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The Best of Charlie Chaplin [DVD]

Release Date:10/24/2011
This set serves up five classics from silent-screen legend Charlie Chaplin including The The Bank, The Rink, The Pawnshop, The Vagabond, and Easy Street.
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    The Vagabond
    Charlie Chaplin's third film in his Mutual period is his first minor masterpiece. It combines comedy and drama in the style that Chaplin had developed in his earlier Essanay film The Tramp and anticipates later dramatic comedies such as The Kid and City Lights. Charlie plays an itinerant violinist whose famous feet we first see emerging from the swinging doors of a saloon. He takes up his position outside the back door and begins his concert, but at this moment a street band begins playing outside the front door. When Charlie enters the saloon to pass the hat, the patrons, believing he's part of the band, contribute generously. When the real band leader enters to pass his hat, a fight and chase begin from which Charlie eventually escapes. The audience is now introduced to "The Mother," an obviously upper-class woman who interrupts her embroidering and looks longingly at a photograph of her long-lost child. Charlie, having forsaken the city, wanders down a country road where he comes upon a gypsy encampment where a beautiful drudge (Edna Purviance), under the control of the brutal Gypsy Chief (Eric Campbell) is washing clothes. Charlie plays a concert for his audience of one, the fast tempo causing the girl to scrub her laundry at a lightning pace and his soulful playing evoking her strong emotions. The concert is interrupted by the Chief, who pushes Charlie into a water basin and beats the girl severely for shirking her duties. Seeing this brutality, Charlie puts aside his cane and violin in favor of a stout club and rescues the girl in an exciting scene in which they dramatically escape in one of the wagons. Later, encamped by the side of a road, Charlie prepares breakfast while the girl goes for water. She meets a handsome artist (Lloyd Bacon), who, noticing a shamrock shaped birthmark on her arm, asks her to pose for him. After he finishes his sketch, she invites him to breakfast. During the meal, it's obvious from her face that she's infatuated with him, and Charlie is aware that he's losing her. When the artist leaves, the girl gazes longingly after him as Charlie watches her apprehensively. Some time later, the painting is exhibited in a posh gallery and the Mother, in attendance, almost collapses as she recognizes her daughter by her birthmark. Meanwhile Charlie tries to cheer up the despondent girl by promising that he'll learn to draw too. Suddenly a limousine pulls up and mother and daughter are reunited. Charlie gallantly refuses a cash reward and wishes the artist luck just before they drive off. Alone, Charlie tries to cheer himself but succumbs to his emotions. In the limousine the girl realizes her true feelings and makes the driver return to Charlie, whom she excitedly hauls off to the limousine and to a presumed life of luxury. This was not the ending originally planned for the film, in which Chaplin was going to have the Tramp attempt a drowning suicide, only to be rescued by a homely farm girl, and seeing her, jumping back in again. Fortunately, he opted for the happier, more optimistic ending. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

    The Pawnshop
    Charlie Chaplin's sixth film for the Mutual Film Corporation is a marvel of sight gags, comic transformations and brilliant pantomime. Charlie plays an assistant in a pawnshop, where he arrives late for work and is scolded by the portly Pawnbroker, played by Henry Bergman in his first role in a Chaplin film. Bergman was to go on to play in most of the Chaplin films through Modern Times, also filling the roles of Assistant Director, gagman and confidant. Charlie annoys his rival employee (John Rand) with his dusting and a series of conflicts between them arise. They must go outside and clean the store front, and Charlie, trapping Rand between the rungs of a ladder, performs a ballet-like boxing scene, striking his helpless opponent until a cop arrives on the scene, whereupon Charlie's movements become the most graceful of dances. Back inside the shop, their fight escalates until the Pawnbroker enters and angrily discharges Charlie. The little fellow's heart-breaking pleas for forgiveness, during which he mimes that he has many children ranging in height from about two to seven feet, cause the boss to relent. Alone again, Charlie renews his attack on Rand with vigor, but just as he's about to deliver the coup de grace, Edna Purviance, the boss' daughter, enters from the back room curious as to the commotion. Charlie swiftly lays down on the floor and Edna scolds the near-unconscious Rand for striking "a mere child," patting Charlie's cheek as he admires her figure. She takes him into the kitchen and gives him a doughnut, which Chaplin's wonderful pantomime ability makes us believe weighs 20 pounds, as he exercises with it as if it were a dumbbell. When Rand enters, the fight resumes, but hearing the racket the boss comes in and Charlie quickly resumes his role as baker then goes to the safe to retrieve his lunch. Manning the shop Charlie encounters three customers, the first an old actor wanting to pawn his late wife's ring for five dollars. His histrionics touch Charlie deeply. He gives the bereaved man 10 dollars from the till and the ring back as well. When the man offers to gives Charlie change and pulls out huge wad of bills, Charlie knows he's been had. Meanwhile, another customer arrives wishing to pawn an alarm clock. In a long, brilliant scene of comic transformations, better seen than described, Charlie becomes surgeon, jeweller, ribbon clerk and mechanic as he dismantles and destroys the clock to the total amazement of the customer, Albert Austin. Gathering the detritus of the ruined timepiece and sweeping them into Austin's derby, Charlie rejects the item, sending the protesting customer packing with a blow from a rubber hammer. His next customer is a lady with a bowl of goldfish, which Charlie tests for authenticity by pouring muriatic acid (the famous "acid test") into the bowl. The boss emerges and he sends the lady away. Meanwhile Charlie and Rand are at it again, and a flying wad of dough catches both boss and crook in the face. The boss chases Charlie from the kitchen, whereupon Charlie hides in a trunk to avoid punishment. Just then the crook emerges from the safe, gun drawn, stolen diamonds under his arm and holds the others at bay. Charlie heroically emerges from the trunk, and in balletic movements, smashes the crook over the head, embraces Edna, receives a pat on the back from the boss and delivers one final back kick to his rival. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

    The Bank
    Charlie Chaplin's 10th Essanay film marks a further development for him in story construction, gag development and the use of pathos along with physical comedy. Chaplin enters the bank importantly, strolls down a staircase and opens a large safe. He emerges carrying a mop and bucket and dons his janitor's uniform. He wanders into the lobby/reception area and accidentally puts his soaking mop into the top hat of a bond salesman, (Lawrence A. Bowes) who's waiting for the arrival of the Bank President. Hitting the salesman and a bank worker (Leo White) with the wet mop, he's chased away to the back office where he finds fellow janitor Billy Armstrong with whom a series of minor battles occur. Edna Purviance, a stenographer, arrives at work with a birthday present, a tie, for a cashier whose name is also Charles, Carl Stockdale. She types a note: "To Charles with love from Edna." Chaplin finds the note and tie and assumes they're for him, and it's clear he loves Purviance. He brings her a bouquet of flowers and leaves a note "To Edna with love, Charlie." The bank president arrives and rejects the bond salesman's pitch and the angry salesman vows revenge. As the salesman stands dazed, Chaplin, told to mail a letter, indicates that he doesn't look well, takes his pulse and tells him to stick out his tongue, on which Chaplin moistens the postage stamp. The Cashier comes in to thank Purviance for the tie and tells her that it wasn't he who left the flowers, but Charlie the Janitor. Angry, Purviance calls Chaplin a fool and, unaware that he's watching through the door, throws the flowers into a trash basket. Crushed, Chaplin retrieves the flowers, goes back downstairs to the vault and sits down to rest. Shortly afterward, the bond salesman along with four seedy crooks enter the bank. Two of them go upstairs and see the president, Purviance and the Cashier counting money. When Purviance and Charles head downstairs to the vault, they hold up the president. The other three intercept Charles and Purviance downstairs. At the first opportunity, Charles pushes Purviance over and runs away, but he's held at gunpoint by one of the crooks as the other tussles with the president. Meanwhile her screams have awakened Chaplin and he rescues her, kicking three of the crooks into the safe and locking it as Purviance collapses. Carrying her over one shoulder, he climbs the stairs and rescues the cashier by disarming the crook. He then takes care of the other thief, rescuing the president. When the police have the robbers in custody, Chaplin is congratulated by the president. He wanders into the office and takes the flowers out of his coat. Purviance enters and picks up the flowers, smiling, and the look of love and hope on Chaplin's face is truly angelic. They embrace, but just then the camera crossfades -- it was all a dream, and Chaplin awakens in the vault kissing a mop. As the picture fades, he wanders off screen holding the flowers. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

    Easy Street
    Arguably the best of Charlie Chaplin's 12 Lone Star/Mutual comedies, Easy Street gives us a look at the environment in which Chaplin grew up, the slums of South London. Indeed the title of the film is likely a reference to the street where Chaplin was born, East Street in Walworth. Charlie begins this film as he seldom does, as a truly down-and-out derelict, huddled sleeping at the steps of the Hope Mission. The sounds of a service in progress draws him wearily inside. After the sermon, he is entranced by the beautiful mission worker and organist, Edna Purviance and stays after the service. Inspired by their ministrations he vows to reform, returning the collection box he has slipped into his capacious pants. Out on Easy Street a gang is pummeling members of the police department, removing their uniforms for the coins in their pockets. Toughest of all is the Bully, Eric Campbell, who menaces the other toughs, taking the spoils for himself. Charlie, passing the Police Station sees the recruitment sign outside and eventually builds up his resolve sufficiently to apply. His beat is Easy Street. He encounters the Bully who threatens him and is impervious to the blows that Charlie delivers with his nightstick. In a display of his great strength, the bully bends a gas streetlamp in two, whereupon Charlie leaps on the Bully's back, covering his head with the lamp and turns on the gas. (Chaplin was injured during the filming of this scene; the lamp hit him across the bridge of the nose, holding up production for several days). As the Bully slumps to the ground, Charlie takes his pulse and decides to give him one more shot of gas for good measure. The squad is called to retrieve the unconscious Bully and Charlie is, for the moment, cock-of-the-walk, frightening away the other street toughs by simply spinning around to face them. His work also entails charity, as he helps a woman, (who turns out to be the Bully's wife) who has stolen food from a street vendor by stealing more food for her. Edna happens by and helps Charlie get her upstairs to her tenement flat. He's rewarded for his efforts by her ingratitude, nearly dropping a flower pot on his head. Edna takes Charlie across the way to another apartment where a couple have a large brood of children whom Charlie helps to feed by scattering bread crumbs among them as if he were feeding chickens. Meanwhile, the Bully awakens at the Police Station and despite multiple blows from the collective nightsticks of the cops, he escapes and returns to Easy Street. His fight with his wife draws Charlie from across the street and a chase begins, the Bully seeking revenge for his earlier capture. Charlie drops a stove on the Bully from a second-story window, knocking him out, but the street toughs capture Edna and toss her down some steps into a subterranean speakeasy. She is threatened there by a dope addict who injects himself with cocaine. Exiting the Bully's flat Charlie is mugged by the gang and himself tossed down into the cellar. Landing accidentally on the addict's upturned needle, Charlie becomes supercharged, defeating the junkie and all the denizens of the cellar, rescuing Edna. Peace is restored to Easy Street and a new mission is in evidence. The Bully and his wife, dressed in their finest, make their way to the services, under Charlie's approving eye. Edna approaches and Charlie greets her joyously and the pair stroll arm in arm towards the welcoming minister and missionary of The New Mission. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

    The Rink
    Charlie Chaplin's 2-reel laugh parade The Rink was based on "Skating," a sketch Chaplin had previously performed while a member of the Fred Karno stage troupe. Chaplin plays a waiter who determines what his customers have had for dinner by checking the food spots on their clothes. After quitting time, Chaplin repairs to the ice skating rink, where his skill and grace catches the eye of pretty socialite Edna Purviance. She invites him to a soiree, where he runs afoul of massive Eric Campbell for the third time that day. A melee results, whereupon Chaplin hooks a passing auto with his cane and makes his escape. The Rink was the eighth of Chaplin's "golden dozen" short subjects filmed during his stay at Mutual Studios. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Charles Chaplin
      Charles Chaplin - Street Musician
    • Edna Purviance
      Edna Purviance - Girl Stolen by Gypsies
    • Image coming soon
      Eric Campbell - Gyspy Chieftan
    • Image coming soon
      Leo White - Old Jew and Gypsy Woman
    • Lloyd Bacon
      Lloyd Bacon - Artist

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.