Flirt’s Mistake (1914)
This is another of the classic Fatty Arbuckle movies from Keystone Studios. It has a simple premise: a philandering husband with a domineering wife (Minta Durfee, Arbuckle’s real-life spouse, who was also in “The Star Boarder” with Chaplin, and “The Rounders” with Chaplin and Arbuckle), and a case of mistaken identity that gives rise to a drawn-out chase and fight. In this case, poor fatty makes the mistake of hitting on a bearded Rajah (Edgar Kennedy, who would later play Daddy Warbucks in “Little Orphan Annie” and a memorable street vendor in “Duck Soup”), who, when seen from behind, appears to be in feminine garb (at least by Western standards). Now, in regard to early movies and race, this is not an especially (ahem) sensitive portrayal of Southeast Asian nobility, but the Rajah is so over-the-top that it’s hard to imagine anyone taking him seriously as a cultural stereotype. What’s more interesting to me is the gender-and-sexual-relations side of things. Fatty gets into trouble specifically because he crosses the gender barrier, and the problem arises from his inability to “read” the gender signals of another culture. His long-suffering wife doesn’t want him killed by the Rajah, but at the end, it’s clearly she who wears the pants and gives him a much-deserved dressing-down, despite his pleas for understanding.
Directed by: George Nichols
Starring: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Minta Durfee, Edgar Kennedy, George Nichols
Run Time: 8 Min
You can watch it for free: here.