The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 remains one of the most deadly pandemic in recent history. Millions lost their lives and as a precaution, moving picture studios temporarily halted operations.
When a disaster happens, all that’s left to do is laugh or cry and cartoonist Rube Goldberg opted to find humor in the small details. While not diminishing the severity of the situation, he found humor in it and this was likely welcomed by the readers of Photoplay Magazine.
The vampire craze was on the wane by this time but there was still humor to be found in the image of a wicked screen vixen as a devoted mum. The crack about an Egyptian princess is directed at the publicity rumors circulated by Fox about Theda Bara. Her name was an anagram for Arab Death! She was born in the shadow of the Sphinx! The suicide line is likely a reference to her breakout hit A Fool There Was in which Miss Bara’s scorned lovers off themselves at a remarkable rate.
By the way, Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand sent up expectations vs. reality in Mabel’s Dramatic Career.
The sound of the barrel organ or street organ is often associated with carnivals and festivals but, yes, it would indeed be a suitable job for a cameraman in the days when cameras were hand-cranked. Monkey optional.
I can see Hart doing this, actually.
Buying on payments and being caught by a money-draining disaster was another common gag in films of the period. Skinner’s Dress Suit revolves around it. A broke actor evading creditors was featured in Kean.
Now that’s a sad joke because it’s so true. Nitrate was and is maddeningly fragile.
I am reminded of the old myth that Ben Turpin had his eye insured against uncrossing.
You can look up lots of swell clippings like these at the Media History Digital Library.
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