Santa Claus vs. Cupid (1915)

Two suitors are trying to woo the same woman on Christmas Eve. One steals the flowers the other sent, so we know not to root for him. They both show up at a Christmas party dressed as Santa in order to impress the woman. At the same time, another character with a sick wife decides to rob the party. He holds up the guy we're not rooting for, locks him in a closet, then steals the sack of presents he had with him.

The other suitor runs into the thief outside the house, gets him to renounce his ways, then sends him off with some money. Then the suitor enters and distributes the gifts. After, he proposes to the woman, and the rival is freed from his closet just in time to learn about the engagement.

It is entirely possible the synopsis I've just laid out is the plot for the 99-year-old silent movie, "Santa Claus vs. Cupid." But I really wouldn't swear to that: I found it hard to follow due to the sparse use of speech cards. Clearly, the intent was for the audience to follow along and infer the story based on the characters' expressions and actions, aided by the occasion card containing information or dialogue. While there was enough to get a general sense of what was happening, I found the choices for what deserved to be spelled out occasionally baffling.

I'm sure a second viewing would clear all that up, but... ugh. The talkies were a great invention.

Also, I'm assuming this thing was originally supposed to have a pianist accompanying it or something. The version on YouTube is completely silent, which I found more or less intolerable. I put on some classical Christmas music to keep myself from falling asleep. A decent solution, except for the fact I kept having to remind myself that a song coming to an end didn't signify a story beat. You never realize how subconsciously you've adapted to editing tricks until you randomize an element like that. Really messes with your head.

Beyond all of that, the short movie contains a few decent visual gags. Other than that, I'm sure it has profound significance to students of film history... but maybe not to the rest of us.

If you're curious, it's less than fifteen minutes long, and it's up on YouTube.