An early Mack Sennett comedy Sculptor's Nightmare (1908) opens at the meeting of a political club or caucus. They have a bust of Teddy Roosevelt & are measuring the nook in which it stands, arguing heatedly. From the contemporary catalog we know they are arguing about a replacement bust. Failing to come to agreement, it's decided the sculptor they commission should choose from among the possibilities.
Cut to sculptor's studio where his beautiful model is holding a pose, until two members of the political club enter & bribe him to select their personal choice for the bust.
Others come & there's chaos in the studio. When the clubmen finally leave, our sculptor takes the money they have given him, & his lovely model, & head out for a night on the town.
In a spiff restaurant the sculptor gets a bit rowdy compared to other patrons, smoking, drinking, & pestering other tables. In comes the sculptor's wife who beats him about the head with a closed umbrella. The women are thrown out. The artist is tossed in jail for being drunk & disorderly.
Tumbling onto the prison cot in the dungeon-walled jailhouse, the sculptor falls into a stuperous sleep, & dreams three high narrow pedestals holding lumps of clay on top appear in his cell.
The clay lumps begin shaping themselves into busts. This is a wonderful sequence of "self-forming" figures done by stop motion animation.
Busts of William Jennings Bryan, Charles W. Fairbanks, & William Howard Taft appear from out of the clay, & have a highly animated discussion with one another. Taft is blowing smoke.
The artist wakes up & sure enough, there are the three statues, with whom he interacts until they disappear. Then he lays back down on the prison cot to sleep it off.
Tossing & turning on the cot, a single pedestal appears with a lump of clay that forms itself into a Teddy Bear sitting on a hump. It kicks its feet a few seconds, then reforms itself into Teddy Roosevelt with a very animate face. The artist awakens again & sees the Roosevelt bust disappear.
Artist's Nightmare is a milestone film for early stop motion animation integrated into a narrative film. Through the century since it was made it has lost none of its capacity to amuse.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl