Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #8: Katchem Kate (1912)

US / 11 minutes / bw / Biograph, General Film Company Dir: Mack Sennett Scr: Dell Henderson Cine: Percy Higginson Cast: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Jack Pickford, Vivian Prescott, Anthony O’Sullivan, Frank Opperman, Sylvia Ashton

An early Mack Sennett silent that’s of interest because it can be read as a precursor of the Keystone Cops comedies and because it offers one of the first onscreen examples of the trope of the female detective outwitting her male counterparts. That may not seem like such a big deal today, but remember that in 1912 women weren’t considered intelligent enough to be entrusted with the vote.

Fed up with her dreary job at a dry cleaner, Kate (Normand) comes across a newspaper ad for a detective school, the Alert Detective Agency, and decides this is the future for her. The school, in the event, turns out to have Continue reading

Black Hand, The: True Story of a Recent Occurrence in the Italian Quarter of New York (1906)

US / c650ft (11 minutes) / bw / American Mutoscope & Biograph Dir: Wallace McCutcheon Pr: Francis J. Marion Cine: G.W. Bitzer Cast: Anthony O’Sullivan, Robert G. Vignola.

Supposedly based on a real case that took place in NYC, this is often cited as the earliest surviving gangster movie. There are no cast credits, though two of the actors have been identified.

Two Italian gangsters (O’Sullivan, Vignola), whose main occupation seems to be sitting around playing cards and getting schnockered, concoct a note to a local butcher, Angelo:

Black Hand - The threatening letter

The note.

Angelo doesn’t have the money so, a while later, Continue reading