Tuesday, 22 May 2012

His New Job

Chaplin’s first Essanay Picture was released in February 1915. Chaplin is at a film studio looking for a job. After several bits of humorous business he is hired as an extra but after being a nuisance on set is instead demoted to Carpenter’s Assistant. Through a mixture of wit and luck, Chaplin regains his position in front of the camera and ends up accidentally wearing the lead actor’s costume. All hell breaks loose when he arrives on set to find Chaplin in his clothes and Chaplin again uses a mixture of wit, luck and this time also violence to continue in his job and get revenge on several characters who had wronged him.

The film marks not only Chaplin’s first film with Essanay but also his first with fellow comic actor Ben Turpin. The two share a couple of great scenes together, the first of which involves a fight to get through a door and is excellent. It’s such a shame that the two actors couldn’t find a way to work together because on screen at least, they made a great partnership. Unfortunately a mixture of Turpin’s impatience with Chaplin’s methodical methods and Chaplin’s jealousy of Turpin’s ability to get laughs, their partnership went no further. 

The film contains a few moments of great ‘business’ but they lack the inventiveness of Chaplin’s later work. Most of them involve some sort of hit to the head and are fairly generic. The opening a door into someone’s face gag was repeated about seven or eight times and a lot of the jokes can be seen a mile off. The sets also look paper thin but the film allows us a glimpse behind the scenes of a 1915 film set, something that I for one found fascinating.

Towards the end of the film there is a nice tracking shot which follows Chaplin and a co star as they walk deeper into a move set. The shot was still in it’s infancy at the time and gives the scene a bit of depth. It’s a nice little addition and shows Chaplin is experimenting with new ideas and techniques. One of the fight scenes also contains a sequence which bears resemblance to Chaplin’s great boxing scene from 1931’s City Lights. The sequence is not as successful here but funny nonetheless.

Overall the film is not amongst Chaplin’s best but is one of the better of his early films. It features the Tramp getting into trademark mischief and bother and a nice cameo from fellow silent star Ben Turpin. Most of all though it gives a slight glimpse behind the scenes of a 97 year old film set and for that reason alone it is worth a watch. 


No comments:

Post a Comment