Few things are more surreal than looking through a 100-year-old movie magazine only to see a title like this staring up at you! One of many, many, many lost films, In the Year 2014 (1914) was a split-reel comedy meant to be enjoyed for a day or two and then replaced by the next comedy.
It was also one of many, many, many Joker comedies from a time when little films were “ground out like sausages,” as the saying often went. Joker, the slapstick branch of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, was created to compete with Keystone comedies. Its films are thought to have been slapdash and silly–“thought,” because unfortunately the majority of them are lost. The titles will fill you with longing: Love, Roses and Trousers, At the Bingville Booster’s Barbecue, The Mechanical Man, and one of my favorites, Lady Baffles and Detective Duck in the Great Egg Robbery.
Joker was the perfect comedy boot camp for several talented comedians, many of whom would eventually move to Keystone: Max Asher, Louise Fazenda, Bobby Vernon, Harry McCoy, Heinie Conklin, Gale Henry and Billy Franey. Gale Henry alone appeared in well over a hundred Joker shorts. (She was “Lady Baffles,” by the way.)
In the Year 2014, listed in exhibitors’ magazines as being a mere 500 feet long, apparently starred Max Asher, Bobby Vernon, and our Louise Fazenda. (If any collectors/historians out there have a Universal Weekly issue from January 1914, please let me know! It might be our only hope for finding pics from this intriguing split-reeler.) Here’s a synopsis of the plot from Moving Picture World, January 1914, page 466, the only detailed one that I could find. The reviewer clearly had a ball writing it:
Aaaaaaand I have now added In the Year 2014 to my “Ah, If Only This Film Existed!” wishlist.
This was obviously one of a multitude of silent era shorts poking fun at the “New Woman” ideal that was widely discussed at the time. (And obviously you already know that no topic too great or too small was off limits in the silent comedy world.) Photos and postcards satirizing the idea of men doing housework under the stern eyes of their suffragette wives were all over the place in the 1900s and 1910s:
And naturally silent comedy filmmakers followed suit. Many apparently decided that since the “New Woman” was a product of the modern age, they would satirize a hypothetical future where male/female roles had become reversed entirely. (Heh, I can only assume that those same filmmakers would be completely dumbfounded by the sort of gender discussions you see on Buzzfeed and Tumblr today. Eh? Ehhhhhh?) In the Year 2014 sounds like a typical example of one of those films, and it’s clearly also having fun with the “innocent girl working in the big bad city” plot. And it sounds like a hoot and a half to me–for only 5 or 6 minutes of footage, too.
Another example of a “gender reversal” short would be What’s the World Coming to? (1926) a Hal Roach short set in 2016 (I got to see it at the 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival). And of course there’s oodles of jokes revolving around suffragettes in general–for instance, in the Marcel Perez short Sweet Daddy (1921) Perez’s wife keeps him literally chained in the kitchen to wash dishes. Oh, and FYI: for some reason suffragette/New Woman characters in silent movies often wear some sort of riding togs and spectacles, so if you ever see one of those outfits in an old film you’ll know what it means.
So! That’s about as far as I can go with this little lost film. It might be too much to ask for it to turn up one day, but as far as any early 1914 Universal Weeklys…well, you know where to contact me!