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Recreation (1914)

 -  Comedy | Short  -  13 August 1914 (USA)
5.1
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Ratings: 5.1/10 from 507 users  
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Charlie is walking in the park. A girl leaves a seaman on one bench and joins Charlie on another. The seaman wakes up. He and Charlie stage a brick fight. Policemen get hit and arrest both ... See full summary »

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Storyline

Charlie is walking in the park. A girl leaves a seaman on one bench and joins Charlie on another. The seaman wakes up. He and Charlie stage a brick fight. Policemen get hit and arrest both men. During an ensuing fight on the dock the policemen, the seaman, Charlie and the girl wind up in the water. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

13 August 1914 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Spring Fever  »

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1.33 : 1
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Released as a split reel along with the documentary The Yosemite (1914). See more »

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User Reviews

 
Improvisation? Absolutely. Inspiration? Not so much . . .
6 August 2002 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

On the set of Modern Times in the mid-1930s Charlie Chaplin spoke wistfully to journalist Gilbert Seldes about how, in his early days making movies, he'd simply go to the nearest park with a cop and a pretty girl and they'd make up the story as they went along. Recreation looks very much like the kind of film he was waxing nostalgic about: it's a brief, rudimentary sketch involving a rivalry between Charlie and a sailor over the sailor's girl. The fighting begins almost immediately, many bricks are thrown, cops get involved, and eventually everybody winds up in the lake. It certainly looks improvised, and I'm sure the actors had fun, but the result is little more than a few minutes of slapstick mayhem. Scripts as such were seldom used at Keystone, but if there'd been one for this movie it would have read: "Throw Brick. React. Hide Behind Tree. Grimace. Throw Brick," etc. etc. Spontaneity is the main thing Recreation has going for it; that, and brevity. I can understand why the middle-aged Chaplin felt sentimental about the simplicity of filmmaking in his early days, but the fact is, Modern Times is a great film while this one isn't. To put it another way, nostalgia for youthful spontaneity is all well and good, but there's a lot to be said for craftsmanship. The Chaplin who made Modern Times was an experienced craftsman, but the young fellow who cranked out Recreation in a park one day was still an apprentice learning his trade, and while it must have amused audiences in 1914, there isn't much here for viewers today to enjoy. Another drawback: none of the familiar Keystone players appear in support, so there's no Mabel, no Roscoe, no Chester Conklin or Edgar Kennedy to enliven the proceedings. The other actors in this movie aren't very interesting, and the guy playing the sailor in particular is a real ham.

There are a couple of nice little moments, however. At the beginning Charlie is on a bridge, apparently contemplating suicide. He hoists one leg up on the railing and then the other, and swiftly falls on his butt. It's a dexterous maneuver we associate with Buster Keaton, who performed it all his life. The second moment arrives later on, when Charlie picks up a brick (yet again) to hurl at his rival the sailor. He's interrupted when a cop comes along, catching him in the act as he's about to wind up and pitch. Smoothly, instead of throwing the brick, Charlie acts as if he's examining it, appraising its condition, and then he wipes it off carefully and returns it to its original spot. In that brief bit, just for a few seconds, Chaplin demonstrates his characteristic finesse and makes viewing this short worth the time it takes to do so.


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