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Tillie's Punctured Romance

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Hollywood’s first feature-length slapstick comedy, Tillie’s Punctured Romance was a vehicle for stage star Marie Dressler, and the character of Tillie was based on the 1909 musical play Tillie’s Nightmare by Edgar Smith, with music by A. Baldwin Sloane, which Dressler had made into a Broadway hit. Dressler was signed to a twelve-week contract that guaranteed her a weekly salary of $2,500. Filming was accomplished in approximately 45 working days over eight weeks, April 14, 1914 June 9, 1914 (with postproduction the film required fourteen weeks to complete), at a cost of $50,000. It was a complicated production for producer-director Mack Sennett. He later recalled that in addition to making the feature film, “I had to continue the steady flow of short comedies each week. This meant that I never had my Tillie cast all working together on any given day. One or two of them were constantly out of the picture acting in a two-reeler.” Indeed, Chaplin was to make five comedies during the production of Tillie’s Punctured Romance: The Fatal Mallet, The Knockout, Her Friend the Bandit, Mabel’s Busy Day, and Mabel’s Married Life. The film’s simple story involves Tillie Banks (Marie Dressler), a country girl deceived by a city slicker (Chaplin) to steal her father’s money and run away with him to the city. Once there, the slicker takes her money and abandons her for Mabel (Mabel Normand). When it is reported that Tillie is the sole heir to a fortune, the slicker finds Tillie, marries her, and enjoys the good life until the fortune Tillie has inherited proves to be short-lived A chase ensues when Tillie finds the slicker in a compromising moment with Mabel. Despite Chaplin having only a supporting role in the production, Tillie’s Punctured Romance benefited him more than anyone else when the film was first shown at a trade show in November 1914; nearly every motion-picture producer pursued him, wanting to sign him to a contract. Tillie’s Punctured Romance was a tremendous popular success when released, and Chaplin was singled out for his considerable work in making the film a hit. Moving Picture World wrote, “ Chaplin outdoes Chaplin; that’s all there is to it. His marvelous right-footed skid…is just as funny in the last reel as it is in the first” and Variety noted, “Miss Dressler is the central figure, but Chaplin’s camera antics are an essential feature in putting the picture over.” Chaplin, however, did not think much of the film. In his autobiography he dismissed it: “It was pleasant working with Marie, but I did not think the picture had much merit.” The Mutual Film Corporation was not equipped to distribute feature films so this was the only Chaplin film made at Keystone that was distributed by the newly-formed Alco Film Corporation. Tillie’s Punctured Romance was in constant theatrical distribution—continually abridged and later with music and sound effects added—well into the 1940s. Finished and shipped: December 4, 1914 Premiere: December 21, 1914 at the Republic Theater, Los Angeles Scenario: Mack Sennett Producer: Mack Sennett Director: Mack Sennett Length: Six reels
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