Although often regarded as Chaplin’s least funny First National film, A Day’s Pleasure is a simple but effective two reel comedy which considering the circumstances behind its creation, is something of a triumph. While Chaplin was busy working on his first great film, The Kid, the studio were growing impatient with his lack of output so he hastily put together A Day’s Pleasure, a seventeen minute romp set around a family outing aboard a boat. While the film lacks the sort of story and romance of the films Chaplin was capable of producing at the time, it does feature some clever slapstick and laugh out loud moments.
The movie is notable for two brief cameos. The first is a shot of The Chaplin Studios, seen in the background of the opening scene. Although only briefly glimpsed, you can clearly see its isolation, allowing one to note how L.A has grown over the last ninety years. The second cameo comes from Jackie Coogan, the boy made famous by his heartfelt performance in Chaplin’s next film, The Kid. Coogan is barely seen though and has no role other than to sit in a car and get carried onto the boat by his father. The only other actor to have much of a part is Tom Wilson, a man who appeared in four of Chaplin’s films as well as D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance and Birth of a Nation as well as over two-hundred more. Wilson plays a man with whom Charlie fights following a spousal mix-up. Even Edna Purviance goes without character here, perhaps going to show how rushed the production was.
A lot of the gags are simple and share more in common with Chaplin’s Essanay or Mutual work but many are nonetheless very funny. Highlights include Chaplin’s inability to work a deck chair and a man falling down a man hole. The deck chair scene in particular features some ingenious prop making. Other jokes are obvious and repetitive but still made me laugh. The use of tar was reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and beat the strange faced pop star by seventy years. Aboard the boat there is a bout of sea sickness which was created by moving the camera from side to side a la Star Trek. It didn’t look very good but made both my girlfriend and I feel sick so was doing something right. The seasickness also allowed for what is the first example of a black actor ‘whiting up’ that I’ve ever noticed.
I’d read a little about this film before seeing it and wasn’t expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. The plot is non-existent and the situations a little basic but there are more than enough funny instances for a seventeen minute film. My girlfriend also really enjoyed it and hasn’t seen much of Chaplin’s work. I think she liked it even more than I did.