The Extra Girl

The Extra Girl

"The Extra Girl" (1923) is a story of a small-town girl, Sue Graham (played by Mabel Normand) who comes to Hollywood to be in the pictures. This Mabel Normand vehicle, produced by Mack Sennett, followed earlier films about the film industry and also paved the way for later films about Hollywood, such as King Vidor’s "Show People" (1928). It was still unusual in 1923 for filmmakers to make a film about the southern California film industry, then little more than ten years old. Still, many of the Hollywood clichés of small town girls travelling to Hollywood to become film stars are here to reinforce the myths of Tinseltown.


Sue Graham is a small town girl who wants to be a motion picture star. She wins a contract when a picture of a very pretty girl is sent to a studio instead of her picture. When she arrives in Hollywood, the mistake is discovered and she starts working in the props department of the studio instead. Her parents then come out to California and invest some money with a very shifty individual.

When small town girl Sue goes to Hollywood to escape marriage, she arrives expecting open arms. Since the circumstances of her being called to California were the result of another’s deception, the studio manager gives Sue a job in the studio’s costume department instead. Childhood friend Dave follows. Eventually, Sue gets the opportunity to screen test but it turns out disastrously. Meanwhile, a crooked investor swindles Sue’s parents out of their life savings. Dave and Sue retrieve the money and all turns out well, despite the unsuccessful film career.

The movie

Director F. Richard Jones does a good job of helming this average Normand film. George Nichols does a fine job injecting an unusual degree of humanity to his supporting role as Mabel’s father in this comedy. Actors Billy Bevan and William Desmond appear as themselves. Mack Sennett can be glimpsed briefly as a straw-hatted onlooker at Mabel’s screen test. However, it is not Ben Turpin who is frightened by the lion, but is instead a look-alike comedian. And other sharp-eyed viewers will see a publicity photo of Harold Lloyd on one of Mabel’s dressing tables in her Hollywood apartment.

The film also features several interesting shots of semi-rural southern California (presumably the Glendale area) showing houses and streets of the early 1920s, and of a Hollywood studio in action. One shot in particular, a high-angle view, shows a film set, with actors, two cameras and operators, several production people, and a mood orchestra composed of a pianist and violinist, to set the proper mood for the actors. Another shows an open stage with crew scrambling up scaffolding to the sunlight diffusing panels above.

External links

*imdb title|id=0014029|title=The Extra Girl

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