Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, October 10, 2022


 Tillie's Punctured Romance was filmdom's first full-length comedy and was intended as a vehicle for Marie Dressler, who was a major stage star.  Dressler had been featured in the hit stage production of the story, Tillie's Nightmare (1910), which had been written by A. Baldwin Sloan and Edgar Smith.  The play featured Dressler's show stopping performance of "Heaven Will Help the Working Girl" -- a song that was impossible to include in the silent film.  In this, her first screen role, Dresssler came across as uncomfortable and within four years her film career seemed over.  In 1917, she was blacklisted frm theaters due to her role in a chorus girls strike.  After a decade she began to get roles in films once again but her career stalled.  It was 1927 and she was 59 years old, destined to be forgotten and in near poverty when Irving Thalberg thought he could make something of her talent.  The talkies made her a star.  she basically stole the show in Greta Garbo's 1930 film Anna Christie, playing the role of Marthy.  That same year she appeared in Min and Bill, which won her an Oscar as Best Actress.  Another Academy Award nomination came for her role in 1932's Emma.  For three years in a role, Dressler was voted the most popular actress.  She continued to cement her reputation with Dinner at Eight and Tugboat Annie (both 1933).  She died in 1934 of cancer at age 65.

Tillie's Punctured Romance was produced and directed by Mack Sennett, who used many of his top-named stars to support Dressler.  Dressler got title credit over the male lead, Charlie Chaplin.  Also in the cast were Mabel Normand, Chester Conklin, Mack Swain, Gordon Griffith (the child actor who was the first to play Tarzan in the films; Milton Berle frequently and falsely claimed that he had played Griffith's role in Tillie's Punctured Romance), Charley Chase, Phyllis Allen, nd the Keystone Kops (including Al "Fuzzy" St. John and Slim Summerville).

Chaplin is a con man who has a fight with his girlfriend (Normand) and then meets Tillie (Dressler).  Tillie's father (Swain) has a large wad of cash to pay his workers, and naturally Charlie notices this.  Tillie takes charge of the money.  Charlie persuades Tillie to elope with him.  Before the marriage and, in an attempt to steal Tillie's money, he gets her drunk in a restaurant, persuades her to hand him her purse, and,  while Tillie lands in jail, Charlie runs off with Normand and Tillie's money.  Later he reads in a newspaper that Tillie's rich uncle has died in an accident, leaving her $3,000,000.  Charlie runs back to Tillie, confesses that he truly loves her, and the marry.  The couple move into the uncle's estate where Normand wrangles a job as a maid.  Tillie catches Charlie and Normand canoodling and she begins shooting up the house -- luckily injuring no one.  Her uncle, who is definitely not dead, cames back and demands everyone be arrested.  The trio flee.  Both Tillie and Normand realize they are too good for the likes of Charlie and dump him.

Dressler appeared as Tillie in three more movies.

The 1928 W.C. Fields film of the same title was ot a remake of this film.  The only connection between the two films was that the actors Chester Conklin and Mack Swain appear in both.

As a film, Tillie's Punctured Romance has its faults, but it also has a lot going for it.  See what you think.

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