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Cowcatcher's daughter and the origins of slapstick

 Q:   Ask a Question about Cowcatcher's daughter and the origins of slapstick       
Marjorie Beebe made two reel talkie short Cowcatcher’s Daughter in 1931 three years after her lost Fox triumph The Farmer’s Daughter. It was surely Mack Sennett’s nod to the earlier film. That alone woulld make it of interest. There is also Beebe’s rollicking performance and the overall sense of fun. But there is something else that makes it particularly fascinating. It is a near perfect example of Harlequinade. Cinema did not invent slapstick; it is centuries old.

The slapstick first appeared in Italian Renaissance Commedia dell’ Arte, a theatrical genre that influenced a number of English-speaking comic forms including pantomime, Punch and Judy shows and music hall in Britain, and vaudeville, burlesque and moving p ictures in America. The slapstick was carried by Harlequin. The Harlequinade told the story of a handsome boy, Harlequin, who falls for the lovely Columbine. The young lovers are thwarted by her father, crabby old Pantaloon, who wants her to marry his man a dolt generally known as Fool or Clown.

This is the very essence of Cowcatcher’s Daughter.with kindly but fussy and old-fashioned Pop Martin the spitting image of Pantaloon, his charming daughter Marge, her clumsy fiance and foreman Jim, and the travelling cattle inspector who takes the daughter’s fancy. It’s originality lies in its perspective.

As the title implies Cowcatcher’s Daughter unlike its predecessors is told from the point of view of the Columbine figure. 1931 was the age of the dizzy, emancipated flapper and Marjorie Beebe relished that role. The previous year she had played the same character Marge Martin in a short called Campus Crushes in which she was the college flapper. Now in Cowcatcher’s Daughter she unexpectedly arrives back at home having kissed goodbye to college. But the charming Western cowgirl has become imbued with hoity-toity Eastern ways.

Back in old Italy Harlequin had taken the lead in the pranks. Now Marjorie Beebe is the chief mischief maker. Subversive Harlequin has given way to unruly Columbine. The cattle inspector is instantly bowled over by her charm; Beebe starts her flirtation as soon as she claps eyes on him. At night she goes swimming nude in a lake in the forest. The foolish fiance is quite unable to cope. Pop too is at his wits end- he had hoped the finishing school might resolve his daughter’s behavior.

He has to resort to more traditional methods so when “Harlequin” arrives to begin his inspection Pop is busy chastising his unruly daughter.The cattle will have to wait until the flapper has had her bottom properly spanked! A temporary sting in the tail for Marjorie Beebe but an overall twist in the old tale of Harlequin as this pioneer girl slapsticker struts her stuff.


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Category: Others  - ( Others Archive)

Date Added: 09 February '11


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