#147) Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)

fattys-tintype-tangle2

#147) Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)

OR “Snapshot Judgment”

Directed by Roscoe Arbuckle

Class of 1995

The Plot: Fatty (Roscoe Arbuckle) and his unnamed wife (Norma Nichols) are happy together, except for having to live with Fatty’s mother-in-law (Mai Wells) who drives them both crazy. When Fatty leaves the house one day, he ends up on a park bench near a young woman (Louise Fazenda). When a photographer (Glen Cavender) snaps their picture, the woman’s husband Edgar (Edgar Kennedy) thinks Fatty’s trying to move in on his wife. And this just sets off the Rube Goldberg machine that is silent film farce.

Why It Matters: The NFR salutes Arbuckle’s fame and talent, calling this film “Arbuckle at the height of his fame”. The write-up also unnecessarily questions Arbuckle’s innocence in the scandalous trial that ended his career. It was almost 100 years ago, NFR. Let it go.

But Does It Really?: I was surprised to learn that this is Roscoe Arbuckle’s only film on the Registry. Having only been familiar with the scandal that brought him down, I was pleased to watch this film and find a very endearing, very funny performer with a flair for physical comedy. “Fatty’s Tintype Tangle” may not be the funniest (or most coherent) film ever, but it represents the talent of a man whose work has sadly been sidelined by the other greats of the silent era, despite the fact that he’s the man responsible for those greats in the first place. Here’s to you Roscoe. And as always, fuck you William Randolph Hearst.

Everybody Gets One: Let’s get it out of the way: Roscoe Arbuckle’s fame as silent film character “Fatty” was completely overshadowed by the trials that saw him accused of raping and murdering actress Virginia Rappe. He was eventually acquitted, but the damage was done. Before the trial he was one of the silent eras first comic stars, discovering Chaplin and Keaton along the way. After the trial and several years of seclusion, he made a quiet comeback directing comedy shorts (under his father’s first and middle names, William Goodrich). He eventually returned to acting in the early ‘30s, but died of a heart attack on the same day he signed a feature-film contract with Warner Bros.

Wow, That’s Dated: Well for starters, the title. We also get the term “shandygaff”, as well as comical gunplay and spousal abuse. So there’s that.

Other notes

  • For the record, Roscoe Arbuckle only played a character named Fatty. He did not like being referred to as “Fatty” in real life (but hey, who would?).
  • A husband who does his wife’s hair for her? Interesting…
  • Mom kinda looks like Laurie Metcalf.
  • This film makes excellent use of close-ups for comic effect. It also features some pretty quick cuts, which means that the really boring silent films I’ve watched for this blog weren’t archaic, just lazy.
  • Did Fatty break that hat rack over his belly? So much for “no cheap fat jokes”.
  • We have a banana peel gag! Followed immediately by a fun reverse film gag.
  • Upon watching the scene with the actual tintype, I called shenanigans on the photo developing that quickly. Turns out the tintype was known for its speed, leading to its popularity around the turn of the century. It was the Polaroid of its day!
  • You can’t be menacing when your wardrobe resembles an elf.
  • This short shares its plot with 98% of all “Three’s Company” episodes. Speaking of, Mr. Furley would fit right in with all the camera-mugging going on here.
  • Silent film veteran Frank Hayes plays the police chief. Now that’s a face for silent films. He looks like if Gumby wished to be human.
  • They’re not officially the Keystone Cops, but they might as well be.
  • No wonder Edgar can’t shoot Fatty; his gun is loaded with flour for some reason. But seriously, how do you miss someone at that close a range with two guns?
  • Did Fatty just grind Edgar’s fingers? Jeez, even the Coen Brothers would think that’s too gruesome.
  • This film features a comic routine of Fatty walking over the power lines on a telephone pole. I doubt this would have the same impact if it were a modern day cell phone tower.
  • Well that was a weird ending.

Legacy

  • Roscoe Arbuckle’s legacy can be seen in our nation’s history of fat but graceful physical comedians: from Jackie Gleason to Chris Farley to Kevin James.
  • Without Arbuckle, there’s no Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. I don’t want to live in that world.
  • Speaking of Chris Farley, he really wanted to make his dramatic film debut in a “Fatty” Arbuckle biopic, but died before the film could be produced. John Belushi and John Candy suffered eerily similar fates after considering the role of Arbuckle in the long-gestating project. Last I heard HBO wanted to make the film with Eric Stonestreet. Be very careful, Cameron.

A Brief Editorial: I’ll argue that the window to make a “Fatty” Arbuckle biopic has closed. Can you imagine releasing a movie in a post-#MeToo environment about a movie star accused/eventually acquitted of rape and murder while the deceased victim is completely discredited? Not gonna happen. But for my money, John Candy would have been the best in the role.

 

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