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Caught in a Cabaret (1914)

TV-G | | Short, Comedy | 27 April 1914 (USA)
Charlie is a clumsy waiter in a cheap cabaret, suffering the strict orders from his boss. He'll meet a pretty girl in the park, pretending to be a fancy ambassador, despite the jealousy of her fiancée.


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Complete credited cast:
Mabel Society Girl


Given an hour off from his job as a cafe waiter, Charlie rescues Mabel from a thug, is given an invitation to her home, and arrives presenting a card which falsely identifies him as the Greek Ambassador. Before he can get back to work, her parents invite him to a future garden party. Her jealous lover has Charlie followed back to the cafe. Charlie is a hit at the garden party but, as he leaves to return to work, the rival invites everyone to go with him to the cafe so Charlie will be exposed. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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Short | Comedy


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Release Date:

27 April 1914 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie the Waiter  »

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Technical Specs


(Original Version)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Featured in The Funniest Man in the World (1967) See more »

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User Reviews

The son of a gun is nothing but a WAITER!
22 July 2015 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Watching Charlie Chaplin's Keystone comedies is like watching the earliest appearances of classic cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny; that is, our hero is certainly familiar yet not quite himself, and is crude in both appearance and behavior, sometimes to a startling degree. It's fascinating to see these early works, but they can be a little disquieting, too. In some Keystones Chaplin is an outright villain, shockingly mean-spirited and dastardly. In others, however, he is comparatively benign, as in Caught in a Cabaret, an early short I enjoy, which is of special interest for several reasons.

When this film was made Chaplin was not yet his own director. Caught in a Cabaret was directed by his co-star, Mabel Normand, who had clashed with the temperamental Englishman on their previous collaboration, Mabel at the Wheel. Studio boss Mack Sennett almost fired Chaplin on that occasion, but by the time this follow up was made, it appears that all was forgiven. (Chaplin's burgeoning popularity with the public was surely a big factor in saving his career at Keystone.) Both stars contributed to this film's scenario, and here is where we find a number of elements Chaplin would develop and refine later on. The basic premise is certainly familiar: Charlie is a lowly waiter who pretends to be a dignitary, and finagles an invitation to a party where he mingles with the upper crust, which makes this short a blue-print for a number of memorable comedies yet to come, including The Count, The Rink, and The Idle Class, among others. Naturally, the prototype isn't as polished as the later works, but hey, you have to start somewhere. As a bonus, Caught in a Cabaret offers a rogue's gallery of Keystone players in support: Edgar Kennedy, Chester Conklin, Minta Durfee, Mack Swain, etc., all emoting at full throttle, not to mention the lovely Mabel as leading lady, so there's plenty to enjoy as this two-reel extravaganza unfolds.

The cabaret where Charlie works is a real dive, seamy and scuzzy. During the cabaret scenes director Normand crowds the frame with so much rowdy activity—people carousing, raising hell, caterwauling, whatever—that the joint looks like Bedlam. When Charlie steps outside to walk his dog, we're treated to grimy location shots taken in L.A.'s old Chinatown district, a ghetto that would be demolished in the '30s. By way of contrast, Mabel plays a "Society Bud" of noble lineage who lives in a mansion, and it's clear that she and her foppish boyfriend (Harry McCoy) travel in more rarefied circles. The denizens of these very different worlds meet up in a park, where Charlie defends Mabel from a thief while her boyfriend cowers. But it's not enough for Charlie to be a hero; he must claim to be an important figure to impress this young lady, though once he's invited to her party he forgets himself and promptly gets hammered. Harry the fop gets his revenge by inviting his society pals to go slumming at the very cabaret where Mabel's new love interest works, thus revealing his true status. It all ends in a classic Keystone mêlée, although oddly it's cabaret boss Edgar Kennedy who inexplicably freaks out and shoots up the place.

There are a number of moments to savor: Mabel and Charlie sharing an intimate moment during the party, and singing along with the musicians; Minta Durfee's saucy dance in the cabaret; tough guy Mack Swain picking his teeth with a pistol; and finally, Mabel's horrified reaction at the end, when she learns that Charlie isn't really a V.I.P. (You can read her lips: "A WAITER? Oh my God!") The only thing that troubles me about this amusing short is the fate of Charlie's lively little dog. He makes quite an impression during his brief sequence before the cameras, but when Charlie returns to the cabaret from the park, the dog is no longer with him. Where did he go? And didn't anyone notice?

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