Mack Sennett’s Comedy-Melodramas
In the coming months, I’ll be posting some of these Sennett “comedy-melodramas” such as Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life and Mabel’s Dramatic Career. I’ll let you decide whether the other Sennett films I’ve posted on recently fit into this generic category (it’s an open question since this press release/article does not specify any titles).
In order to make this determination however, we have to understand that the definition of melodrama was a bit different for audiences one hundred years ago than it is today. These early film melodramas were not simply tear-jerkers. Rather, they drew from the late 19th century stage melodramas like Under the Gaslight or Blue Jeans in which dramatic situations were heightened with “thrilling incidents” and “intense moments” such as the hero being tied to railroad tracks in the former and on a board being fed into a buzz saw in the latter.