Tag Archives: Keystone Film Corporation

Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp

 

It should be no surprise to anyone that I open this blog with the Master himself, Charlie Chaplin. He gets my first vote for his film,” The Tramp”. It is actually Chaplin’s sixth film with Essanay Studios. The Tramp marked the beginning of The Tramp character most known today, even though Chaplin played the character in earlier films. This film marked the first departure from his more slapstick character in the earlier films, with a sad ending and showing he cared for others, rather than just himself.

Plot – The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets his dream girl (Edna Purviance) and takes a job on her Father’s (Ernest Van Pelt) farm. The Tramp helps around the farm, including getting rid of criminals. Everything is perfect, until the Tramp meets his dream girls’ boyfriend. He doesn’t want to get in the way of her happiness, so the film ends with the Tramp heading on back down the road.

The Tramp PosterDirected, Written, and Starring Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Jess Robbins
Also Starring Edna Purviance and Ernest Van Pelt
Cinematography by Harry Ensign
Edited by Charlie Chaplin
Distributed by Essanay Studios
Release Dates April 11, 1915
Run Time 32 minutes

Goof – Near the end of the movie, the “Tramp” writes a note and there are two separate shots of it edited in. Both notes are in completely different handwriting and the word “good bye” is spelled differently. But Charlie couldn’t blame the editor because… Yep, you guessed it! It was himself.

Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor and film-maker who rose to fame in the silent film era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.

Chaplin’s childhood in London was defined by poverty and hardship. His Father was mostly absent and his Mother was committed to a mental institution, so Charlie began working at a very young age. He always preferred performing to the workhouses, so he toured music halls and later worked as a stage actor and comedian. At 19 he travelled to America and began working for the Fred Karno Company, appearing in the popular Keystone comedies. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base. Chaplin directed his own films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the best known figures in the world.

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. This is where he wrote, directed, and produced many films that rank on various industry lists of the greatest films of all time.

Chaplin’s later years are marked with controversy as he found his popularity decline. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was criticized for having marriages to much younger women. There was even a scandal involving a paternity suit. Eventually, an FBI investigation was opened, and Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and settle in Switzerland.

In 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation for his work, Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”. Today, he continues to be held in high regard and is often celebrated as one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood.

Just as a side note, I think that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the film “Chaplin” was brilliant. It’s a travesty that he didn’t win an Academy Award for it, but you’ll have to wait to read all about it in my next series, “100 Years of the Best Oscar Snubs”.

Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Films (As rated by IMDB)

Charlie Chaplin's Top 10 Films as rated by IMDB
Charlie Chaplin’s Top 10 Films (As Rated by IMDB)

Keystone Kops and the Bangville Police

 

One of the few cases where it’s hard to identify just one stunt and one person involved for the Best Movie Stunt, The Bangville Police is a 1913 comedy short starring Mabel Normand and the Keystone Kops (Fred Mace, Raymond Hatton, Edgar Kennedy, Ford Sterling, and Al St. John). The film, notable for being regarded as the seminal Keystone Kops (sometimes known as filmdom’s original “stuntmen”) short, was directed by Henry Lehrman.

I think Mabel Normand looks like Kate Winslet in this, with a very nice dress. Mabel was one of the film industry’s first female screenwriters, producers and directors. Onscreen she co-starred in commercially successful films with Charles Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle more than a dozen times each, occasionally writing and directing movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man. At the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Normand had her own movie studio and production company.mabel normand bangville police

The Keystone Kops were a ragtag gang and began as prize fighters, race car drivers, circus acrobats, strongmen, clowns, roustabouts and vaudevillians. They were a wild bunch, up for nearly any stunt the Sennett writers could concoct, and left behind a hilarious legacy of diverse performances. They were doused in oil, tossed off rooftops, launched into the ocean, butted by wild animals and plastered with pie. Their wacky “Kopwagon” was rigged to handle outrageous chases, near misses, collisions and explosions. Through improvisation and experimentation they developed many stunts and stunt techniques that remain popular today.  The Keystone Kops were the first Movie Stunt Team and is a great example of why being a great acrobat is of so importance as a stunt performer.bangville police

The film itself is not very eventful, but I think it stands up as one of the first action-oriented films. In The Bangville Police, a girl wishes they had a baby calf, which her father agrees with but when she enters a room she thinks she hears burglars and calls the police who get out of bed in broad daylight and drive a repeatedly exploding car to girl’s farm where everyone discovers there are no burglars after all. But a baby calf miraculously appears.

The cops bumble about with a pretty cool fall at about 2:32 marker on the film and has a pretty big explosion with the car at 5:04 marker.Bangville Police Stunt

As a side note, Al St. John did stunts his entire life, from daring bike tricks as a child until his last days touring with a western show performing all kinds of gags, still doing falls and trick bicycling. His stunt work in the films were of a wide range and skillfully executed. I am not exaggerating when I say that he was one of the best stunt men in the business. Unfortunately his best work is still considered lost.

The shorts he did when he got his own company, wrote, starred and directed himself under names like Fox and Warner got rave reviews, papers and magazines dubbed him “superhuman”, “nuts”, “eccentric”,”different”…all in all, he stood out, leaving cinema audiences screaming of laughter and awe of his stunts and gags. His work was at the time called thrill comedy…not just comedy.

To see a fantastic youtube channel dedicated to his work, please drop by for some laughs: http://www.youtube.com/AlFuzzyStJohn/

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):
Keystone Kops

Bangville Police

Mabel Normand

Henry Lehrman

Fred Mace

Raymond Hatton

Edgar Kennedy

Ford Sterling

Al St. John

Charlie Chaplin

Roscoe Arbucklebangville police
Glossary of stunt terms as defined by Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org):

  1.  Stunt Team – stunt team is a crew of stunt performers that follow the direction of the Stunt coordinator to collectively participate and execute an action sequence for film, television, or theater. I’d like to add that in many cases stunt teams have worked together over the course of years and as such develop their own techniques and often, their own verbal language and sign language.
  1.  Acrobatics – Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts as well as in many sports. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic elements, such as acro dance, circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities — such as ballet and diving — may also employ acrobatics. Although acrobatics is most commonly associated with human body performance, it may also apply to other types of performance, such as aerobatics.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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