Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)
In this short from Keystone, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle demonstrates his physical talents as well as comedic timing, although he comes across as perhaps less sympathetic than in other of his early work. Situational aspects combine with slapstick to make this an interesting representative of his work.
Fatty is married to Norma Nichols in this movie, and is enduring a visit from her mother, Mai Wells. The mother-in-law nags at Fatty and makes him miserable, while he tries to make pancakes in the kitchen (at one point flipping one in the air and kicking it back into the frying pan mid-air with his foot. There’s a sequence in which he goes into the bathroom to get something for his wife, forgetting that the mother-in-law is in the bath. After taking quite a bit of abuse (and bringing it on himself), he decides to take a few nips from a jug in the kitchen, becoming confrontational as a result. He storms out of the house and goes off into the park. At this point, enter our other couple, Edgar Kennedy and Louise Fazenda, who, we are told, are Alaskan migrants, looking for a home. Kennedy is dressed as a kind of wild mountain man, while Fazenda is made up to look freckled and homely. While Edgar is gone, Fatty sits next to Louise on a park bench, on onto one of her knitting needles. She helps extract it, then sits on it herself. Fatty helps her and consoles her.
Not far away, Glen Cavender, an itinerant photographer, spots the two of them and takes a snapshot, thinking it is a lovely romantic scene. He shows them the tintype he has made, and they react in fear for their reputations. Cavender seems to toy with the idea of blackmail until Fatty becomes violent and chases him off, Louise retaining the picture. Now Edgar returns and sees the photo, and he threatens Fatty, who is clearly frightened – Kennedy is bigger than him, looks crazy, and has guns to boot. Kennedy tells Fatty to leave town before sundown. Fatty hastens to comply. He rushes home and absently packs a bag, telling his wife that he’ll be gone on business for a month. Norma decides she won’t need the house to herself and moves in with her mother, looking in the paper for renters. She finds an ad and calls, getting Edgar Kennedy, who eagerly comes over to move in with Louise. Meanwhile, things have not gone well at the train station for Fatty, who missed his train and got in trouble with a station cop for drinking. He decides to go home to wait for the next train. Of course, he manages to walk in on Louise in the bathroom, and tries to hide from Edgar in the shower, getting sprayed when Edgar tries the tap. Edgar flies into a rage when he finds him there, and chases him all over the house with his guns blazing, frequently scoring hits on Fatty’s behind. At one point, Fatty feigns death, and Edgar seems to feel remorse, but he forgets this as soon as Fatty revives. Fatty winds up on the telephone wires above the house, with Kennedy still shooting from his never-emptying guns. Finally, they both fall into a rain barrel, with their wives pulling each of them out by the hair and giving them a consoling kiss.
The climax of this movie is Fatty on the high wires, walking, running, jumping, and bouncing along for a minute or more. This is a darned impressive stunt, and apparently a famous one as well, although overall the movie doesn’t have as much stuntwork as we saw in “Fatty’s Faithful Fido.” There is one good bit with the Keystone Cops, who get called, pile into a car, and never actually arrive on the scene. Apart from that, it’s all Fatty in this one sequence, whereas the other included great work from Al St. John and Luke the Dog. A tintype, by the way, was a kind of “instant” photograph that was made by creating a direct positive on a thin piece of metal, which is why a photographer in the park could offer Fatty a picture right away, instead of having to go home and develop it from film. Unlike a film negative, you could only produce one copy of the image from the tintype, so it wasn’t a great mass medium for photography, but worked well for portrait photographers working on the spot, as in this case. Tintypes being made on metal, they preserved well and there are many still around today in archives and photography collections, although the heyday of the format was the 1860s and 70s. Most of the movie is really about the situation: Fatty quarreling with mother-in-law, and then the compromising photograph. But, the slapstick ramps up as soon as Kennedy sees Fatty with Louise, reaching typical Keystone extremes in the final minutes.
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Norma Nichols, Mai Wells, Edgar Kennedy, Louise Fazenda, Glen Cavender
Run Time: 27 Min
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