A villain strokes his mustache, a girl is screaming tied to train tracks, and a dog runs to the rescue, while a piano plays in the background. This is what most people think of about silent movies (if they ever think about them). However it was passe enough by 1917 to have a short parody made of the genre.
"Teddy at the Throttle" is a Keystone comedy and stars Bobby Vernon,Wallace Beery, Keystone Teddy and the fabulous Gloria Swanson. "Teddy at the Throttle" has a fairly simple story, appropriate for a short. A girl [Swanson] is scorned by her clueless boyfriend [Vernon] in favor of another woman. However the only way Bobbie can get his inheritance is by marrying Gloria. Enter Henry, Bobbie's lawyer [Wallace Beery] who tries to marry Gloria so he can get the money. Eventually Henry [Beery] ties Gloria to the track to be run over by a train. Teddy runs and gets Bobbie. Bobbie comes and all ends happily for the young and short couple (although Teddy is the one who actually stops the train).
|Gloria sings with Teddy|
|If you'd rather marry an old, overweight, tall woman than me, be my guest.|
|Henry tries to woo Gloria|
|A Happy Marriage?|
In one of the last scenes a train drives over Swanson. They had had a male double all set to do the stunt, but Gloria insisted she do it herself. (Silent stars and stuntmen, for that matter, were extremely tough, but more on that in future blog posts.) Of note watching this short is that Swanson doesn't have her screen persona set up that was later fully established by "Don't Change Your Husband" or "Why Change Your Wife?"
Often if there is a parody of a genre it signals the end of that fad. If a girl tied to a train track was old hat by 1917, well. This is an excellent movie and helps show that silent movies especially later ones (1920s) were not the simplistic things they have since become labeled as.