By Victoria Sturtevant
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Extra resources for A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler
Birth, death, defecation, sex, all act as the basis of an ambivalent humor that mocks artificiality, social mores, and the pretensions of the upper classes and renders a culture temporarily chaotic or inverted until the carnival ends and the class system is imposed again. During the chaos of the carnivalesque moment, inversions of social roles create a world where women, constrained perhaps most of all by the social labors of propriety, can become “unruly”: angry, sexually aggressive, physically exuberant, or bre aking boundaries • 33 socially rebellious, all behaviors outside the boundaries of feminine compliance.
The bank president is hanging out her office window shouting to the ice cream man below that she wants raspberry and not tutti-frutti for her son’s wedding later that day. A baby urinates on Dressler in Emma; her weight tears a sink from the wall in Chasing Rainbows (MGM, 1930); and in Reducing (MGM, 1931) she performs a kind of hopping shimmy to retrieve money she has tucked into her bosom and that has slipped beyond her reach. Her body, her ample, flexible, and mobile body, causes chaos in the controlled systems of social propriety.
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. Not so the film. ”10 Dressler was shocked and baffled by the outrage that greeted the picture’s release.
A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler by Victoria Sturtevant