Showing posts with label Sydney Chaplin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sydney Chaplin. Show all posts

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Pilgrim

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

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.

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?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Bond

A half reel propaganda film, funded by and starring Charlie Chaplin, The Bond is a unique film in Chaplin’s cannon in that it is the only film he ever made to be filmed in front of a plain black set. There are just a few dimly lit props littered around the stage alongside the actors, Chaplin regulars Edna Purviance, Albert Austin and Sydney Chaplin. The film depicts several sketches along the theme of bonds, from friendship to marriage to the most important, Liberty Bonds.

Though not in the least bit funny the film is still an interesting watch and Chaplin’s simple to understand depiction of what Bonds actually did would have been seen by millions of people across the world. In a very simple sketch Chaplin offers up his savings to Uncle Sam who in turn gives it to Industry who finally furnishes soldiers with rifles. The idea is simple and easy to understand despite the lack of dialogue. In the final scene, Chaplin uses a large hammer with the words Liberty Bonds engraved on the side to smash the Kaiser into submission, thereby further expressing the idea of the difference the bonds can make.

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.