Thursday 11 January 2007

The Tramp (1915)

Some lowlife from a trio of lowlifes steals Charlie Chaplin's lunch and Edna Purviance's money. When his friend comes back for more, the little tramp is there to help her out by kicking some lowlife ass. In return he gets invited home to her farm for free food and work and all the rest of it. Quite why anyone would be stupid enough to give Chaplin a hayfork is completely beyond me, but these folks then proceed to allow him to use it on them in all the ways you'd expect.

This is an interesting film for a number of reasons. I recognise a lot of the gags from the last couple of Essanay shorts he made, and they haven't really progressed any further, but there's a lot more here. This is the first of Chaplin's short comedies to really be a complete feature film condensed into a mere twenty minutes. We start with Chaplin walking down the road towards us and we end with him walking down the road away from us. It's neatly bookended and it progresses with intent throughout. It's completely obvious that Chaplin was really beginning to master the talents that he would demonstrate so amply as the years progressed.

Edna Purviance was the main woman in Chaplin's life at this point so naturally she has a prominent part. Future director Lloyd Bacon gets a double role in this one as one of the thieves and Edna's fiancee. At least he manages to avoid the sharp end of the little tramp's hayfork.

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