US Release Date: 04-24-1913
Directed by: Henry Lehrman
- Fred Mace, as
- Sheriff of Bangville
- Mabel Normand, as
- Della - the Farmer's Daughter
- Nick Cogley, as
- Della's Father
- Charles Avery, as
- 1st Deputy
- Dot Farley, as
- Della's Mother
- Rube Miller, as
- 2nd Deputy (in straw hat)
- Edgar Kennedy, as
- 3rd Deputy (in straw hat)
- Raymond Hatton, as
- Farm Hand (in vest)
- Jack Leonard, as
- Fred Happ as
Mabel Normand in The Bangville Police.
Fred Mace created the Keystone Cops while at Mack Sennett's studio, Keystone. Although they were not originally billed as such here, The Bangville Police is believed to be the film that started the Keystone Cops.
The movie opens with the farmer's daughter telling her dad how much she wants a calf. She then sees two strangers in their barn. The movie never says what they are up to. She assumes it is nothing good, so she runs into the house and calls the police. The sheriff, Mace, gathers his deputies by shooting his gun into the air. They then clumsily race through the countryside to aid the confused girl.
She has meanwhile barricaded herself in her home, not letting her own mother in, as she thinks it is the burglars outside her door trying to get in. The police finally show up and the sheriff pushes his way in. The daughter has now hidden herself in the closet. The Sheriff hears her and assumes it is the burglars. He shoots through the closet door. They eventually discover it is the daughter. They all go to the barn where they discover that the cow has given birth. The end.
This is not that funny of a film. The cops are the best thing about it, and it is easy to see how someone could build a routine around them racy stupidly to the rescue.
To the rescue!
The most interesting thing about this movie (besides its being the screen debut of the Keystone Kops) is that it was made at the dawn of the Hollywood era. Mack Sennett had opened his Keystone Pictures Studios in Hollywood in August of 1912 and released his first two movies on September 23rd of that year. They were Cohen Collects a Debt and The Water Nymph both starring Mabel Normand. Mack Sennett was a seminal figure in Hollywood history; in fact the oldest surviving film footage shot in Hollywood is of Sennett from 1910.
The first moving pictures were filmed in 1892; the first time a movie was projected on a screen for an audience (in the United States) was on April 23rd, 1896 in New York City (The Lumière brothers achieved the feat a year earlier in Paris, France). In 1907 the first movies were shot in the Los Angeles area but it wasn’t until October of 1911 that construction was begun on the first movie studio in Hollywood itself. Within 3 years that 9 letter word would become world famous as a synonym for The Movies.
Mabel Normand was the first famous movie comedienne. She was great at pratfalls and mugging. Unfortunately her talents are not put to good use here. At the time of this movies' release she was the reigning queen of Keystone Pictures. A year later she would appear in the very first feature length comedy costarring with Marie Dressler, Charlie Chaplin and again with The Keystone Kops in Tillies Punctured Romance.
As already mentioned the only reason The Bangville Police is remembered is for its being the first appearance of the Keystone Kops, and they had yet to define their trademark look. As Eric said it isn’t that funny or well made and the story is rather sloppy. The outdoor scenes are the best if only for a glimpse of the California countryside that would soon be a bustling suburb.
An early look at the Keystone Kops.
According to what I've read, the actual first appearance of the Keystone Kops was in 1912's Hoffmeyer's Legacy, which is a lost film. This is, however, considered the seminal Keystone Kops film that really got them going.
Like both of you, I didn't find this movie particularly funny. Although I actually thought Mabel Normand was fairly amusing. She acts a bit over-the-top but her hysterical barricade building is worth a chuckle. She was also a bit of a looker.
It was with the Kops that I was the most disappointed though. I guess I don't know enough about them, but what exactly does it take for police in one of these movies to be considered Keystone Kops? I thought it was the uniform and that that there was always a bunch of them. Not just the three lawmen without a uniform that appear in this one.
The other item of historical interest, besides an early glimpse of the Hollywood countryside, is the early car. It doesn't even have a steering wheel, but rather a rudder. The Kop has to do quite a lot of fiddling with dials and switches just to get it moving.
As part of the general sloppiness of the film, I have to include the fake mustaches. They stand-out and look quite unintentionally comical, when they're supposed to be sinister.
I'll have to put this one down as one of those shorts that's more interesting historically than entertaining.
Photos © Copyright Keystone Film Company (1913)