Monday, 13 August 2012

The Floorwalker

Charlie Chaplin’s first film for Mutual is set in a department store. The store manager (Eric Campbell) and his assistant (Lloyd Bacon) are trying to embezzle money from the store when a tramp (Charlie Chaplin) enters. The tramp bears a striking resemblance to the assistant manager and after getting caught up in his usual trouble, the two men decide to swap clothes to avoid being caught by those who are chasing them. With the bag of loot changing hands and an escalator both aiding and hindering their escape, the two men attempt to get away with the shop’s takings.

Since its release close to one hundred years ago The Floorwalker has gained fame as being the first film in history to introduce two popular and successful comedic ‘moves’. Charlie Chaplin introduced the escalator to audiences here and also created the now much copied mirror effect whereby two characters mimic each others moves as thought they are a mirror image of each other.

Overall I wouldn’t regard the film as a masterpiece. I didn’t find it particularly funny and only laughed out loud a couple of times. What I did enjoy were the ideas and creations that Chaplin came up with. The escalator, used as a frequent central prop during this film seems quite mundane now but this is the first example of its use in film. Chaplin got the idea after seeing a man fall off one in New York and had one built into his department store set. The prop is used several times during the twenty-four minute run time with the most successful of these being the final chase. What is perhaps more clever is the ‘mirror scene’ in which real life Chaplin double and actor Lloyd Bacon mistakes Chaplin for his own reflection and visa versa. This too was the first time that the gag had been used and although it has been done better by the likes of Family Guy, The Marx Brothers and Mickey Mouse, it is impressive here. When Bacon is first shown on screen it took me a few seconds to realise that it wasn’t actually Chaplin.

Unfortunately beside these two clever ideas there isn’t much else of note in The Floorwalker. I very much enjoyed Chaplin’s dancing towards the end and a scene in which he tries various products reminded me of his turn in Police where he takes bites out of various apples before finding one to his liking. This scene was also remarkably similar to a Mr. Bean sketch. Apart from these odd moments I actually found the film a little boring and was very disappointed with the ending, or rather lack of an ending.

The Floorwalker sees Chaplin introduce some revolutionary ideas and hone his craft with the occasional close up and tracking shot. The set is well made and much grander than those of his Essanay films but overall it lacked the laughs of his later comedies for that company the previous year. 


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