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If you look at the whole career of that madcap genius Cecil B. DeMille,
his style and preoccupations changed considerably over time, but one
thing was evident from day one his unshakeable pomposity and
over-confidence. That is why he was always a ripe target for satire.
Getting an early shot in on the heels one of DeMille's earliest
successes was Charlie Chaplin, with his farcical yet precisely aimed
Burlesque on Carmen.
These were the days when people would go to see a popular picture many times over. Chaplin too has clearly studied the original, and played upon the familiarity it would have had with audiences of the time. He has mimicked the sets, set-ups and even copied many of the titles verbatim. He even bases gags around very minor aspects of the DeMille film such as the soldiers and smugglers pushing at the door. All this provides a rich environment for Chaplin to tweak into hilariously disrespectful mayhem.
This doesn't appear to be an especially popular or well-known short, perhaps because without the genuine little tramp and modern setting it is not considered kosher Charlie. Personally I feel it is one his best Essanay pictures, for a number of reasons. Virtually the whole of Chaplin's act was satirical on some level, whether he was lampooning the upper class, social norms or modern fads, and generally the bigger the target the bigger the laughs. And simply because of its period trappings it allows him to do funny business with props and situations he would never normally get hold of, such as the numerous gags involving his sword. With his semi-faithful recreation of a contemporary drama, you get to see the considerable straight acting talents of Chaplin and his leading lady Edna Purviance, in a role unlike any other she played, but one she is very suited to. You also have John Rand being very funny in his own right, and Leo White getting the lengthiest and most creative pummelling he ever received from Charlie. Burlesque on Carmen is a unique standout in Chaplin's career, but also great fun to watch.
All of which brings us to the all-important statistic
Number of kicks up the arse: 0 (although it does contain practically everything else)
This combination of Charlie Chaplin's familiar slapstick and mannerisms with
some of the plot ideas from "Carmen" works pretty well. Although Chaplin
retains many of the features of his usual screen persona, playing even a
parody version of Don José is still a change-of-pace that he handles well.
Edna Purviance combines enough of the expected Carmen character with her own
style that so often complemented Chaplin in numerous successful
Note that, of the two "Burlesque on Carmen" titles that list Chaplin in the cast, this (the 1915 filming) is the one to see for Chaplin fans. The 1916 release was created when someone apparently decided that it might be a good idea to take this perfectly good original and pad it with a lot of extraneous, non-Chaplin footage to produce a much longer movie.
Parody is an inherently fragile genre. For it to produce anything of lasting value, the source material has to be both familiar and worthwhile, and then the adaptation has to be clever without forcing too many artificial parallels. Many parodies are over-praised upon their release, enjoy a vogue while their source material remains popular, and then fall into deserved obscurity.
The story of "Carmen", though, has a timeless combination of themes, and yet it is not at all stuffy or highbrow. While the original classic is now, unfortunately, less widely-known than it was in Chaplin's day, the material itself is still far more worthwhile than are the pop culture elements that are used as fodder for many parody films of the present era. While by no means one of his very finest efforts, Chaplin's "Burlesque on Carmen" is an enjoyable comic adaptation of the basic story, and for that reason it will always retain an appreciative, if small, audience.
Chaplin liked Cecil B. DeMille's "Carmen"; this, I think, was his only
effort devoted to parodying a sole film. I disliked DeMille's "Carmen";
neither the direction, nor narrative impressed me, and Geraldine Farrar
was annoying. Edna Purviance is much easier to watch. Her caricature of
Farrar's obnoxious narcissism was entertaining and rather
satisfying--nearly making the experience of watching Farrar's
performance worthwhile. And, Chaplin is funnier here than in any film
he had done before. This, not "The Champion", "The Tramp", or "Police",
is what I consider the jewel of his outturn at Essanay.
This short follows the same plot of DeMille's "Carmen", nicely condensed, absent the melodrama. And, I'm discussing the 1915 "Burlesque on Carmen", not the bastardized version Essanay created the following year, after Chaplin had left the studio. That one includes a subplot involving Ben Turpin, which pads on two more reels to the formerly 2-reel short. This, the original, preferred version is a visually coherent, appropriately photographed short (other than some jump cuts). Chaplin took the style, or look--tinting, mise-en-scène, composition and such--right out of DeMille's film. As a result, this is one of Chaplin's better-looking films from his early work. If nothing else, DeMille made some pretty pictures.
Chaplin did transform, or mature his comedy while at Essanay; although, of his Essanay films, only a few are very discernible from his Keystone shorts. You may witness a slight maturing in his other Essanay movies, but "Burlesque on Carmen" seems to introduce a radically more mature burlesque for Chaplin. And, I mean "burlesque" in two senses: first, this film is a burlesque in that it parodies another film, and, second, it may be that Chaplin learned to refine the broad, crude and frantic humor of his Keystone upbringing in the process of parodying that film. There's a clear focus here--in parodying DeMille's film, and thus we get a substantial refinement in Chaplin's style.
There are some very funny moments here, too. The swordfight, which turns into a wrestling match, is great. Chaplin continually interrupts the photoplay by breaking down the fourth wall, including winking at the camera. Another of my favorite gags is when Chaplin, looking as close to the tramp as in any part of the film, stops at a saloon before continuing with the expected storyline.
Charlie Chaplin's 13th Essanay film is loosely based on Georges Bizet's
famous opera Carmen and stars Chaplin as Darn Hosiery, a Spanish
Officer on watch at a popular smuggling point. Local barman Lillas
Pastia (Jack Henderson) persuades an attractive gypsy girl, Carmen
(Edna Purviance) to distract the guard while they smuggle their goods.
Despite having no interest in the man Carmen uses her charms to
distract Hosiery who ends up in a love quartet for the gypsy's heart.
Burlesque on Carmen is an above average Essanay picture and features some nice subtle comedy as well as the usual trips, kicks and pokes. It also features the first noticeably decent performance from Chaplin regular Edna Purviance.
Purviance who appeared in every one of Chaplin's Essanay films and went on to appear in over thirty with the comedian over an eight year period had up to now, in my opinion, merely been a background prop for Chaplin to move about and turn his attention to when necessary. Often, through no fault of her own she would play characters with names such as 'A Woman', 'Girl' or 'Maid' but here as Carmen, with a proper fleshed out character, she shines. She is saucy and flirty yet firm and strong headed and is at the forefront of the story. It's nice to see her finally come into her own.
What's also nice is for Chaplin to take the action away from his traditional locations such as a house or park and transplant the plot to Spain. This gives him the excuse to try different sets and costumes, many of which add to the humour. He has great fun with a rather bushy military moustache and finds humour in his Uniform. The imagined heat of the Spanish sun also gives Edna Purviance a chance to show her face (and body), often hidden under bonnets and shawls. This is the first instance where I actually noticed the lightness of her hair as it is so often hidden from view. As I mentioned at the top there is a fair bit of subtle humour here to go along with the more obvious attempts. I loved how Chaplin slyly stole a beer and the looks he gave his fellow officer when trying to get 'time alone' with Purviance were fantastic.
For me the biggest laugh came when Chaplin is annoyed at a man blowing a horn. He carefully positions himself behind the man, lifts up the back of his tunic, unsheathes his sword, sharpens it, raises it above his head and then kicks him up the arse before returning the sword to its sheath. I loved the misdirection and patience of the joke. Overall I laughed out loud around five or six times which puts it towards the top of the Essanay films in that respect.
The final few minutes are surprisingly dark, even for a comedian famed for his pathos. I was totally shocked by just how grim it was and was glad for the final reveal even if the relationship didn't make much sense.
It's surprising how many films Chaplin made out of his tramp character in his earlier years. Here, in a parody of the famous opera (hence the highly original title), Chaplin plays a soldier in charge of the guard detailed to prevent smuggling onto its country's shores. The ne'er-do-wells who want to bring in their goods employ Carmen, a voluptuous young lady who is rather free and easy with her favours, to entice Chaplin away so that they can go about their business as usual. This one's a bit of a mess, with only a few scattered laughs found amongst a fairly turgid attempt at lampooning high(ish) art. Definitely not one of Chaplin's best, but then he was churning out so many films during this period that I suppose he was bound to produce a turkey every now and then.
One of Chaplin's longest films up to that point, Burlesque on Carmen is
a clever and surprisingly complex parody of what was then "Prosper
Merimee's" well-known story about "Carmen." I was a little confused
about the difference between the IMDb's listing of the 1915 Burlesque
on Carmen and the 1916 version. Based on the running time I assume that
it was the 1915 version that I saw, since the 1916 one is a good 20
minutes longer, and from what I've read, those are 20 unnecessary and
From the very beginning, it's clear that Burlesque on Carmen is one of Chaplin's most complex and ambitious efforts to date, starting off with a long back story, told through inter-titles, about the tragic love story of Carmen.
Carmen is sent by a band of gypsies ("A band who put the GYP in gypsy."), to seduce a Spanish officer so they can pull off their smuggling operation. It's a clever, Chaplinesque band of criminals, the leader of whom, Lillas Pastia, has "spent 50 years learning to steal, thinking he might be offered a job in politics."
On a side note, I've seen some almost misogynistic messages and jokes in some of Chaplin's earlier work, but probably none quite as overt as in this one. Near the beginning of the movie, as the band of gypsies are traveling, there is a scene where the mules and women are loading, and an inter-title explains that "the mules are the ones with long ears." In case you couldn't tell, I guess.
Chaplin plays the part of Don Jose, the hapless officer who is to be seduced by Carmen. He is described as "a brave soldier and lover of women." Not exactly a stretch for Chaplin who removed any doubt about his ability to play a convincing comic soldier a few years later in the brilliant Shoulder Arms. And of course, he didn't have to act about being a lover of women.
What is different here, of course, is his polished military uniform and straight-backed disciplinary manner, interspersed, of course, with some of his traditional slap-stick moves. He strikes me as a little guy in a position of authority, struggling to maintain the respect of his subordinates by exerting a gruff, stolid exterior.
Soon Carmen enters ("Loved by all men under the age of 96 "), and she immediately begins flirting with Charlie. I should mention that for a good majority of the movie, it is surprisingly faithful to the original story, which was full of jealousy and tragedy. Chaplin is strangely convincing as a jealous lover, able to evoke a jealous passion that I've never seen from him. There's at least one scene where he is genuinely a little scary.
Chaplin has some great sight gags in the movie, like a hilarious table dance and some classic sword fighting near the end. And his boyish charm and the role of a soldier is also definitely a winning combination, although there is another peculiar stunt involving a group of men pushing a huge door back and forth that wasn't very effective to begin with but just kept going on and on and on, probably about five times longer than it was worth. Although it was interesting that when it finally fell over it clearly was revealed as a movie prop. I always appreciate such glimpses at the old movie sets.
The end of the film is it's strongest part. It bears striking resemblance to Romeo and Juliet, but just when you think that Chaplin is going to conduct a major thematic experiment by diverging distantly from his traditional style, there is a hilarious twist that is as vintage Chaplin as anything I've ever seen. Nice work!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"A Burlesque on Carmen" is a silent short film from 1915, so this one is of course in black-and-white and it is now already over a century old. The version I watched ran for slightly over half an hour, but I see there's also version out there that run for over 40 minutes. And there is one that features Peter Sellers as narrator, which is a bit strange as this is a silent film like I wrote. is he reading the intertitles? I am not sure, but if you like him , then perhaps that's the version to choose for you. The title already gives away that this is another version of the famous Prosper Mérimée story about Carmen and she is of course played by Chaplin regular Edna Purviance. You will find more than just a few other names in here who were really prolific and successful back in the day, even if their most known works are not necessarily associated with Chaplin, such as Jamison, Turpin or White. From that perspective, it is a bit of an oddity for a Chaplin film, but also from the perspective that literature adaptations are not necessarily anything you'd expect Chaplin to star in, even if he clearly changed the material enough for this to work from a comedic perspective. Overall, I cannot say I enjoyed the watch too much and I give it a thumbs-down, even if it is without a doubt, maybe because of the unusual approach, one of Chaplin's most known short film works. Not recommended.
Although it is hard to follow the story of Carmen opera in this spoof (it is quite confusing), that is a very funny short from genius Charles Chaplin. Charlie does not play his tramp here, but a military called Darn Hosiery, a tramp-like version of Don José. There are numerous hilarious situations, making the fans not to miss the little tramp. Chaplin's slapstick is brilliant as usual. Just imagine comedian like Chaplin with military costumes, weapons, and making their gestures... It is as if the comedian were in an amusing park! The fencing (judo?!) scene is excellent! Intertitles make as laugh a lot too. Edna Purviance had one of her best performances in my opinion, as Carmen. Great end!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Burlesque on Carmen (1916) is Charles Chaplin's parody of Georges Bizet' famous opera.Chaplin isn't the famous tramp this time but a Spanish officer Darn Hosiery who falls for the beautiful and dangerous gypsy temptress Carmen.Chaplin's number one girl Edna Purviance plays Carmen.One good reason to watch this movie is to see those two working together.Together they created magic.And there's also the fantastic cross-eyed comedian Ben Turpin playing the part of Remendados.Even though Chaplin could do much better than this it still isn't a bad movie.He was incapable to make a bad movie.For me it would be hard, if not impossible to give less than eight stars to a Chaplin movie.Chaplin was not only a fine movie maker but he was also a talented writer of books.I own his autobiography and at the moment I'm reading 'My Trip Abroad (1922)'.So he could do much more than act the clown on films.The ending of this movie is dramatic but I was happily surprised to see Charlie and Edna get up after he's stabbed them both.Like a knife could ever kill Chaplin and his girl!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chaplin directed and starred in this parody of Cecil B. DeMille's Carmen, which was released only two months before this film. Chaplin plays Don Jose as Darn Hosiery in full period military regalia. It's one of his few films that we don't see any indication of his tramp costume. Edna Purviance, of course, plays Carmen, the tantalizing temptress and cigarette factory girl. The film, while containing some brief bits of slapstick, for the most part follows a more subtle comedic approach. It mirrors the actual story of Carmen quite well. Chaplin plays the dramatic, sympathetic, and jealous parts of Don Jose surprisingly well considering his limited dramatic experience in films at the time. The film packs a lot of story and action in its time frame, despite the often lengthy production time the story usually requires. There are several fun Chaplain-like moments that arrive like lost friends when we least expect them. The closing moment in the film juxtaposed with the familiar death scene of Carmen is pure Chaplain. It's an ambitious departure from most of his earlier work. **1/2 of 4 stars.
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