Showing posts with label 1919. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1919. Show all posts

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Day's Pleasure

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.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


When a workshy farmhand (Charlie Chaplin) misplaces a herd of cows the local town of Sunnyside suffers the consequences. The young farmhand has even more trouble on his hands when a well to do city boy (Tom Terriss) arrives in town and has his eyes firmly set on the hand’s girl (Edna Purviance). Chaplin’s forth film for First National was preceded by the hugely successful Shoulder Arms and proved to be one of his least successful of the period. Despite this the film holds up fairly well today and has a first act which is of some note. Unfortunately though the film misses a step with the introduction of the romantic plot from which it never truly recovers.

The first thing I noticed about the film is that unlike almost every Chaplin film to come before, there was an actor on second billing. Most of Chaplin’s early title cards read something along the line of “Charles Chaplin in…” or “….. with Charlie Chaplin” but Sunnyside reads “Charlie Chaplin in Sunnyside with Edna Purviance”. I don’t recall seeing another actor’s name so prominently placed on a title card before this film and it perhaps shows Chaplin’s ever increasing belief in his leading lady as an actress. As it turns out, Purviance’s role isn’t really much larger than in the likes of Burlesque on Carmen, The Vagabond or A Dog's Life but it feels like she is the focus of attention for a larger part of the film.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Charlie Chaplin - The First National Films

Having ended his contract with the Mutual Film Corporation amicably, Charlie Chaplin signed the world’s first One Million Dollar movie contract in June 1918. This contract gave him total control over production for a return of eight films. Chaplin decided to build a new studio off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The famous Chaplin Studios were designed in the style of English country cottages and contained everything Chaplin would need to develop, film and cut his movies. Chaplin eventually sold the studios in 1953 and they are now owned by Jim Henson Company.

Chaplin began work on his first film for First National in early 1918 and A Dog’s Life was released in April. Over the next four years Chaplin shot eight films at his new studio for First National during one of the most turbulent times of his career. In September 1918 he married the seventeen year old actress Mildred Harris in what was and still is a highly controversial marriage. Harris lied to Chaplin about being pregnant and the marriage ended in a messy divorce in 1920. During the same period the star became frustrated with First National’s impatience and lack of concern for quality and in 1919, while still under contract with First National created United Artists with fellow actors and directors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith. The venture which was self funded and offered the Hollywood stars the chance to work freely and independently although Chaplin himself didn’t make a film with the company until 1922 as he was still under contract with First National.