Mack Sennett’s A Movie StarWritten by Joe D on January 18th, 2010
I finally started watching the Slapstick Encyclopedia I borrowed a few years back. I will return it to it’s rightful owner soon! Anyway one of the films jumped out at me in Volume 1. It was A Movie Star by Mack Sennett. It was produced under the Triangle Films banner, Sennett had left Keystone and gone into business with his old boss D.W. Griffith, the man who taught Sennett how to make a film. A Movie Star was one of the first Sennett pictures to have a script, the earlier ones were just ideas on paper and then cast and crew improvised the rest. It shows, The Movie Star is consistently funny from beginning to end. It also is a very early self referential film being about the movie business. The action takes place in a nickelodeon theater, a star (Mack Swain) aka Handsome Jack shows up where his latest picture is playing, so he can wallow in the adoration of his fans, especially the female ones.
Handsome Jack Poses Next To His Poster
A real actor shows up and is not impressed and shows it during Handsome Jack’s bow taking. Handsome Jack also starts clapping surreptitiously to cue the audience throughout the movie.
Handsome Jack Starts The Spontaneous Applause, A Technique Still Used At Previews Today!
The Shakespearean Actor Shows Contempt For Jack’s Antics
There are shots of the film on the screen in the theater and this is years before Keaton took this idea to a new level in Sherlock Junior.
Film Within A Film
Handsome Jack is scoring with the chicks after the show when his battle-ax wife and two kids show up to put an end to his fun.
The Wife And Kids Put A Crimp In Jack’s Game
A Movie Star is directed by Fred Hibbard, I guess Sennett was the producer, and the acting is so much better than in the Sennett directed movies where everyone is way too far over the top. I also read that nobody liked Sennett, especially the people that worked for him, they’d get skilled under his tutelage then head out for a job at another studio, even his stars, Arbuckle, Chaplin, and Normand did this. But still in all those were the days! Just cranking out films one after the other, how cool is that! There are some other great touches in this film, we get to check out the theater musician/sound effects man, he shoots pistols, whoops like a wild Indian, beats a drum, and plays the piano to accompany the film.
The Super Cool Sound Effects/Music Man!
And we get a glimpse into the projection booth and see the projectionist hand cranking the projector! If you want to check out a good Early Silent Comedy check this one out. It delivers.
The Wild Indian Smooches On Handsome Jack’s Girl, They Shot This In Front Of A Circular Rotating Background Panel!