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Film / The Curtain Pole

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The Curtain Pole is a 1909 short comedy film directed by D. W. Griffith, starring Mack Sennett. Sennett is M. Dupont, a fancy Frenchman who has been invited to a party. When the pole holding up a curtain at the party breaks, Dupont volunteers to go out and get one. He gets a long curtain pole, but not before getting good and drunk first. He then rushes back to the party, but a tent pole that has to be at least 15 feet long is not easy to carry through crowded streets. Hilarity Ensues.

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The Curtain Pole is a case of directing against type for Griffith, who mostly stuck to drama. In fact, not long after this film was released, Griffith put Sennett in charge of all comedy production at their studio, Biograph. Sennett proceeded to be a groundbreaker in the development of comedy, founding Keystone Studios and discovering talent like Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin.


Tropes:

  • All for Nothing: Dupont finally battles his way back to the Edwards mansion only to find out that the party has started, the girls have all been taken, and the curtain rod has been replaced. He winds up gnawing on his curtain rod in frustration.
  • Baby Carriage: Yes, this trope is that old. Played for laughs, as Dupont and his pole knock over a baby carriage as he careens down the street. Evidently no harm was done, as the enraged parents join the mob chasing him.
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  • Bar Brawl: Dupont accidentally starts one when wandering into a bar with his curtain pole, looking for a ride, accidentally whacking people upside the head.
  • The Dandy: Dupont is dressed ornately, in white tie and tails with a top hat. His clothes are ripped to pieces over the course of the movie.
  • Escalating Chase: See Everyone Chasing You below.
  • Everyone Chasing You: Starts out with the patrons of the bar, then a growing mob consisting of everyone Dupont hits, or whose property he destroys, as he and his pole and his horse-drawn cab speed through the streets.
  • Fruit Cart: Another very old comedy trope. Dupont knocks over a cart of lettuce/cabbage.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Dupont does this in an exaggerated fashion with his hostess at the party.
  • No Name Given: Not in the narrative, anyway. Promotional materials distributed with the film identify Sennett's character as a Frenchman, Monsieur Dupont, and his hosts as the Edwards family.
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  • Slapstick: This is sometimes called the first slapstick comedy film. It's hard to say that definitively given how little of early cinema survives, but this is certainly one of the earliest surviving examples.
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