Mabel's Strange Predicament

Mabel's Strange Predicament is a 1914 American film starring Mabel Normand and Charles Chaplin, notable for being the first film for which Chaplin donned The Tramp costume.[1]

Mabel's Strange Predicament
Mabel Normand in a scene from the film
Directed byMabel Normand
Produced byMack Sennett
Written byHenry Lehrman
CinematographyH.F. Koenekamp[1]
Distributed byKeystone Studios
Release date
  • February 9, 1914 (1914-02-09)
Running time
17 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English (Original titles)


In a hotel lobby a heavily drunk tramp runs into an elegant lady, Mabel, who gets tied up in her dog's leash, and falls down. He later runs into her in the hotel corridor, locked out of her room. They run through various rooms. Mabel ends up in the room of an elderly husband where she hides under the bed. Enter the jealous wife, who soon attacks Mabel, her husband, and Mabel's lover, not to mention the staggeringly drunken tramp.



A reviewer for Exhibitors' Mail saw the genius of Chaplin in just his third film and predicted great things for the former English stage comedian. He wrote, "The Keystone Company never made a better contract than when they signed on Chas. Chaplin, the Karno performer. It is not every variety artiste who possesses the ability to act before the camera. Chaplin not only shows that talent, he shows it in a degree which raises him at once to the status of star performer. We do not often indulge in prophecy, but we do not think we are taking a great risk in prophesying that in six months Chaplin will rank as one of the most popular screen performers in the world. Certainly there has never been before quite so successful a first appearance."

First "Tramp" appearance filmed

The Tramp was first presented to the public in Chaplin's second film Kid Auto Races at Venice (released February 7, 1914) though Mabel's Strange Predicament, his third film in order of release, (released February 9, 1914) was produced a few days before. It was for this film that Chaplin first conceived of and played the Tramp. As Chaplin recalled in his autobiography:

I had no idea what makeup to put on. I did not like my get-up as the press reporter [in Making a Living]. However on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small mustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born.

Chaplin, My Autobiography, p. 154

Mabel's Strange Predicament is one of more than a dozen early films that writer/director/comedian Mabel Normand made with Chaplin; Normand, who had written and directed films before Chaplin, mentored the young comedian. Chaplin's Tramp is shown swigging from a flask toward the beginning of the film and subsequently becoming so drunk that he staggers when he walks and falls down repeatedly near the end. His portrayal of drunkenness remains convincingly realistic. The Tramp also keeps his derby cocked throughout the proceedings, a touch that Chaplin abandoned later in his career.

See also


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