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whoopsChicago Tribune, May 15, 1921. “Mae Tinee” was Tribune’s film critic from 1915 to 1966. The secret of her astounding longevity? She was just a dopey, punning pseudonym (“matinee,” get it?) plus a chirpy style that any copy boy could emulate in a pinch. Anyway, here are some excerpts from her take on Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, caligaripixwhich has been a favorite of mine since before I was in long pants. (True story: When I was nine Santa brought me a photo-illustrated copy of the screenplay plus interpretive essays. Best Christmas present ever. I hadn’t actually seen the movie at that point, just read about it in other books, so this was the next best thing to a repeatable private screening.)
Anyway, here’s the mince-pie money shot:
caligari1caligari2And this brings us to one of the salient traits of mince pie: Like Windsor McKay’s welsh rarebit, it was known to cause vivid nightmares. The same went for hot donuts and lobster, incidentally. It had something to do with the effects of indigestion on the sleeping psyche. Thus mince pie-related humor frequently bore a strong resemblance to drug humor. E.g., the 1919 Douglas Fairbanks film When Clouds Roll By (Food-Induced Nightmare), in which Fairbanks is the unwitting experimental subject of a mad psychologist who, in collusion with Fairbanks’s butler, feeds him a late-night repast of onions, lobster, rarebit and, of course, mince pie. I’ve never seen it, but it sounds pretty great:

“His dreams include a ghostly burly man in rags; fingers dripping from the ceiling or growing from furniture; showing up in his pyjamas at a party attended by beautiful women; falling in a pool; being chased by the guys in the food costumes from his belly; & walking up a wall & onto the ceiling, & down the opposite wall.”

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