Showing posts with label Leo White. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leo White. Show all posts

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Vagabond

A Musician-Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) leaves town following a chase to find himself in a gypsy camp. There he finds a poor abducted girl (Edna Purviance) who he attempts to cheer up with his music. Having witnessed a savage beating of the girl by the gypsy chieftain (Eric Campbell), the Tramp goes about saving the girl and setting her free. While attempting to woo her, a handsome artist chances by and has Edna sit for a portrait. The portrait attracts the attention of Edna’s estranged family who attempt to take her away from the Tramp for good.

I honestly can’t think of a single Chaplin film during which I’ve laughed so little but on this occasion that is not a negative statement. Here Chaplin provides plenty of his trademark pathos and creates a film which is much more of a romantic drama than romantic comedy or slapstick comedy.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Fireman

A Fire Chief (Eric Campbell) is approached by a man (Lloyd Bacon) who asks that the Fire Department ignores a fire at his house so that he may collect the insurance money. The man insures that his daughter (Edna Purviance) is out during the fire so remains unharmed. The woman is not out though when an arsonist sets the property alight and she gets trapped upstairs. Meanwhile the Firemen which include accident prone Charlie Chaplin are at another house, putting out a fire. When the man realises his daughter is trapped he searches for them, finding Chaplin who attempts to save the day and win the woman’s heart.

Amazingly The Fireman was Chaplin’s 52nd film but was released in June 1916. Despite his age and lack of years in the industry he was by now a pro and it shows here with clever gags and a nice central idea. Unfortunately the film suffers from a similar problem as The Floorwalker in that it just isn’t quite funny enough.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Triple Trouble

Charlie Chaplin’s final Essanay film is probably his most controversial. Unlike the controversy his films created in the 1930s and 40s, the controversy surrounding Triple Trouble comes from its very existence. The two reel film was created in 1918; two years after Chaplin left Essanay and was compiled by Chaplin regular Leo White. White directed some sequences and took other scenes from Police as well as the ending from Work and some unused footage from the never completed Life. The result is a hodgepodge of half completed jokes, tired scenes and uneven continuity.

The plot (I think) involves Chaplin working in the house of a scientist/Count (Leo White) as a janitor. Having got into his trademark trouble and briefly bumping into a Maid (Edna Purviance) whose role is not expanded, the janitor finds a bed for the night at a flophouse. While there a pickpocket enters and starts stealing from the residents. The janitor attempts to stop him and then for some reason runs away from the police. Later the janitor meets an old friend who convinces the cleaner to help him to steal from his employers.

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.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


A ship owner intends to scuttle his ship and asks his Captain to round up a crew. The Captain in turn hires a Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) to help him ‘Shanghai’ (forcibly conscript) some sailors. This backfires for the tramp though as he himself is Shanghaied. On board ship the Tramp attempts to help out with a variety of different tasks but unsurprisingly is useless at all of them. Meanwhile the ship owner’s daughter (Edna Purviance) has stowed away aboard ship in an attempt to stop the crime of scuttling and save her lover, the Tramp.

After the wonderful highs of The Bank, this film was a huge come down. It is by far my least favourite Charlie Chaplin film to date although there are inevitably some good moments to be found.

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.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Woman

Charlie Chaplin’s ninth Essanay film is perhaps one of his most controversial. A Gentleman (Chaplin) is out walking through a park when he comes across a family (Charles Inslee, Marta Golden & Edna Purviance). The father, Inslee has his attention drawn towards a flirt (Margie Reiger). Reiger blindfolds Inslee after suggesting a game of hide and seek. Chaplin meanwhile discovers the blinded man and leads him towards a lake where he pushes him in. Later Chaplin comes across Golden and Purviance who fall for the cheeky chappy and invite him home. When Inslee arrives home soaking wet to find his attacker in the house Chaplin resorts to disguising himself in an unorthodox manner.

This film is most famous for Chaplin’s cross-dressing, something that must have been quite brave and scandalous 97 years ago. For a twenty-first century audience it isn’t particularly shocking or even funny so you have to imagine a late Edwardian audience’s reaction in order to understand its significance.

Friday, 29 June 2012


Izzy Wake (Charles Inslee) a paperhanger and his assistant (Charlie Chaplin) slowly make their way to the house of Billy Armstrong and Marta Golden where they are due to hang wall paper. After experiencing difficulty even getting to the house, once they get there things go from bad to worse.

This film made me laugh, a lot, but overall it was messy – much like the on screen action. I didn’t really get any sense of who any of the characters were and to be honest apart from inhabiting the house at the centre of the story, Billy Armstrong and Marta Golden’s characters weren’t really necessary. They and Leo White were only really used during the films frenetic ending which is somewhere between a chase and a farce. That being said, there is still much to like about this Chaplin Essanay effort.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Tramp

A Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) is on the road when he rescues a farmer’s daughter (Edna Purviance) from thieves out to steal her money. As a reward the Tramp is taken in and offered work by Edna’s father (Ernest Van Pelt). On the farm the Tramp is asked to halt a second attempt by the criminals and ends up in a love triangle.

This was Chaplin’s 6th Essanay film and the first I had seen before watching the studios output in full. It marks the first time that the Tramp is seen fully formed although Chaplin had played the character before. Here the tramp is a much more rounded character and although he still looks out for number one he is more inclined to help others and in fact ends up leaving the farm so that he doesn’t get in the way of Edna and her boyfriend. This is a quite different Tramp from say In the Park and The Champion.

Friday, 8 June 2012

A Jitney Elopement

Edna (Edna Purviance) has been betrothed to a rich Count by her father (Ernest Van Pelt) but she already has a secret love, The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin). Edna persuades her love to save her and he impersonates the Count at tea with Edna and her father. Once the Count (Leo White) turns up with his fantastical facial hair The Tramp is thrown out. Later in a park the foursome come together again and the two young lovers attempt to elope in an act that brings about a prolonged car chase.

There are two very distinct halves to this film and I believe that the first half is amongst Chaplin’s best Essanay work to date. Having come off In the Park which was fast and a little bit messy, the first half of A Jitney Elopement was surprisingly slow, calm and more reminiscent of his later feature films. The second half though features a full on frenetic car chase which takes place in and around San Francisco and makes this Chaplin’s most sprawling film to date. The title incidentally comes from the type of vehicle that the couple attempt to run away in – a kind of shared taxi.

Friday, 1 June 2012

In the Park

Chaplin’s first one reel farce for Essanay is set in a park. A lady has her handbag stolen by a thief who then attempts to steal Chaplin’s sausages. Chaplin ends up with the bag and it goes from person to person with each usually ending up with a brick to the face or foot to the bottom until one man tries to kill himself and another ends up in Police custody.

For such a short film In the Park has a surprisingly large cast. Chaplin regulars such as Edna Purviance, Leo White, Ernest Van Pelt and Bud Jamison all appear along with three or four other bit players. Considering the film is only fourteen minutes long it feels like a lot happens and is more reminiscent of Chaplin’s Keystone pictures rather than say The Champion which was released just a week earlier than this.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Champion

Chaplin’s third Essanay picture and he finally appears to have found his feet with the new studio. Chaplin’s tramp, destitute and famished spots a sign offering money to act as a sparring partner. He watches as three men go in before him and return battered and bruised. Chaplin however has a trick up his sleeve or rather in his glove; a lucky horseshoe, which he uses to knock out his larger, more adept opponent. Spotting his potential a trainer prepares the slight Chaplin for a big fight against the champion Bob Uppercut (Bud Jamison) but Chaplin has other things on his mind, namely the trainer’s daughter Edna Purviance.

I was so glad that this film was good. I was really disappointed with Chaplin’s first two Essanay films His New Job and A Night Out. This is a real return to form. The idea was actually taken from a Fred Karno sketch that Chaplin performed before entering the movie industry. Perhaps one of the reasons for the film’s success is that Chaplin knew what he was doing before he went in rather than partially making it up as he went along.

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.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

His New Job

Chaplin’s first Essanay Picture was released in February 1915. Chaplin is at a film studio looking for a job. After several bits of humorous business he is hired as an extra but after being a nuisance on set is instead demoted to Carpenter’s Assistant. Through a mixture of wit and luck, Chaplin regains his position in front of the camera and ends up accidentally wearing the lead actor’s costume. All hell breaks loose when he arrives on set to find Chaplin in his clothes and Chaplin again uses a mixture of wit, luck and this time also violence to continue in his job and get revenge on several characters who had wronged him.

The film marks not only Chaplin’s first film with Essanay but also his first with fellow comic actor Ben Turpin. The two share a couple of great scenes together, the first of which involves a fight to get through a door and is excellent. It’s such a shame that the two actors couldn’t find a way to work together because on screen at least, they made a great partnership. Unfortunately a mixture of Turpin’s impatience with Chaplin’s methodical methods and Chaplin’s jealousy of Turpin’s ability to get laughs, their partnership went no further.