By Victoria Sturtevant
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Additional resources for A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler
Because no bre aking boundaries • 37 copies of the film are currently believed to exist, I base my discussion on production correspondence and screenplay records from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, and also on archival resources at the University of Southern California. It is precisely the fact that this kind of caricature of stock Irish characters had nearly disappeared in 1927 that fanned the controversy around the film’s regression to the bad old days.
Sensationalism is the process by which melodrama subjects the audience to extreme shocks and thrills. This often takes the form of stunting: characters leaping from trains onto moving cars, sword-fighting, or swinging across canyons on flimsy ropes. Mack Sennett, a parodist, and D. W. Griffith, a melodramtist, both started their careers at Biograph, so Sennett could lay claim to an across-the-lot familiarity with the logic of Victorian melodrama that fueled early narrative cinema. Sennett’s films nearly always feel like jabs at his former colleague and hold the conventions of sensational melodrama up to ridicule.
The chase ends when Tillie falls off the end of a pier, and the Cops, after several incompetent tries, finally pull her out of the ocean. Tillie gives her wedding ring back to Charlie. Charlie turns to Mabel, but she rejects him as well. Tillie and Mabel embrace each other, and the police drag Charlie away. A curtain suddenly closes over the scene, signaling the end of the narrative. A damp Dressler steps out from behind the curtain, summons her two costars, all three bow, and then Normand and Chaplin disappear.
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