Thursday, April 2, 2015

Harry Carr describes a day on the set of Chaplin's final short comedy, PAY DAY, released April 2nd, 1922

The following is an excerpt from "Speech Of Gold" by Harry Carr, Motion Picture, May 1922
Hanging over the edge of a scaffolding, midway between me and the blue California sky, were the two most famous feet in the world.

Charlie Chaplin was directing a new comedy, and his far-famed and eloquent extremities were expressive of his emotion.
Brother Syd, his fastidiousness smothered in plasterers' overalls with a broken Billycock hat on his head, was sitting curled up in an iron wheel-barrow looking up at Charlie with very much the same affectionate look that you see on the face of an admiring little dog squatting down to watch a Saint Bernard.

On another scaffold, perilously hugging the edge of a new brick building sat Mack Swain heavily engaged in being funny. If there is any forlorn, desolate, heart-rending picture of woe and agony, it is a scared fat man teetering on a dizzy roost and trying to be gay and joyous.
Mack was supposed to be eating a comic tin-pail dinner that kept mysteriously disappearing. Charlie kept telling him. it was funny, but Mack did not seem to be convinced. When he grabbed for the fugitive sausage, Charlie politely shrieked with glee and wiggled his feet over the edge of the platform in an ecstasy of merriment, but Mack only looked at him reproachfully and sighed heavily. Down in the wheel-barrow, Syd chortled loyally like an amiable echo.

Edna Purviance was sitting on the aerial plank next to Mack Swain. She was sitting on her feet; one of them had gone to sleep and she was afraid to budge. When the audience laughed and the illustrious feet wiggled by way of applause, Edna smiled a wan, scared smile.

Charlie was determined they were going to do it in the proper spirit of joy, but it was the distinguished feet and Syd who seemed to get most hilarity out of Mack and his disappearing lunch.

"Mack, you move around too much, you want to make it more subtle. You see, you don't know what on earth became of that hot dog and it bewilders you."
"Yeah, but Charlie," remonstrated Mack, looking with a shudder down over the edge of the scaffold, "when I get funny I have to do it with my hands and my face--everything."

Charlie's feet suddenly vanished. The next thing I saw he was sitting up on the scaffold with his hat cocked down over his eyes and his feet stuck out in front of him.
"This is how you want to do it, Mack," he said. "See, like this. It's a lot funnier, Mack, if you just sit still and let it get over with your thoughts. Just try it, Mack; it'd be funny."
Mack had relaxed into gloom. Someone joggled the scaffold and he gave a wild look of alarm, then sank into fat despair again.
"Get him a new sausage," said Charlie with vivacious cordiality. But Mack declined to be moved to exuberance by a new sausage. Out of the depth of his dejection he said he would get along with the old sausage. And so the comedy went on with Charlie bubbling with gleeful encouragement and Syd echoing from the wheel-barrow ; and Mack Swain and his sorrow--fat and. forlorn on the scaffold. Presently the winter sunshine began to fade, and to his unspeakable relief they let Mack come hobbling stiffly down from the scaffold. One of his legs was asleep and he was bursting with "prop" sausage, but his soul was at peace. 

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