Thursday, February 7, 2013

EASY STREET (1917)

This was Chaplin's ninth film for Mutual and is another of my personal favorites.

The T-shaped set for Easy Street is a throwback to the streets of Chaplin’s childhood, as well as the run-down buildings with the small doorways.  You will see the T-shaped street and small doorways again in The Kid.  The title Easy Street also suggests “East Street” the street of Chaplin’s birthplace.

The film includes plenty of social commentary:  poverty, drugs, starvation and urban violence—all themes that will pop up again in later films.

One of the few times Charlie ever injured himself while making a movie was during the filming of Easy Street. When he pulled the lamp post down on the bully (Eric Campbell) the lamp’s sharp metal edge cut him across the bridge of his nose requiring stitches. This injury contributed to a delay in the release of the film.

In a 1917 issue of Reel Life, Charlie published his reflections on the film:
If there is one human type more than any other that the whole wide world has it in for, it is the policeman type. Of course, the policeman isn’t really to blame for the public prejudice against his uniform--it’s just the natural human revulsion against any sort of authority--but just the same everybody loves to see the 'copper' get it where the chicken got the axe.
So, to begin with, I make myself solid by letting my friends understand that I am not a real policeman except in the sense that I've been put on for a special job--that of manhandling a big bully. Of course I have my work cut out tackling a contract like that and the sympathy of the audience is with me, but I have also the element of suspense which is invaluable in a motion picture plot. The natural supposition is that the policeman is going to get the worst of it and there is an intense interest in how I am to come out of my apparently unequal combat with 'Bully' Campbell. 
There is further contrast between my comedy walk and general funny business and the popular conception of dignity that is supposed to hedge a uniformed police officer."

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