Sunday, February 7, 2016

EASY STREET

Chaplin's ninth film for Mutual was released February 5th, 1917. The release of the film was delayed for two weeks due to rain, as well as an accident in which Chaplin received several stitches. More about this below.

Plot: Reformed Charlie becomes a policeman and his beat is Easy Street, the toughest street in town.

The film opens with Charlie asleep on the ground outside of the Hope Mission.
According to the Washington Times (Feb. 11, 1917), during the filming of this scene the baby, attracted to Chaplin's mustache, suddenly reached up and tore it off his lip ("and also part of said lip.") In order to go on with filming, Chaplin had to return to his dressing room to apply a replacement. Meanwhile, "the baby held tightly to its new possession and even went to the extent of insisting in a way all its own to taking it home. Here its mother finally secured it and she realized it was a souvenir well worth keeping. That evening she recounted the experience to her husband and showed him the prize." To make a long story short, the "prize" ended up being auctioned off at a charity bazaar for $110.

Charlie is enamored with Edna, the mission's organist.

"Chaplin at first proposed to take the part of the missionary in order that his affair with the beautiful Edna might have a better chance to fructify, but decided that it would be undignified for a clergyman to descend from the pulpit and beat up the irascible [Eric] Campbell." (Reel Life, 1917)
Crew member Dave Allen recalled that "when Charlie wanted anything, he'd yell for it, and the person nearest it would grab it and give it to him. When Charlie started yelling 'Truncheon! Truncheon!' I thought he was calling 'Luncheon' and sent the extras off to eat--it seems in London the cops call a nightstick a truncheon." When Chaplin heard of the mistake, he burst into laughter. (Harry Crocker manuscript via Charlie Chaplin Archives, Taschen 2015)
Filming was delayed when Chaplin injured himself while filming this scene with Eric Campbell: "I pulled a lamp post over on myself,” he explained. “It was necessary to take several stitches and I lost a good deal of blood--I didn’t know I had so much blood. We kept the scene, too. It makes one of those serious little touches, you know.” (The Day Book, Feb. 9, 1917)
Regarding this scene, Chaplin told Sergei Eisenstein in 1930: "You remember the scene in Easy Street where I scatter food from a box to poor children as if they were chickens? You see, I did this because I despise them. I don't like children." (Eisenstein, Notes Of A Film Director, 1959) 
Charlie accidently sits on a hypodermic needle which gives him the superhuman strength to beat up the Easy Street bullies. 
...and save the day.

3 comments:

  1. Wait I'm confused, he didn't like children? I have all ways read that he did beside wasn't his fan base mostly made of children, also why have 11 kids if you don't like them? Super confused right now haha

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    1. Eisenstein felt that Chaplin disliked children because he was a child himself. But who knows what Chaplin actually meant by the statement, or if he was being serious. One possible explanation is that he may have been intimidated by children. A few years earlier in "My Trip Abroad," he wrote: "Despite the fact that I love children, I find them difficult to meet. I feel rather inferior to them...And one has to be very much on his best behavior with children because they detect our insincerity."

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  2. Easy Street is in my opinion a masterpiece. I like all Charlie's Mutuals best, and Easy Street is the best of them in my opinion. I wonder if it was cathartic for him, it's so gritty and real, captures what slum life must have been like, and dealing with bullyish cops. It's a very funny and yet gritty film. Also, a bit of trivia, the scene near the end where Eric is chasing Charlie, briefly you see them on the real life streets of Los Angeles, then back to the T shaped set.

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