Charlie and his boss have difficulties just getting to the house they are going to wallpaper. The householder is angry because he can't get breakfast and his wife is screaming at the maid ... See full summary »
Charlie and his boss have difficulties just getting to the house they are going to wallpaper. The householder is angry because he can't get breakfast and his wife is screaming at the maid as they arrive. The kitchen gas stove explodes, and Charlie offers to fix it. The wife's secret lover arrives and is passed off as the workers' supervisor, but the husband doesn't buy this and fires shots. The stove explodes violently, destroying the house. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
This film was one of several Chaplin comedies scheduled to be shown at the New-York Historical Society in September of 2001. In the wake of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, however, this film and one other, Dough and Dynamite, were pulled from the program, because each one ends with Charlie emerging from the rubble of a destroyed building. See more »
Charlie Chaplin, in what was probably his most anarchic phase, was now basing many of his short comedies around a normal, "straight" setting, into which his little tramp character could blunder, causing mayhem as he went. Work is probably the most carefully constructed and effective in this respect.
The picture begins with a couple of extremely regular shots establishing the house in which most of the action is going to take place, and introducing us to its prim middle-class residents. Everything appears very formal, all composed of straight lines and neat areas of black and white. We then suddenly cut to Charlie chugging down the street with his boss's cart behind him. Everything in this shot has to do with disorder, with wonky telegraph poles, extras cutting across the frame, not to mention the ramshackle contraption the tramp is pulling. When we arrive at the harmonious household, the camera set-ups from the opening shots remain the same, but gradually the tramp's chaos begins to spread. The neatness and formality disappear while the mess and clutter builds up as, one by one, the rooms (and their occupants) are thrown into disarray.
Of course, Chaplin's popularity was not just founded on his comical capers. His satirical streak, here in full swing, would have struck a chord with many in his audience. I have certainly had a fair few employers who take after Chaplin's boss, and it's great fun to see this kind of character lampooned. And as in most of Chaplin's shorts there is a heart amidst the havoc, here in the form of the "sad story" scene. Even then, Chaplin wisely keeps the comedy going and stops the moment from getting too serious and saccharine.
Work is by no means the most hilarious of the Essanays, and certainly not the best developed in storyline, but on its own terms it is a pure work of genius, and positive proof that Charlie Chaplin was not just a funny little man. When it came to film-making, he knew exactly what he was doing.
And last but not least, the all-important statistic Number of kicks up the arse: 2 (2 against)
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