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Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)

Long after jilting his girlfriend, Mabel the kitchen maid, Mack is startled to see her onscreen at the local cinema.


Mack Sennett


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Cast overview:
Mabel Normand ... Mabel, the Kitchen Maid
Mack Sennett ... Mack - Mabel's Sweetheart
Alice Davenport Alice Davenport ... Mack's Mother
Virginia Kirtley ... City Girl - Mabel's Rival
Charles Avery ... Farmer / Movie Crewman
Ford Sterling ... Actor / Onscreen Villain
Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ... Man in Audience
Billy Jacobs ... Mabel's Son (as Paul Jacobs)
Charles Inslee ... Film Director
Dave Anderson Dave Anderson ... Driver / Man in Audience


A young man falls in love with his mother's kitchen maid, Mabel. But his mother objects strongly, and arranges for him to meet another young woman whom she considers more suitable. Mabel confronts the young woman, and is dismissed from her position. Later, when the young man learns about the new career that Mabel has found, he begins to act in an agitated and unpredictable manner. Written by Snow Leopard

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Comedy | Short







Release Date:

8 September 1913 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Her Dramatic Debut See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Keystone Film Company See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mack - Mabel's Sweetheart: It's Mabel!
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User Reviews

Mabel's dramatic end
10 December 2016 | by ducatic-82290See all my reviews

Mabel appears as her usual domestic 'slavey' and Mack as his usual awkward country boy in a dirty shirt. For a girl who was addicted to Parisian fashions, it's remarkable how Mabel is so often cast in rags by Sennett. However, in this film she appears to be wearing a kind of uniform.

There is some realism here, in the fact that the screen Mack is much enamored with Mabel and puts an engagement ring on her finger. In around 1912, the real Mack did in fact give the, then, Biograph Girl a two-dollar engagement ring, promising to replace it later with a 'proper' one. True to form, our country hick puts the ring on the wrong hand, and has to be shown by Mabel where to place it. Mack's mother (Mabel's employer), however, blows into the scene and is not amused. She banishes Mabel to the kitchen and berates Mack for his foolishness.

When a girl from the city arrives, Mack suddenly transfers his affections from Mabel the drudge, to the sophisticated, chauffeur-driven city girl (who is she, is she a movie star?). Mabel remonstrates with turn-coat Mack, pointing to the ring. When Mack and city girl retire to the garden, Mabel pursues them brandishing a handy stick. The glaring daggers of Mabel's Irish eyes (murderer's eyes according to Mary Pickford) are a sight to behold.

After lashing out at Mack and girl, Mabel pursues them into the house, where she whacks ma' and tries to strangle the city girl. Ma' orders Mabel out, and Mabel is next seen outside with a suitcase in her hand and what D W Griffith called 'one of those awful hats' on her head (it appears to have a garden planted atop). Enter Mack, who tears the ring from slavey's finger, and orders her away. Mabel demonstrates some good Biograph-inspired tragic crying then punches Mack in the mouth, Keystone style. Mabel trudges to the big city, where she stumbles upon Keystone studios (not the real 'poverty row' one, but a suave Wilshire Boulevard version). Mabel joyfully enters, thinking she can make it as an actress. She's in luck, Ford Sterling is totally smitten with the ex-slavey, and engages her, despite her hilarious but clumsy actions around the set.

The fun and games occur when Mack goes into a picture-house to see a Keystone film. He vaguely recognises the girl on the poster outside, but cannot believe his eyes when Mabel appears on the screen with a lover. More disturbing is the fact that the villain on the screen is Ford Sterling, who for some reason recognizes Mack, and taunts him, indicating that he'll have Mabel for his own. Ford abducts Mabel and ties her to a barrel of gunpowder, whereupon Mack gets agitated, telling her to blow the fuse out. When the villain realizes the fuse is out he pulls a gun on Mabel, whereupon Mack also pulls a gun and starts to shoot at the screen. Pandemonium breaks out in the picture-house and even the projectionist almost gets his head blown off.

Mack runs outside declaring 'That villain must die'. Amusingly, he only goes a few steps before he spies the aforesaid villain, with plug hat, entering his house (the usual one on the Keystone lot). Mack goes to the window, and seeing the nasty guy with two children, prepares to fire. However, before he can shoot, who should enter the room, but Mabel with yet another child. Mack counts the kids on his fingers and makes it four, then prepares to blast them all, but fails due to a bucket of water tipped from on high.

There are several intriguing points about this film. Firstly, it is simply amazing how Mabel slips easily from Biograph tragedienne to Keystone comedienne and back again. What the film demonstrates is that someone was combining pathos and comedy in movies, long before Chaplin blew onto the scene. It makes you wonder, then, where the latter got his particular brand of comedy from.

Secondly, this movie makes W.D. Taylor's murder (in 1922) look like déjà vu. Mack Sennett knew Taylor personally, and was a prime suspect in the case, so it does seem a coincidence that the Mack in this film would attempt to kill his ex-girlfriend, and the tin-type who lured her away. Mack once told his literary agent that he had shot Taylor, and cleared the house of any letters between Mabel the director (the missing 'Blessed Baby' letters). If this is true, then the murder was not for love, but because he believed Taylor was going to lure his cash-cow away to Paramount – damn them, they had plenty enough stars of their own! Chaplin was lucky he did not himself lure Mabel to his new studio. Perhaps he had the premonition of a gun barrel coming through the window one dark night. The film could, in fact, have been a warning to the young and virile Chaplin, who had signed to Keystone at about this time. Mabel had only a cameo role in the second part of the film, which suggests she had no idea of the shock ending.

The city girl is played by Virginia Kirtley, often a leading lady, but never a star. She remained an actress until the advent of talkies. Alice Davenport is Mabel's adversary in this film, as in many others, although on numerous occasions she had played Mabel's mother.

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