Showing posts with label Keystone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Keystone. Show all posts

Saturday, July 9, 2016

LAUGHING GAS + "Charlot Has A Toothache"

Laughing Gas
Released July 9th, 1914
Written and directed by Charles Chaplin

Charlie portrays a dental assistant who winds up impersonating his boss, Dr. Pain.  This film may have been inspired by a Fred Karno sketch called, "The Dentist." Although Chaplin did not appear in the sketch, he was likely familiar with it. He revisits dental humor again forty-three years later in A King In New York.

Chaplin himself hated going to the dentist & toothaches frightened him. May Reeves remembered hearing "prolonged howls" coming from their bathroom in France in 1931. When she went to see what was the matter, Charlie was standing in front of the mirror moaning and holding his cheek."Undoubtedly," wrote May, "he was rehearsing for a film entitled Charlot Has A Toothache." His moaning and pain-induced facial expressions were so comic that they made her laugh and thus he began to laugh as well. In the end, Charlie was only afraid that he might have a toothache.1

Years later, Oona Chaplin recalled a visit to the dentist office in Lausanne. This time there was no laughter:
When he was getting on we thought we should take Charlie to the dentist...And we went to Lausanne and got Charlie into the dentist's surgery and promised him nothing would hurt. The girl was so nice and gentle and she examined his mouth and said, 'Oh dear, your teeth are packed with tartar.' And she gave a prod and he'd had enough. He got the girl's prong, threw it on the floor, and said, 'My teeth are perfectly packed with tartar and they're going to stay that way.' And he never went back.2

1May Reeves, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin
2Patrice Chaplin, Hidden Star

Saturday, March 26, 2016

CRUEL, CRUEL LOVE, released March 26th, 1914

Directed by George Nichols
Screenplay by Craig Hutchinson

Charlie's fiancee (Minta Durfee) jumps to the wrong conclusion when she sees him assisting her maid (Eva Nelson) who has twisted her ankle. She breaks off their engagement and tells him she never wants to see him again. Distraught, Charlie attempts suicide by taking poison. He writhes in agony and has a "vision of his destiny": being tortured in hell by pitchfork-wielding demons. In the meantime, his fiancee learns the truth and sends him a note telling him all is forgiven. A frantic Charlie phones the doctor and discovers that the supposed poison was only water.

Instead of his Tramp costume, Chaplin is wearing a modified version of the costume he wore in Making A Living.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chaplin's final film for Keystone, HIS PREHISTORIC PAST, released 100 years ago today

Charlie plays Weakchin, a prehistoric man who wears a bearskin, a derby hat, and carries a cane. In My Autobiography, Charlie described how he came up with the idea: "I started with one gag, which was my first entrance. I appeared dressed as a prehistoric man wearing a bearskin, and, as I scanned the landscape, I began pulling the hair from the bearskin to fill my pipe. This was enough of an idea to stimulate a prehistoric story, introducing love, rivalry, combat and chase. This was the method by which we all worked at Keystone." Charlie also recalled that it was a "strain" to finish the film because there were so many business propositions requiring his attention. “I suppose that was the most exciting period of my career, for I was on the threshold of something wonderful.”

In 1982, silent film historian, Bo Berglund, identified Charlie's half-brother, Sydney, as the cop in the final scene. Syd had just begun his contract with the Keystone company & His Prehistoric Past was only his second film. As Syd's biographer, Lisa Stein Haven, noted, "It seems significant somehow that the brothers would work together in Charlie's final film for Keystone."

Friday, November 7, 2014

His Musical Career hits a snag

Filming this scene held up traffic for hours on a busy L.A. street.

Filming on location was the norm in the early silent days. But given its distractions, Charlie was often at odds with these expeditions. In fact, he loathed them.Therefore it's not surprising to find the following clipping about a problem Charlie encountered during location shooting for His Musical Career, which was released 100 years ago today.

Moving Picture World, October 24th, 1914. ("The Song Shop" = "His Musical Career")

According to Chaplin by Denis Gifford: "only Charlie's fame saved him from arrest."

For a closer look at the filming locations for His Musical Career see this post on John Bengston's "Silent Locations" blog.


1Chaplin, My Autobiography,: "I loathe working outside on location because of its distraction. One's concentration and inspiration blow away with the wind." Charlie was describing the location shoot for Shoulder Arms which was filmed during a "sizzling heat wave" and added that "working inside a camouflaged tree was anything but comfortable."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DOUGH & DYNAMITE, released October 26th, 1914

The idea for Dough and Dynamite emerged out of a sequence intended for Those Love Pangs. Chaplin wisely chose to expand the scenes into a separate film (which was completed before Those Love Pangs but released later). The result is one of the best films Chaplin had made up to that time.

Although Chester Conklin was only three years older than Chaplin,
 he always seemed much older to me because of his costume.
The great Phyllis Allen.
The dough in this film seems to take on a comedy life of its own--
sort of like Charlie's cane in his other films. 
"The Fatal Loaf"
Charlie makes bagels by swinging the dough around his wrist like a bracelet.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Charlie and Chester Conklin are "rival mashers" in this film released 100 years ago this week.

Written and directed by Chaplin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

THE NEW JANITOR, released September 24th, 1914

According to Chaplin, this film convinced him that he could evoke tears as well as laughter. He recalled in his autobiography that "an old actress," Alice Davenport, (he mistakenly remembered her as Dorothy, her daughter) watched the rehearsal of the firing scene from the sidelines and began to weep. This was a dimension of the Tramp character that audiences had not yet seen. It is also interesting to note that Chaplin's work at the time was catching on more quickly than his name. A review of the film in the September 26th, 1914 issue of Motion Picture News said "The New Janitor will arouse peals of laughter from any audience" but named its star as Charles Chapman.

The firing scene that made Alice Davenport cry."I know it's supposed to be funny,"
she told Chaplin, "but you just make me weep."
We see this gag again in  The Immigrant (1917).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

HIS NEW PROFESSION, released August 31, 1914

Written and directed by Charles Chaplin.

A man hires Charlie to push around his wheelchair-bound uncle. Big mistake.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THE MASQUERADER, released August 27th, 1914

This film is noted for Charlie's female impersonation (which is flawless), but to me, one of the best things about it is the business at the beginning with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. They will do a full-fledged pairing up two films later in The Rounders (Chaplin & Arbuckle appeared together in seven Keystones).

screenshots from Chaplin At Keystone (Flicker Alley)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR, released August 10th, 1914

Chaplin burlesques the poem "The Face Upon The Floor" by Hugh Antoine d'Arcy & uses several lines from the poem as title cards. The film's flashback storytelling technique is unusual for Chaplin (he uses it only twice more in Shoulder Arms & Limelight). It was also an early attempt by to draw sympathy as well as laughter from his audience.