Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Extra Girl / The Gusher |
Actors: Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Keystone Kops
Director: Mack Sennett
In 1923, slapstick pioneer Mack Sennett conceived and produced a feature-length film designed to showcase the homespun appeal and comedic prowess of Mabel Normand, who had been a fixture on the madcap screen for more than ... more »
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Mark Pruett | 07/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kino has released THE EXTRA GIRL under its Slapstick Symposium banner, but the humor in this appealing 1923 Mack Sennett feature has little in common with the crazed tumult of his classic slapstick shorts. THE EXTRA GIRL is controlled comedy, "conceived and produced" by Sennett, the notes tell us, to "showcase" the talents of Mabel Normand. (Phyllis Haver was initially being showcased; she had already done some work on the film when Normand stepped in as her replacement.) Sennett, we know, free of his Triangle-Keystone obligations, was eager to produce feature-length films and serious about proving that Mabel Normand was capable of more than a superlative pratfall.
Was she ever! In THE EXTRA GIRL she is winsome, charming, romantic, petulant, disappointed, torn, remorseful, terrified, determined--and funny. We may miss, for a minute or two, the softer, daffier, more explosive Mabel of the Arbuckle Keystones, but that Mabel was suited to the episodic two-reeler. Structured narratives thrive on character development. THE EXTRA GIRL could easily have been presented as a straight (and somewhat pedestrian) drama; the plot elements are all in place. (The 1969 organ score by Jack Ward suggests just such an approach.) It is Mabel's light touch and perfect timing that bring the story to life and let her exploit the comic potential of each situation. (The comedy generally evaporates, it must be said, when she is offscreen.)
The bonus short, "The Gusher," made by Sennett in 1913, shows us a healthier, perhaps happier Mabel playing second banana to Ford Sterling. What changes a decade would bring! She appeared in more than fifty shorts in 1913; her 1923 output consisted solely of THE EXTRA GIRL, and she would complete only a handful of additional features and shorts before her death, in 1930, at the age of 36.
Both prints on the Kino disc are color tinted and highly watchable despite minor emulsion damage. Scratches on "The Gusher" are more than compensated for by the use of a sharp 35mm source print and a sprightly piano score performed by its composer, Ben Model. A few abrupt transitions in THE EXTRA GIRL suggest that bits of footage may be missing, but the film moves along at a natural pace and wraps up in a tidy 68 minutes. The Paul Killiam print is clear and detailed, giving us a full measure of the playful innocence and the indefinable sadness of Mabel Normand's expressive, wonderful face."
One Of Mabel Normand's Best!
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 06/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has taken quite a while for THE EXTRA GIRL to make it to commercial DVD and now that it's finally here, we should all be grateful. But with that gratitude there should be some sadness as well for this 1923 film was the beginning of the end for one of the silent era's most gifted performers. Mabel Normand (1892-1930) began her career as a model for Charles Dana Gibson before breaking into films with Biograph in 1909. She moved over to Vitagraph and then left to be with Mack Sennett at Keystone in 1912.
In addition to being the silent era's greatest comedienne she was among the first women to write and direct her own material. She also directed Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle but was never given credit for it. She successfully moved from shorts to feature films before her run of bad luck began. Implicated but never charged in a series of scandals including the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor, Mabel's career as a star unraveled during the 1920's. Drugs and alcohol aggravated the tuberculosis she had lived with for many years and she died at the age of 37 right at the dawn of the sound era.
Her association with Chaplin, Arbuckle, and the Keystone Kops have kept her face before the public but so little of her other work has survived and almost none of it is on DVD. This Kino International release of THE EXTRA GIRL along with the 1913 Keystone one reeler THE GUSHER will certainly help. It also shows how much the nature of American film comedy evolved over 10 years. The visual quality of this disc taken from a 1969 Killiam Collection print is excellent with an organ soundtrack provided by Jack Ward that is above average for Killiam.
The story of a small town girl who goes to Hollywood has been done many times but Normand makes it her own even though at 30 she's too old for the role and it shows. You can watch her physical appearance change throughout the film reflecting the health problems she was dealing with. Nevertheless the backstage look at moviemaking, Normand's screen test, the escaped lion sequence, and the unhappy/happy ending are among many highlights the film has to offer.
Hopefully more of her work like her biggest success MICKEY or some of her early films for Sam Goldwyn will resurface in quality releases. Mabel Normand was a true movie pioneer in every sense of the word who though not forgotten (there are websites devoted to her), still deserves to be better known than she is. This is one of three new releases in Kino's ongoing SLAPSTICK SYMPOSIUM series."
Mabel in her prime and also at the beginning
calvinnme | 04/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Extra Girl (1923, 68 min.)
Mabel plays Sue Graham, a small-town girl whose picture is mixed up with that of a much prettier girl that a movie studio decides they want to put under contract. When Sue arrives on the scene the studio discovers its mistake and assigns Sue to the props department. Sue does overcome adversity, but not before she mistakes a dog dressed as a lion for an actual lion and her parents come out to Hollywood for a visit and end up exchanging their life's savings for some worthless oil stock. Note Vernon Dent, later of the Columbia comic shorts and specifically the Three Stooges series, as Sue's unwanted suitor.
"The Extra Girl" is one of the more charming silent films I have enjoyed recently, and it's too bad Mabel Normand is remembered more for the Hollywood scandals of the roaring 20's than her charming comic persona in silent films. Her frequent costar, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, suffered a much worse fate - the end of his career - over a crime of which he was acquitted. Like The Primitive Lover, I'm surprised more people haven't seen this film. Check it out, you won't regret it. The print is in very good shape, and detail is clearly visible. There are only a few signs of deterioration towards the middle of the film.
The two-reel short, "The Gusher", is one of 64 short comedy films Mabel Normand cranked out in 1913. This frantic pace of comic filmmaking, along with the constant injuries before the days of stuntmen, is among the reasons that so many of the early silent comics had substance abuse problems - they were pretty much all dealing with working constantly and while injured. The short itself is a good example of Keystone comedy in the teens - lots of pants-kicking comedy, and of course the Keystone cops show up at the end to make a bad situation worse. The film is about Mabel Normand choosing one beau over another and the rejected beau attempting to cheat the winner out of his money by selling him an alleged "gusher" of an oil well."
A timeless comedy classic!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 06/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's great to see a top quality silent comedy classic like "The Extra Girl" released by Kino International with excellent picture quality and a very suitable, traditional organ score so that further generations can enjoy the brilliant work of Hollywood's comedy pioneers. The producer of this film is none other than Mack Sennett, the creator of the Keystone Kops comedies in the early 1910s which have been enjoyed for decades around the world. In those early days Mabel Normand was a hugely popular star in Sennett's comedy capers, and this 1923 production is probably the pinnacle of their careers. Unlike those early short slapstick Keystone comedies of the 1910s, "The Extra Girl" is a product of the early 1920s when longer and more sophisticated stories were popular, but the clever wit and physical comedy which made Sennett and Mabel Normand so popular are definitely not lacking. Besides the trademark chase scenes, there is a most exciting, lengthy scene involving a real lion, mistakenly let loose by Mabel, which is one of the most amazing animal action sequences I've ever seen. While highlights like these are unforgettable, the overall story which runs for just over an hour is grounded in real life and has realistic moments of sadness, love and even triumph as Mabel overcomes various obstacles. The main theme is one that was - and still is - close to the heart of many young women who dream of becoming a Hollywood star, and when she actually arrives at the studio, finds herself working in the wardrobe department instead. There is never a dull moment in Mabel's further adventures, and her natural talent for comedic acting is always irresistibly appealing. Although she had been in poor health, and like many very popular stars, died much too young some years after making this film, the qualities that made her so beloved by audiences a decade earlier are still very evident. An extra on this DVD is a rare 1913 short comedy featuring Mabel, as a small sample of her successful career with Mack Sennett in the Keystone Kops days. As well as an important part of early Hollywood and silent comedy, this DVD is also a lovely tribute to Mabel Normand, a brightly shining star that gave so much to many audiences.