Monday 11 June 2007

The Floorwalker (1916) Charles Chaplin

'Chapter 3: The dynamic manager of The Floorwalker' reads the highly confusing title card. Could this really be part of a much longer film? Well, the box set I'm watching all these Chaplin films from keeps listing his shorts from this period at around 30 minutes in length but they all seem to be more round twenty, so I'm sure there's missing material, but apparently this was yet another short with the feature length films yet to come.

Something is defintiely going on at some unnamed department store. The manager is upset and the boss, identifiable of course through having more outrageous facial hair than anyone else, is livid. Then in walks Charlie and starts destroying the place through apparent clumsiness and well timed slapstick. Given that it's 1916 a lot of it isn't particularly funny but it's well done for its type and there's what is apparently the first example of an escalator in film. Chaplin naturally has a field day with it, in exactly the way you'd expect if you'd seen him fail to navigate stairs that don't move in previous films.

Soon we discover the real issue. Every customer seems to be a shoplifter and half the contents of the store quickly vanish. Doing the same thing on an even larger scale are the men in charge, and given that the floor manager is the spitting image of Charlie, we get to play a great comedy of errors. The coherence here disappears quickly but in its place comes such a riot of gags that some are bound to work. In short, it's sheer anarchy and I'm sure that the Marx Brothers were paying attention. I've certainly seen some of these routines in their movies too.

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