By Victoria Sturtevant
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Additional resources for A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler
And Tillie’s adventures at the café are framed by the generically conventional intertitle “The Effect of Tillie’s First Drink,” which suggests the many sensationalistic films at the time about the negative effects of alcohol on moral virtue and family life. This title is followed by a comic shot of Tillie spitting her first drink in Charlie’s face. Indeed, the alcohol here and at the final party does not signify the corrosive effects of city life on the moral lives of the characters. It signifies only the pleasures of physical freedom.
Because Dressler was large, her voice and gestures expansive, the way she occupied space was often read as masculine, transgressing the boundaries of feminine containment. In her very early years on stage, she was sometimes called upon to play male roles. She recalled, “As a general thing, I played the Queen, if there was one. 7 A review of her stage work described the androgyny of her stage presence: “Marie Dressler has a certain virility in her humor. ”9 A common way of approaching Dressler’s ruptures of feminine containment was simply to label them masculine.
The uncle who had been presumed dead returns and throws the whole party out into the street. The final scene of the film is an extended chase sequence: the Keystone Cops pursue Tillie; Tillie, gun blazing, pursues Charlie and Mabel. The chase ends when Tillie falls off the end of a pier, and the Cops, after several incompetent tries, finally pull her out of the ocean. Tillie gives her wedding ring back to Charlie. Charlie turns to Mabel, but she rejects him as well. Tillie and Mabel embrace each other, and the police drag Charlie away.
A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler by Victoria Sturtevant