February 2nd 1914, exactly one hundred years ago today saw the launch of one of the most successful Hollywood careers in history. On this day a century ago, a twenty-four year old Englishman called Charles Spencer Chaplin made his screen debut in a one reel Keystone comedy called Making a Living. Eighteen months later he would arguably become the most famous entertainer on the planet and by his late twenties he was the richest. Being a man for whom Chaplin has a special place in my heart, not to mention a permanent inked place on my arm, today is something special for me and to celebrate I decided to watch his first film exactly a century after its initial release.
Although I’ve reviewed over forty of Chaplin’s films in the past two years on this blog, Making a Living was one that I had never seen. In a way I’m glad that today was the first time I’d seen the short film as there’s something interesting about seeing it for the very first time exactly a hundred years after it was first exhibited. Chaplin plays a charming swindler called Edgar English having not adopted his iconic Tramp costume and persona until his second film, Kid Auto Races at Venice. During the thirteen minute runtime, English has frequent run-ins with Henry Lehrman’s reporter and eventually falls foul of the Keystone Kops, leading to a chaotic and slightly confusing conclusion.