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Additional resources for A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler
The gags finally explode into the all-out chaos of the party at the mansion and the final chase to the pier. This structure of slowly escalating stunts mimics the melodrama’s inflationary sensational aesthetic. The sensationalism of melodrama is often based on the daredevil physicality of the star—Wallace Reid’s stunt driving, Pearl White’s leaping on and off of moving trains, or Tom Mix’s breakneck horsemanship. Dressler’s reckless physicality in Tillie’s Punctured Romance reproduces some of these same “wow” moments of the blood-and-thunder melodrama in ways that force the viewer to recognize the flexibility and power of her body, as well as its resilience.
In many ways, melodrama is a formal opposite of comedy, which requires that the spectator retain a kind of critical distance from the characters in order to laugh at their antics. Because melodrama is such a broad category, it is useful to read the parody Tillie’s Punctured Romance against the historically specific background of “sensational” or “blood-and-thunder” melodramas, popular in the 1910s. Like any genre, sensational melodramas were given to recognizable clichés, 18 • a gre at big girl like me like the mustachioed villain, the heroine tied to the railroad tracks, and the last-minute rescue.
The thread that binds these three processes is Dressler’s unruly body, exploding generic and narrative boundaries. ” This distortion of Kathleen Norris’ novel is without excuse either as art or amusement; its only explanation seems to be a deliberate purpose to travesty the Irish people and to discredit the Catholic Faith. —Press Release, National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service, July 25, 1927 Kathleen Norris’s short-story collection The Callahans is a sentimental, often mournful remembrance of two Irish families facing triumph and loss over the years.