Imagine being a big fan of The Beatles who doesn’t like Hey Jude or a car enthusiast that isn’t keen on Ferraris. That’s the situation I find myself in when it comes to The Gold Rush. I’ve never met as big a Charlie Chaplin fan as myself and doubt I ever will. His 1925 film saw the beginning of his golden period, a period which lasted fifteen years before his deportation from the US and witnessed the production of some of his most successful films. Chaplin remarked in his own splendid autobiography that he wanted The Gold Rush to be the film that he was remembered for and to an extent it is. Why is it then that I don’t love his Ferrari, his Hey Jude, his Gold Rush? The Gold Rush was amongst the first Chaplin films I saw and I had high hopes for it. When I was initially discovering Chaplin’s work it was obvious that this was one of his most famous and as a result, surely one of his best. Many people would argue that it is. I was instantly disappointed though with a film that I felt was short of laughter and featuring a plot which I cared little for. The story certainly beats some of his earlier shorts and it’s better written and deeper than say his follow-up The Circus but it doesn’t really do anything for me. It feels like the plot of a short that has been stretched to breaking point and isn’t as sweet, dramatic or sophisticated as the likes of The Kid or City Lights.
Friday, 14 June 2013
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Charlie Chaplin’s shortest feature or longest short, depending on which way you’d like to view it, is important for a number of reasons. Not only was it his final short film before moving to features permanently but it was also his last film to co star Edna Purviance. Purviance stared in over thirty of Chaplin’s films and was his leading lady for eight years but The Pilgrim was her final major onscreen appearance with Chaplin*. The movie also bought to an end a fruitful relationship with The First National Film Company. Following this film Chaplin would produce his final films with United Artists, the company he founded with D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Those films would go on to define Chaplin’s long career.
Besides the above reasons there is little worth remembering about The Pilgrim and for me it is a bit of a blot on an otherwise successful era for Chaplin. The Pilgrim begins slowly and never kicks into a high gear. There is very little humour or comedy of any sort and the story, while occasionally attention-grabbing, didn’t do anything for me. The ending was nice but The Pilgrim isn’t a film I’ll be returning to in a hurry. In a typical case of mistaken identity an escaped convict (Charlie Chaplin) dresses as a preacher and takes a train to Texas where he is immediately taken for a small town’s new Church leader. His past comes back to haunt him though as an old friend makes a surprise appearance.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
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
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.