Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Dec 21, 1914 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 73 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Historically significant as the first full-length comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance may not strike modern audiences with the same impact that it did those in 1914, but it's still a very funny excursion into broad slapstick. Seen many decades later, much of the humor is familiar, and that does blunt its effectiveness somewhat. But Tillie is also undeniably appealing, thanks largely to its stellar trio of leading players. Charles Chaplin, of course, is the best known of the three today, and he's marvelous; but this isn't the Chaplin that so many know, the "little tramp" that is forever set upon and forever suffering for being too innocent. In Tillie, Chaplin is a cad, a bounder, a womanizer who is after the title character solely for her money, and it's refreshing to see him in a change-of-pace role, even if it is one that doesn't demand as much of his unique talents as more tailor-made roles do. As Tillie, Marie Dressler is a treat, a big, galumphing presence whose bizarre coyness and whimsy make her character an outsized, delightful treat. Dressler's delicious performance anchors the film and accounts for much of its success. Yet the best performance is arguably from Mabel Normand as the "other woman." Her work here is wonderfully understated at times, yet she "revs up" to large scale silent movie acting at the drop of a hat. Mack Sennett's direction is broad, as is to be expected, and Hampton Del Ruth's screenplay doesn't always make sense, but the stars and the "Keystone Kops" more than make up for any deficiencies.