Showing posts with label John Rand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Rand. Show all posts

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Pay Day

A Chaplin short made during a lull in production by the former prolific film maker, Pay Day is an above average and clever film that finds Charlie Chaplin as an expert bricklayer on pay day. Following building site shenanigans Chaplin discovers that his pay is short and that his overbearing wife wants more than her share. After managing to hide some from her he heads out for a night on the town.

Chaplin once described Pay Day as the favourite of his short films which is a bold statement as he made over seventy of them. This isn’t my favourite Chaplin short and it is far from his funniest but it’s a very clever film which features some intriguing camera and editing processes and a fine story plus just enough jokes to keep the audience laughing.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Idle Class

Arriving on the back of his first great film The Kid, Charlie Chaplin’s The Idle Class feels weak and thin in comparison. The writer in Chaplin was struggling for ideas before he got the spark for The Kid and it almost feels as though he is back to square one while writing the two reel The Idle Class. A Tramp (Chaplin) gets off a train, and not how you’d expect him to, before heading for a day at the golf course. Meanwhile a wealthy wife (Edna Purviance) also disembarks expecting her well to do husband (also Chaplin) to meet her at the station but he is drunk at home. Following some hi jinks at the golf course there is a case of mistaken identity at a ball at which Edna takes the Tramp for her husband.

For me The Idle Class lacks the depth which made The Kid great and also lacks the direction and laughs that are found in the likes of A Dog's Life or Shoulder Arms. It occasionally takes a more dramatic route but this often fails to match even Sunnyside for dramatic narrative. The film is saved by a middle act on the golf course which is brilliantly inventive and funny but is unfortunately bookended by a beginning and end which did little for me.  

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Shoulder Arms

Set partly amongst the trenches of the First World War, Shoulder Arms was a bold film for Charlie Chaplin to make in 1918 given the wide reaching criticism he received for failing to sign up to fight. He was advised by close friends to abandon the film for something less controversial but Charlie battled on and despite the possible outrage and backlash the film became Chaplin’s most critically acclaimed and financially successful film up to that point, was particularly popular with returning Doughboys and features a couple of scenes which may well be recognisable to people who have never even seen a full Chaplin film.

Charlie plays a young recruit who is sent over to France to join the war. Despite typical problems to begin with he soon discovers that he is a more than competent soldier and after numerous brave exploits ends up in the house of a French woman (Edna Purviance) who tends to his wounds. With the help of his new love and a dear friend from the trenches, Chaplin ends up winning the war for the allies. Or does he?

Monday, 15 October 2012

A Dog's Life

Charlie Chaplin’s first short for First National Pictures was released in April 1918, six months after his final film for Mutual. Chaplin in his Tramp character befriends a local mongrel dog called Scraps and together they go about causing mischief and mayhem. Later, Scraps comes to the aid of the Tramp when he gets into trouble with some thugs and helps his master set up a new life for himself and his new lady friend, a bar singer (Edna Purviance).

What was immediately obvious about this opening First National film was its quality. The sets, costume and story are all far superior to pretty much anything seen in a Chaplin film before. The sets especially look as though they may well have been real streets. There is a much more rounded story which incorporates comedy as one aspect rather than relying solely on kicks up the backside or doffing caps to curbs. The film is still funny but this isn’t one of Chaplin’s finest works. What it is though is one of his finest stories to date and overall one of his best short films.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Cure

An improvement on the comedy of Easy Street but a film with much more of a slapstick nature, The Cure finds Charlie Chaplin playing an inebriate who checks into a health spa in order to get sober. His huge suitcase though is full to bursting with bottles of liquor which find their way into the health spa’s well with disastrous consequences. Along the way Chaplin befriends Edna Purviance after saving her from the clutches of the wicked Eric Campbell.    

This is a short that is packed full of gags, some of which are a little repetitive but many hit the nail on the head. It also features a larger role for Chaplin regular John Rand who appears in most of Chaplin’s Mutual Films but usually just has a walk on role. In The Cure he has almost as much screen time as Campbell and Purviance but doesn’t make as much of an impact on the film as Chaplin’s two main collaborators. The story is tight but not wide reaching and is a lot more basic than many of the films from the same period, but what it lacks in story it makes up for with laughs. Chaplin’s dizziness following his turn in the revolving door also gave him the same symptoms as he showed nearly twenty years later in Modern Times when he ‘took’ cocaine. His walk and spinning was almost identical and equally amusing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Pawnshop

Charlie Chaplin’s sixth film for Mutual is one with very high highs and disappointingly low lows. It features a scenario and story which doesn’t really go anywhere but also features several moments of slapstick that are amongst his best to date.

Chaplin stars as a pawnshop assistant and gets in a long running fight with fellow employee John Rand. Typically inept at his job, Chaplin is eventually fired only to be taken back on straight away after his boss Henry Bergman has a change of heart. Meanwhile Chaplin’s attentions are drawn to Bergman’s daughter Edna Purviance who is busy baking in the back of the shop. Trouble appears late on as a thief, Eric Campbell enters the shop intent on taking it for everything it’s got.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


Charlie Chaplin’s penultimate film for Essanay is regarded as amongst the best of his output for the company. The film was actually released after his first film for the Mutual Film Corporation The Floorwalker, over five months after his previous Essanay film Burlesque on Carmen. Another interesting release related fact is that Police released over two years before his finally Essanay film Triple Trouble which was created in part by Chaplin regular Leo White by piecing together unused shots from other Chaplin films including this and the unfinished feature Life.    

Police stars Chaplin as a recently released convict trying to make it in a cruel and hostile world. The initial plot follows along the same lines as much of Chaplin’s work. There were portions of Police that reminded me of Modern Times and the idea of the Tramp struggling to survive was used by Chaplin time and time again. It has been suggested that Chaplin borrowed the plot from Broncho Billy’s His Regeneration for which he had an uncredited cameo and I agree that the character development at least is shared between the two.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Burlesque on Carmen

Charlie Chaplin’s 13th Essanay film is loosely based on Georges Bizet’s famous opera Carmen and stars Chaplin as Darn Hosiery, a Spanish Officer on watch at a popular smuggling point. Local barman Lillas Pastia (Jack Henderson) persuades an attractive gypsy girl, Carmen (Edna Purviance) to distract the guard while they smuggle their goods. Despite having no interest in the man Carmen uses her charms to distract Hosiery who ends up in a love quartet for the gypsy’s heart.

Burlesque on Carmen is an above average Essanay picture and features some nice subtle comedy as well as the usual trips, kicks and pokes. It also features the first noticeably decent performance from Chaplin regular Edna Purviance.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Night in the Show

For Chaplin’s 12th Essanay film he turns to familiar ground by partially recreating a sketch he first performed in Fred Karno’s theatre company. Chaplin takes the part of two characters. The first is Mr. Rowdy, a working class theatre attendee who turns up drunk. The second is Mr. Pest, an upper class theatre attendee who also shows up inebriated. Both characters get in the way of other audience members and impact on most of the on stage action before one ends the show for good.

The film begins very promisingly with some superb ‘business’ from both of Chaplin’s characters. Rowdy walks down the isle of the dress circle and continues to walk off the edge, having to be hauled back up by other audience members while Pest first cuts in the ticket queue before changing seats much to the annoyance of those around him and finally has a fight with the musical conductor. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to the opening five or ten minutes and the volume and quality of the jokes tail off slightly before a return to form in the final minutes.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Bank

A janitor in a bank (Charlie Chaplin) has a crush on a secretary (Edna Purviance) who is in love with cashier (Carl Stockdale). Chaplin mistakes a present sent from Purviance to Stockdale as being for him and when his advances towards Purviance are laughed away he becomes depressed. Despite being a terrible janitor, Chaplin becomes the hero (or does he?) when he foils a bank robbery.

This film took me a little bit by surprise. I was expecting a slapstick affair with Chaplin getting into the sort of trouble that Buster Keaton did in his film The Haunted House but this is a much more rounded piece than pretty much anything Chaplin had done before. Chaplin spends more time off screen than in any of his previous Essanay films and instead of being in front of the camera, fooling around, allows his characters and story to propel the film along. That isn’t to say that Chaplin is a side character or not funny. He is still the central character and produces some great comedic turns.