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  Chaplin Revue, The Tramp Tramp Tramp
Year: 1959
Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Albert Austin, Henry Bergman, Mack Swain, Loyal Underwood
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: When Charlie Chaplin arrived in Hollywood in the nineteen-tens, it was mostly orange and lemon groves with not much moviemaking to be seen, but that bright weather attracted him and his fellow talents and soon studios were springing up around the Los Angeles area, including one of his own where he produced his hugely popular works. Here is now, and as he notes he does look a little younger in this footage, but it was at least ten years ago (according to him), so that’s understandable. After a demonstration of how he went about his methods, filmed at the time to allow the public a small insight into the magic, he is ready to present three short works he made that highlight his most popular entertainments…

Charles Chaplin had compiled a selection of his shorts in a feature before, but the trio here – A Dog’s Life, Shoulder Arms and The Pilgrim – represented what was at the time (the late fifties) a chance to see three relative rarities, apparently taking for granted everyone had already seen efforts like The Immigrant, The Cure and Easy Street. It was a treat for his fans and newcomers alike, only even so there were grumbles, specifically because of his technique in slowing the action down by “stretching” it, double printing every frame, to make it look more natural and not in that speeded up fashion many associated with silent comedy. For many, this ruined the tempo of the scenes, and was seemingly only done to better incorporate music.

That said, the version you can see today doesn’t look too bad, there were a few instances of shots looking tinkered with but nothing that would spoil the enjoyment too much. A Dog’s Life was significant because it saw Chaplin trying out the sentimentality that would be most linked to his humour, undeniably present but not the whole story when he could still make you laugh out loud with an item of impeccably timed pantomiming. As the title suggested, it saw his Little Tramp persona with his only friend in the world as a mongrel he takes everywhere, and as he has no money he has to work out a way of getting them both fed without the ever-present policeman noticing what he’s up to. It was a charming piece with some excellent jokes, the highlight when he carries the pooch in his trousers and it makes Chaplin look as if he has a tail.

There was another significant performer in that, and indeed all three of the shorts here, and she was Edna Purviance who had died the year before this was released, arguably the person Chaplin was fondest of in his endeavours on the screen – aside from himself, of course. Here he usefully lets us know how to pronounce her name in the narration, not PUR-vee-ance but Pur-VYE-ance, and as she was one of the loves of his life who he made sure was taken care of for the rest of her life after her early retirement and subsequent troubles, it was touching that he should wish to showcase her performances as his most enduring object of affection on the screen now she was finally out of his life. In the World War I-set Shoulder Arms, she is a local girl in Europe who helps Chaplin behind enemy lines.

Truth be told, that was the weakest of the shorts here, tremendously popular, and some would say necessary, in 1918, but aside from the setting not exhibiting his funniest gags nor his keenest insights, though admittedly you probably needed to read up a little on the conditions so many of his audience would have suffered or heard about first hand to appreciate what he was getting at. Better was The Pilgrim, which was more joke oriented, yes there was a plot about an escaped convict redeeming himself when he poses as a pastor in a small town, but the humour was strong, especially the hilarious routine where one man’s hat is mistaken for a pudding in polite company. While the first two efforts were fairly well-known, or at least heard of, this one was the real discovery, and remains so today. All in all, a pretty decent compilation, though as Chaplin added his own music as well, the inclusion of the most clichéd country and western tune imaginable, crooned by Matt Monro, was not exactly his finest moment cinematically.

[The Curzon Blu-ray has as extras a selection of comedy shorts, trailers, footage of Chaplin meeting another megastar Harry Lauder, his guide to making movies we see extracts from in the Revue, and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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