Charlie Chaplin in THE FATAL MALLET (1914) – A very strange mating ritual

FatalMallet

When critics write about Keystone comedies being “primitive,” they don’t get much more primitive than The Fatal Mallet.

Three men (Chaplin; Mack Swain; and Mack Sennett, who directed this short) all vie for the attention of a woman (Mabel Normand). Sadly, the only way they can think of to compete is by attempting to knock each other out with bricks. The theory here, I guess, that the last man standing is entitled to the girl – not that the girl has any say in the matter, of course.

At one incredulous point in the short, while the trio of grown men is preoccupied, a young man, possibly teen-aged, tries to hit on Mabel himself. Luckily, before we can contemplate what new standard this is going to set in cinema, Charlie returns and kicks the kid away. (The kid does a mean backwards flip, too.)

Sociologists love to inform the public that we get many of our ideas of courtship from the movies. I wonder if this film contributed to figures for spousal abuse in 1914?

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