Showing posts with label Tom Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tom Wilson. Show all posts

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Kid

Undoubtedly Chaplin’s finest film of the period and one of the highlights of his long career, The Kid was not only his first feature film but also in my opinion his first great work. Produced at a difficult time in the star’s life, The Kid is the first of several Chaplin films which perfectly balanced comedy, drama and pathos. His previous films had often contained at least one of these elements and earlier films such as A Dog's Life and The Immigrant had provided at least two, but for the first time in 1921, despite personal tragedy and pressure from his studio, Chaplin created his first true masterpiece.

Production began in 1919 just ten days after the death of Chaplin’s baby son Norman. Chaplin, who had been struggling creatively, was instantly hit with an idea that was to become The Kid. As his Tramp character Chaplin finds a baby who has been abandoned by a poor single mother (Edna Purviance). The Tramp ends up raising the child alone and when he is around six or seven the child (Jackie Coogan) helps his adoptive father in his window repair business. The father follows the boy around town as the boy breaks windows. Soon after being smashed, the man turns up to repair them. All is well until the boy falls sick and a Doctor realises the Tramp is not the natural father. Soon after Social Services arrive to take the boy from the man in what is one of the most gut wrenchingly moving scenes in cinema history.

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.

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.