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If you've seen any of the comedies Charlie Chaplin made at Keystone
during his first year in the movies you know that they're usually very
fast-paced, sometimes chaotic (even when the print is in decent shape),
and generally full of slapstick violence. Furthermore, Charlie himself
is not the lovable Little Tramp of later days, but a more ruthless
figure, often drunk and combative. Where the ladies are concerned he's
playful but not exactly warm-hearted. Sometimes Charlie is an
out-and-out villain, as in Mabel at the Wheel and Tillie's Punctured
Romance, and in one Keystone, The Property Man, he's a bully who
torments his elderly assistant.
In His New Profession, a one-reel comedy, Charlie is a scamp who hangs around at a seaside park reading The Police Gazette, an illustrated weekly full of sin and scandal that was the National Enquirer of its day. A young gent who is stuck pushing his wheelchair-bound uncle around the pier persuades Charlie to take on the job for a while, so he can go off with his girlfriend. Through devious means Charlie uses the old man to raise a little cash to buy himself beer, but when the nephew returns the situation quickly deteriorates into a brawl involving the police. In this film Charlie is more selfish and amoral than villainous; when a passing lady drops her handbag he almost pockets it, but quickly returns it when challenged. His strategy to earn himself beer money is rather amusing. Compared to other, more crazed Keystone shorts the knockabout violence in this one builds gradually, the way Laurel & Hardy would handle escalating hostilities in their best comedies later on. Still, the tone here is pretty raw. Charlie sits on eggs and wipes off the residue on the grass, a beggar pretends to be crippled, and the uncle's bandaged foot gets clobbered repeatedly -- of course. Refined it ain't, but nonetheless it's more enjoyable than some of the other Keystones. It's well paced, and despite the low comedy stuff the atmosphere is light-hearted. It's just a day at the seashore with the old gang.
A couple of notes on the cast: the dapper young man first seen pushing his uncle's wheelchair (and who comes to regret entrusting Charlie with this job) is played by a very young Charley Chase, who went on to a starring career of his own in the '20s and '30s. And during the sequence in the saloon you'll have to look fast to catch a glimpse of Roscoe Arbuckle as the bartender. This cameo role is so brief, and is presented so casually, one suspects an inside joke.
In His New Profession, Chaplin again reverts into drunken slapstick,
what I think is his weakest effect, although I am sure it was very
popular back in 1914. A man in a park is clearly very annoyed at having
to care for his uncle, who is confined to a wheelchair, so he asks the
Tramp to "push him around for a bit," while he goes off chasing some
girl. He does, but soon passes a bar and wants to go inside and get a
drink. When the uncle won't give him a dime on account, he steals money
from a sleeping homeless man's tin cup, then places his cardboard sign
on the uncle and heads for the bar, where Fatty Arbuckle is almost
completely unnoticed as the bartender.
There are several moderately effective gags, but it seems that the film is trying to present more story than it can carry. There is a lot going on in the story, but very little of it is clear, and as is so common in these early films, it soon resorts to a lot of pushing and kicking. You can't really expect a whole lot more than that from these early comedies, but as it is, there is not much to make this one stand out from the rest of Chaplin's early work.
Even Chaplin himself begins and ends the film with a yawn!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've seen quite a few Chaplin shorts from early in his career and I've
noticed that his early stuff (done for Keystone Studios) is pretty
dreadful stuff. Unlike his wonderful full-length films from the 20s and
30s, the films from 1914-1915 are incredibly poorly made--having no
script but only vague instructions from the director. In most cases,
the films had almost no plot and degenerated to people punching and
kicking each other.
This short features Chaplin and has an appearance by Fatty Arbuckle as well. This and a few small laughs are really about all the film has to offer. Charlie is asked to watch a guy's uncle (who's in a wheelchair) as the guy chases a cute girl. Charlie agrees but later gets distracted by a nearby bar. At this point, he puts a sign on the guy saying he's an invalid and gave him a tin cup--all so Charlie would have enough $ to buy a drink! Funny but awful!
I didn't know that Charlie Chaplin made so many films in 1914. So I
struggled a lot to find this short film The Good For Nothing, mainly
because I did not know that it was actually known as His New
To be honest I found this short comedy quite violent, with all the comic
fighting at the pier and in the bar. But then I have not seen another
Chaplin short before, so I might have been not expecting it.
The gags are amusing, but can be a bit repetitive, like Charlie's cane keeps hitting the Uncle's cast. Also, because of this, I found the first time when Charlie falling over into the food on the pavement quite amusing, but the second time a little less amusing. But some jokes can be not completed for that extra unexpected humour. An example of this is when the Uncle, in his wheelchair, gets pushed along the pier, and, like you would expect, to fall into the sea, while in fact he stops at the edge for that bit of unexpected humour, a bit of a surprise to me when the gag was repeated for the second time. Chaplin's direction really made the extremely simple plot seem like 16 minutes of traditional slapstick, repetitive gags, unexpected humour and more comic fights than you could shake a cane at! I was surprised that Minta Durfee, whose potrayal of the Woman was satisfactory, had an ongoing film career until her death in 1975! While Chaplin, whose portrayal of Charlie was very good and very important to the flow of the film, career went on until 1967, 10 years before his actual death! I do have pity though for Fritz Schade, whose protrayal of the Uncle really made the character come alive, didn't make another film after 1917, and died in 1926, and the young age of 46. It's a shame because he would have had a tremendous career in comedy films, with a role like that! Personally I would not recommend this short as an introduction Chaplin's unique work, just because of all that fighting might not a common convention of his work. Overall, it was an all right short film.
I saw this Charlie Chaplin short under the title THE GOOD FOR NOTHING.
It's very similar in tone to IN THE PARK, consisting of Chaplin and a
few others goofing around in the great outdoors, although the setting
this time around is a pier. I didn't like it as much as IN THE PARK, as
the gag rate isn't as consistent, and much of the humour is lowbrow and
Chaplin plays an idler who is tasked with looking after an invalid by fellow comedian Charley Chase. The guy is in a wheelchair so all manner of pain-focused gags arise from that situation. There are some very funny bits here, especially those involving the wheelchair being pushed around, although Chaplin doesn't seem quite on form and he has little of those character quirks I've seen elsewhere. Watch out for Fatty Arbuckle's cameo as the exasperated bartender.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Good For Nothing, the alternate film title for this film, would be more apt for this Chaplin effort. Charlie ends up pushing a man around in a wheelchair as a favor to none other than Charley Chase, early in his career, who needs to shed his uncle in favor of making time with a girl. Chaplin runs into trouble with the uncle in no time flat. He manipulates the uncle into getting him some money to drink with in rather cruel fashion, but it's still funny nonetheless. Chaplin has run-ins with a beggar, a girl, and of course the police before it's over. This film has several sight gags, including Chaplin trying to make time with the girl on a bench and seeing the uncle in his wheelchair nearly roll off the pier into the water; a third roll down the pier into the water would have been funnier though. ** of 4 stars.
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