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Mack Sennett’s Comedy-Melodramas

April 26, 2013
The Keystone Film Company, with Mack Sennett's master hand at the wheel is presenting a new variety of film at the present time, which marks a departure in the picture game. Mack calls them comedy-melodramas and if we are to take word of exhibitors throughout the country they are great. The stories have a well-defined plot filled with thrilling incidents and intense moments while a light vein of comdy running all the way thrugh the picture provies excellent relief and much laughter

“Sennett Making ‘Comedy- Melodramas,'” The Moving Picture World (26 April 1913): 366.

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.


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