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KS3 Performing Arts: Daisy Doodad's Dial (1914)

Use silent comedy to introduce physical theatre

Main image of KS3 Performing Arts: Daisy Doodad's Dial (1914)
AuthorPoppy Simpson
TopicImprovisation, physical theatre

In this silent shot Daisy and her husband decide to enter a face-pulling competition, but Daisy is infuriated when she is unable to enter because of a toothache and her husband wins the competition in her absence.

This endearingly daft short film, starring one of the earliest starts of American cinema, Florence Turner, highlights the importance of physical theatre and facial expression in silent film. Turner, who also directed the title, pulls a series of very odd faces over the course of the film and the comedy value is enhanced by her mild subversion of expected feminine behaviour.



It is not necessary to watch the whole film through, a short excerpt of around 2 or 3 minutes should be sufficient as the basis of an opening discussion about the challenges facing actors in silent film. What do students notice about the way the actors in the film move and react to each other? Can they identify any challenges peculiar to actors of silent comedy?

Ask students to think about a situation with comic potential; a brief scene for which they can write the 'stage directions'. For example: someone biting into a rotten apple without realising, someone walking into a street bollard. Ask them to write their scene down on a small piece of paper and share the paper out among the class.

Students should improvise around these scenes, working individually or in pairs, with some being performed in front of the whole group. Can students guess what is happening in each scene? Encourage students in the 'audience' to respond constructively to each performance, making suggestions about how to improve a scene but also identifying elements that worked well etc.


Some more ideas

  • Can students develop these silent scenes to include basic dialogue? How does that change their physical approach to the scene? Does dialogue improve or enhance the scene?
  • Compare and contrast the performances in this clip with other examples of silent film from different genres; for example, Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926).
Video Clips
Complete film (8:55)

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Daisy Doodad's Dial (1914)Daisy Doodad's Dial (1914)

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