What was the first feature-length comedy?

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What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostThu Jun 01, 2017 2:45 pm

On July 25, 1913, an hour-long Max Linder feature, Le duel de Max (Max And His Rival), was released. The film was said to be the longest production the comedian had yet made, and may have been the longest film comedy up to that time, but I've always read that Mack Sennett’s Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) was the first feature-length film comedy. Are the history books wrong?
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostThu Jun 01, 2017 3:00 pm

The length of a feature film seems to have begun at "more than three reels" and gone up as time went on. More importantly, a feature film is what the audience is there to see, which means that the Chaplin Mutuals were feature films.

Le Duel de Max (1913) is listed as a short on the IMDb and is given a release length of three reels. Nonetheless, it may very well have played as the "featured attraction" on many a film program, rather than a "selected short subject", or whatever the French for those terms is.

I'd like to see it, but if it survives, it's not available to me.

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostThu Jun 01, 2017 3:39 pm

Excellent points!

Le duel de Max seems to have been trimmed down to 45 minutes in several countries, France included, though it also seems to have been allowed to play at full-length in Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, and Brazil.

Could this be another one of those so-called "film firsts" that may have been duplicated by others in various places at various times? Early film history seems to be full of such conflicts, right?
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostThu Jun 01, 2017 7:28 pm

Tillie often gets cited as the first feature-length comedy, but there were other American films that predated it. One that comes to mind is A Florida Enchantment starring Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew, which ran about an hour and was released several months ahead of Sennett's film.
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostFri Jun 02, 2017 3:31 am

LE DUEL DE MAX (1913) definitely qualifies as a feature in its complete form, though it got trimmed down in several countries for copyright reason. Mr and Mrs Drew had also appeared in features by the time TILLIE saw release, as has already been pointed out. Although Sennett made TILLIE well before feature-length comedies became common, the claim that it was the "first" to be made is a myth which needs to be corrected once and for all. Even Linder's film was likely not the very first one out.
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostFri Jun 02, 2017 1:29 pm

A FLORIDA ENCHANTMENT was released in August, 1914, and TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE came out in December, 1914. A FLORIDA ENCHANTMENT is a coherent feature-length narrative, while TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE is a collection of short skits held together by a thin story line.

Sidney Drew was between wives when ENCHANTMENT was made. The first "Mrs. Sidney Drew," Gladys Rankin had died in January, 1914, and in July, 1914, Sidney Drew married Lucile McVey, who had played a major role in ENCHANTMENT. She became the second "Mrs. Sidney Drew in subsequent films."

The film is noted today because of its possible lesbian theme. The original book of the same title by Archibald Gunter on which the film was based was a mystery story with a strange plot twist: a young woman disappears and about the same time a strange young man appears on the scene, who is suspected of being the murderer.

A FLORIDA ENCHANTMENT receives attention in the forthcoming book SILENT FILMS IN ST. AUGUSTINE (University Press of Florida, September).
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostSat Jun 03, 2017 11:00 am

Thank you all for these interesting replies. The new book sounds wonderful. I tip my hat to you all (which is no easy feat!).
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Re: What was the first feature-length comedy?

PostWed Jun 14, 2017 2:08 pm

FYI, the CNC, or Archives du Films francaises in Bois d'Arcy just outside Paris has all three reels of "Le Duel de Max" (1913), albeit it in very rough shape. I saw the reels, but passed on running them through the Steenbeck due to their condition.

If they ever get restored, it would be great to see the scope of that storyline.

Best, Lisa Stein Haven

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