A Dash Through the Clouds (1912)
Director: Mack Sennett
Cast: Fred Mace, Mabel Normand, Phillip Parmalee
Synopsis: Aviation enthusiast Josephine rescues her suitor, Chubby, from an angry mob with the help of Slim and his airplane.
Just ten years after the Wright Brothers first took to the skies, the opening titles of Mack Sennett’s A Dash Through the Clouds marvel at how far the technology of flight has advanced since those early days. Upon seeing the flimsy bi-plane which forms the focus of this mediocre comedy, however, we’re left to wonder just what advances had been made. Honestly, it looks as if it would crumple under a strong wind, so we really have to admire leading lady Mabel Normand (Mickey) for having the nerve to go up in it for the sake of a comedy movie which, as far as she knew, no-one would see again a few months after its release. There’s no doubting that really is Normand taking off and landing in the company of real-life pilot Phillip Parmalee, as the camera remains on her as she climbs in and out of the rickety construction.
The plot is flat and inconsequential. Normand is the either the girlfriend of rotund comedian Fred Mace, or he would dearly like her to be. While on a visit to the local airport, they run into dashing pilot, Slim (Parmalee) who offers them both a flight in his ‘plane. Mace is too timid to accept his offer but, much to Mace’s disgruntlement, Normand is practically sitting on the bottom wing of the plane (really — cockpits were unheard of in those days, and both pilot and passenger sat on the wing of these early models) before Parmalee has finished making his offer. When Normand announces the following day that she’s returning to the airport for a second flight, Mace storms off in a huff. He journeys to Mexico, where he angers some of the locals by wooing a comfy-looking senorita (who, to be honest, is probably more in his league than Normand) and needs the assistance of Normand and Parmalee to help him escape when the angry men-folk give chase.
Although A Dash Through the Clouds doesn’t amount to much, and isn’t particularly funny at all, it’s probably worth a look just to catch a glimpse of an ancient biplane back in the day when it was shiny and new, and for the vivacious performance of Mabel Normand before the pressures of stardom and hard living began to take their toll. The film is also tinged with tragedy as the 25-year-old Parmalee died just one week after A Dash Through the Clouds was shot when his plane failed during a flight.
(Reviewed 14th May 2014)