Directed By: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, and Mack Sennett
Starring: Mabel Normand, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Edgar Kennedy
Trivia: This movie was shot on-location in Oakland's Idora Park
Filmmaker Mack Sennett (who, if the Internet Movie Database is to be believed, produced 1,115 movies, mostly shorts, between the years 1911 and 1949) was responsible for giving a number of the silent era’s best screen comics, such as Marie Dressler (Dinner at Eight), Harold Lloyd (Safety Last!), W.C. Fields (The Bank Dick), and even the great Charlie Chaplin (City Lights), their first big break. Nicknamed “The King of Comedy”, Sennett is considered the founding father of slapstick, a comedy style prevalent in many of his earliest shorts, including Mabel’s Wilful Way, a 1915 movie he co-directed along with its two stars, Mabel Norman and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (both of whom were also “discovered” by Sennett).
While having lunch at a posh restaurant with her parents (Glen Cavender and Alice Davenport), Mabel (Normand) grows weary of the ambiance and decides to sneak away. Stumbling upon an amusement park, she crosses paths with Fatty (Arbuckle), who, along with his pal (Edgar Kennedy), is enjoying a nice day out. After spotting the pretty Mabel, the friends argue over which of them will act as her escort for the afternoon (with Fatty winning out in the end). While this is going on, Mabel’s parents, realizing she’s gone, begin a frantic search for her, and in the process have their own “encounters” with their daughter’s two gentleman suitors!
Shot on-location at Oakland’s Idora Park, an outdoor amusement park that, at the time, was considered the finest in the San Francisco Bay area, Mabel’s Wilful Way features plenty of slapstick comedy, ranging from a fight between Mabel’s father and Edgar Kennedy (which spills onto a Merry-Go-Round) to a scene in which Fatty, having lost control at the bottom of a humongous sliding board, inadvertently pushes a pie into the face of a policeman (played by Joe Bordeaux). As with many of Sennett’s Keystone comedies (named after the studio he himself founded in 1912), the humor in Mabel’s Wilful Way is broad, perhaps a bit too broad for modern audiences. But if you’re at all interested in the early days of screen comedy, then Mack Sennett should be one of your first stops, and Mabel’s Wilful Way is as good a place as any to start.