in the Exhibitor's Mail (February 1914):  “The Keystone Company never made a better contract than when they signed on Chas. Chaplin, the Karno performer. It is not every variety artiste who possesses the ability to act for the camera. Chaplin not only shows that talent; he shows it in a degree which raises him at once to the status of a star performer. We do not often indulge in prophecy, but we do not think we are taking a great risk in prophesying that in six months Chaplin will rank as one of the most popular screen comedians in the world.

As prophesied, Chaplin’s style rapidly won him acclaim. His body language, facial expressions and the way he used his cane and hat made his work stand out from the excitable, traditional slapstick adopted by most of Keystone’s actors. 

This was also the first time that Chaplin played opposite Sennett’s muse Mabel Normand, who had been Keystone’s female star since the company was founded in 1912. Intrepid and cheerful, she appeared in this film wearing pyjamas, risqué attire at the time, which certainly pleased many of her male fans. The film was also deemed indecent because of the chain of unseemly events and was banned in some countries. Nevertheless, Chaplin reworked certain passages into A Night Out that he directed a year later for Essanay.