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The Mender of Nets (1912)

A young woman who works mending fishermen's nets is engaged to be married. But her fiancé has an old love who refuses to let him go. Further, his former girlfriend has a brother who is ... See full summary »

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The Net-Mender
Charles West ...
The Mender's Sweetheart
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The Mender's Rival
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A young woman who works mending fishermen's nets is engaged to be married. But her fiancé has an old love who refuses to let him go. Further, his former girlfriend has a brother who is willing to use violence to protect his sister's honor. Written by Snow Leopard

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ocean | fishing | See All (2) »

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Short | Romance

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15 February 1912 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Featured in Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2008) See more »

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Tragic scenes on California coast
10 December 2016 | by See all my reviews

When you look at this film you can see why Mary Pickford, in her newspaper column, called Mabel Normand the greatest tragedienne, and further stated that Miss Normand had become the greatest comedienne. Since those early days, Mary has become an acting legend, although she said in her biography that she was merely 'atmosphere' alongside her gifted siblings, Lottie and Jack. The 'atmosphere' was supplied by Mary's hair and elfin face. What is strange, in the light of what happened soon after this movie was made, is that Mary does all the smiling, while Mabel does nearly all the dramatics, the sobbing, and the crying.

Mary plays a mender of fishermen's nets in this film made in California (I thought fishermen mended their own nets). Mabel is the betrothed of a certain fisherman, who decides he prefers the mender of nets (gentlemen prefer blonds). After much Biograph-style dramatics, little understood today, from Mabel, her brother decides to shoot the dishonourable fisherman. More dramatics follow from Mabel, who gives a grand display of how a department store girl can become a great actress in just one year. Ex- theatre star Mary, realizing the brother means to harm her fisherman, follows the brother to her lover's shack. Here she intervenes when the shooting starts, and Mabel's brother departs. Mabel now arrives and rushes into the shack in dramatic form, catching Mary and fisherman in an embrace. Mabel gives Mary a mouthful, and one of those intense, murderous Irish looks, which 'Blondielocks' said scared the hell out of her ('murderer's eyes, glaring daggers into your heart'). Mary leaves distressed and down- hearted, but returns to console our sobbing colleen. The ending is typical for a single-reeler, with Mary returning to net-mending and Mabel to her old flame. The corny dialogue board attributes Mary with the dramatic words 'I'll mend the nets', and indeed this is what she seems to say on the screen, while producing some sickly smiles reminiscent of those used in 'The New York Hat'.

Things to note: Unusually, Mabel does not die in this picture. Griffith usually killed the 'disrespectful' Mabel off before the end. Mary's acting is as wooden and unfeeling as ever, and it could be that it was during the making of this film that Griffith grabbed Mary and shook her violently, before throwing her across the set. 'No feeling', he stormed. Mack Sennet said of Miss Pickford, 'I don't see why everyone's so crazy about her, she's effected!' (Mary was later transformed by a severe face-slapping from her mother 'to cure her swelled head'). Griffith seems to have told both actresses to hunch their shoulders when upset and distressed. This Mabel carries out naturally and believably, while Mary struggles, and produces a statuesque version of the tragic maiden. Noticeably, Mary always walks as though she's wearing diver's boots, while Mabel simply glides along. Miss Pickford was called by Mabel 'Hettie Green' (the millionairess) due to her acute business acumen – she matched Chaplin and Lloyd in the earnings stakes. Mabel could weep at the drop of a hat, and later revealed that she always won the Biograph instant tears competition by reading the newspaper death notices beforehand.


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