Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Night Out

Charlie Chaplin’s second film for Essanay saw him move production to their Californian studios for the first time. Chaplin and Ben Turpin are on a night out and end up getting very drunk. They go to a nice restaurant where they cause trouble for a smartly dressed gentleman. The head waiter arrives and throws the pair out but not before Chaplin has caught sight of the waiter’s girlfriend Edna Purviance. Back at their hotel Chaplin and Turpin bump into Purviance once more and again cause trouble for themselves and get thrown out of their hotel. Onto another hotel and Chaplin alone this time meets Purviance again, but will the waiter get in the way of his affections?

This film is a bit of a mess, though it isn’t easy to say to what extent this is Chaplin’s fault and how much time is to blame. The version I saw seems to have been made up of three or four different copies and as a result it changes from black and white to sepia and back quite often. The editing is also pretty poor, often cutting away in the middle of a gag. The story also makes little sense and Turpin just disappeared altogether half way through the film. Most of the gags are simple door in face or fist in face sort of things which is a shame.

It isn’t all bad though. There are a couple of genius gags in there. While drunk, Chaplin is getting ready for bed and puts his famous cane to bed first, fluffing its pillows and tucking it in. Earlier, he tries feeling up an attractive woman only to discover that it is in fact a man in drag. This is quite a bold joke for the times. Chaplin and Turpin also work very well as a double act and are even better here than in His New Job. I’ve said it before but I wish they’d worked together more. The film also features the sort of over the top fake facial hair and deep, dark eye makeup that I love to see in films of this period. It’s the type of thing that The Extraodinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-sec got down to a tee.

This film is perhaps most famous for being the first Chaplin picture to feature Edna Purviance. Chaplin discovered her in a restaurant in San Francisco shortly before making the film and this is her screen debut. The two went on to make over thirty films together including Chaplin’s 1921 masterpiece The Kid and were also romantically involved. Chaplin felt such a strong bond with Purviance that despite ending their relationship in 1917 and making their last film together in 1921, Chaplin kept Purviance on the payroll until her death in 1958.

Overall this film is a bit poor by Chaplin’s high standards. It is plagued by a mixture of lazy jokes, bad script and the bad luck to have been partially lost for so long. Despite this there are still a few good jokes and it introduced Chaplin to Purviance so it isn’t a total disaster.     


No comments:

Post a Comment