Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Water Nymph (1912) -- June 16, 2018

This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five movies made between 1906 and 1914, I thought I would continue to look at some pioneering efforts.

My tenth film, my fifth from 1906-1914, is the first Keystone comedy, "The Water Nymph."
Sennett, who had been born in Canada, worked at Biograph, doing whatever DW Griffith told him to do.  Sennett acted and learned from Griffith.  Eventually, he directed Biograph's comedy unit.

In 1912, Sennett went to Adam Kessel and Charles O Bauman of the New York Motion Picture Company and got them to back a new venture, the Keystone Company.  Keystone may have been the first production company almost entirely dedicated to comedies.
When Mack left New York and Biograph for Los Angeles and Keystone, he took along Mabel Normand.  Everyone I know loves Mabel, but Mack and Mabel had a strange romance that went up and down but never resulted in Mack committing to marriage.
Ford Sterling also came along for the trip to Keystone.

The first Keystone comedy was "The Water Nymph," which is also known as "The Beach Flirt."  It starred Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling. It was mostly shot around the beach town of Venice.

The film begins with Mabel and Mack sitting on a bench and acting intimate.  The intertitle implies that they are keeping their relationship a secret.

Mack's father, played by Ford Sterling, and Mack's mother, who was uncredited, talk to Mack, who appears to hold a suitcase.  Father attempts to take it away from him.

Father suggests that they go to the beach.  Father takes the suitcase and Mother into the house.  Mack returns to Mabel.

For some reason, Mack asks Mabel to "vamp" his father.  "Vamp," short for "vampire" was a popular term for a wicked woman who seduces and abandons men.  It came to be used for the act of seducing, or at least teasing, a man.

For some reason, Mabel thinks it's a great idea, and they part with a kiss.

Mack dashes back to meet his parents.  Father is very excited.  We see Mabel, who now wears a hat, leave for the beach, and then we see the family walk off towards the camera.

Mabel catches Father's wandering eye.

Father and Mother sit at an outdoor café.  Mack hangs back to talk to Mabel and then joins them.

Father makes an excuse to get up and leave.  He interrupts a man in a white suit who is chatting with Mabel.

Father and Mabel, followed by the man in the white suit, head for the bath house, where they can change into bathing suits.  Mabel runs out to the pier before Father has changed.  He knocks on the door of her changing room and is surprised to find that she is gone.

That's a lovely intertitle.

We see Mabel in a full-length swimsuit that resembles one of Annette Kellermann's controversial one-piece suits.  She looks lovely.

Mabel prepares to do a high dive.  She did her own diving.  For some reason, she bounces on her seat and then into the water.

Father gets away from a woman and heads out the pier.

We see Mabel in the water.

Father hesitantly prepares to dive.

Someone, presumably the man in the white suit, give him a shove.

Mabel lies down on the board and flips over backward.

Mabel does a sideways dive.

Back on the pier, Mabel is greeted by a group of young people.  They help her put on a cover-up.  She runs off and Father soon appears and follows her.

Father catches Mabel back at the bath house, but she slips away to a changing room.

Still at the café, Mother wonders where Father has gone.

Father is dressed and ready to go.  He knocks on the door of Mabel's changing room.  She does not look excited.

Father parts with Mabel for a moment and returns to the café.  He can't find mother.  He tips a waiter, asking him to save the table in the foreground.

Mack assures Mabel that her ordeal is nearly over, then he runs behind the bush so that Father will not see him.

Father leads Mabel to the table, where the waiter has already set up two drinks.

Father flashes a big roll of money, pays the waiter with a bill and tells him to keep the change.  Mabel is amused.

Mack is also amused.

Father is so busy boasting to Mabel that he doesn't notice Mack's arrival until he kisses Mack's hand.

Father rises in anger, but then Mother returns.

Mother demands to know what is going on, and Father tries to explain.  Then he points to Mack and Mabel.  Mother gives Mabel a hug and a kiss.

Father tries to kiss Mabel, but Mack steps in and does it himself, leaving Father looking disappointed.

Moving Picture World, 28-September-1912
"The Water Nymph was released as half of a split reel (a reel of film with more than one subject on it), along with "Cohen Collects a Debt."

Moving Picture World, 07-September-1912
"Featuring MABEL NORMAND, the beautiful Diving Venus."

"The Water Nymph" is a fun movie that moves at a rapid pace.  The action is mostly shot outside on real locations and much of it appears to be improvised.  These are the classic roots of the Keystone comedy.

Coming Thursday:  My summary of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning...

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