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So evidently the floorwalker is the guy that walks around the store
making sure no one is shoplifting, which provides a wonderful situation
for a little mixed identity. Chaplin plays an obnoxious browser,
testing all of the products in the store and generally making a big
mess without buying anything (this may be one of the few times in his
career when he displayed a little understanding of the plight of the
store owners dealing with pesky shoppers who don't buy anything). Soon,
however, he is back to sticking up for the people. The floorwalker
begins harassing Charlie while a real thief robs the place blind right
There are two new and interesting things in this film. One is the escalator, which I have a feeling is the first escalator ever to appear in a motion picture (if you know of an earlier one, I'd be curious to hear about it), and the other is a Chaplin look-a-like. He's much bigger than the diminutive Chaplin, of course, but it's the first time I've seen his double appear with him in one of his movies.
The escalator is well used here, as well. The humor surrounding it goes a long way, and Chaplin speed walking down it is one of the more memorable moments of his early career. Soon, the double, in his efforts to make off with a suitcase full of cash, pays Charlie to trade clothes with him (I am always suspicious of someone who wants me to wear their clothes out of a store), which Charlie foolishly accepts.
The set up for the physical comedy is unusually clever in this film. The real bad guy gets caught and Charlie is congratulated for helping to capture him, then later an oafish guard wakes up (he had fallen victim to that silent film curiosity where someone gets knocked out and then later wakes up as though well-rested from a deep sleep), and comes after Charlie, unaware of his new hero status. He gives Charlie a hilarious thrashing.
My favorite moment in the film is Charlie's brief farewell dance before he attempts to dive into that handbag. It reminds me of the prestidigitonious (something like that) scene in Sword in the Stone, one of my all time favorite animated films.
There is a great scene near the end where Charlie does a hilarious little dance. It's hard to pinpoint it, but there is something definitely charming about the way he dances. I feel like I've seen a thousand other people do the same thing, and yet it still looks totally unique when he does it. The ending of this film is a little abrupt, but this is probably some of his best physical comedy yet.
There are some good moments in "The Floorwalker" that make up for the more
routine parts. Chaplin gets good mileage out of an identity mix-up - a
theme he always liked - and he also has some good slapstick moments with
Eric Campbell, one of his best supporting actors. The plot is mostly
serving mainly as an excuse to allow the characters to chase each other
around the store. Overall, it's about average for a Chaplin short
which makes it pretty good by most other standards.
A floorwalker, Lloyd Bacon, and manager, Eric Campbell, rob the safe of
a department store. Before they can leave with their ill-gotten gains,
the floorwalker knocks the manager out and steals his share. To evade
detectives, the floorwalker induces a look-alike tramp, Charlie
Chaplin, to trade places with him. When the detectives arrest the real
floorwalker, Chaplin is left with a suitcase of money and one small
problem: Eric wants the money and revenge.
"The Floorwalker" was the first of Chaplin's twelve two-reel films for the Mutual Company. These are perhaps the best series of two-reel silent comedies. Chaplin made great strides as film maker during this period, and laid the groundwork for his feature-length triumphs to come.
The difference between the Mutual films and his Essanay films of the previous year are obvious from the start. The technical quality of the film making in almost all categories increases, and, although there are some notable holdovers from Essanay, especially leading- lady Edna Purviance, the quality of his stock company at Mutual also improves. "The Floorwalker" gives us the debut of Eric Campbell, Chaplin's best heavy, and Albert Austin, another stalwart foil. Most importantly, the level of humor rises from the rough, knockabout slapstick of his earliest films.
"The Floorwalker" is more heavily-plotted than most of his earlier shorts. It uses Chaplin's common plot device of mistaken identity which he frequently employed from 1914's "Caught in a Cabaret" to 1940's "The Great Dictator." This device allowed his tramp "everyman" to get a taste of the lifestyle of the rich and stuffy. This time he doesn't reach as high - merely to the ranks of the employed. The gags are good, in particular Chaplin makes excellent use of an escalator, although the film isn't as funny as many that will soon follow. Still, "The Floorwalker" remains one of my favorite Mutuals, if only for the sentimental reason that it was the first full-length two- reeler I bought in Super 8mm when I was a kid.
Well worth a look, but not the best introduction to Chaplin.
Monday September 10, 7:00 pm, The Paramount Theater, Seattle
The first of twelve films Charles Chaplin produced for the Mutual Film Corporation, The Floorwalker(1916) might have been titled The Escalator, which is the focal point and primary source of the film's humor. Chaplin developed the idea after visiting department stores in New York and worked out the details while filming. Much of this process can be understood by viewing Chaplin's outtakes featured in Unknown Chaplin, the remarkable documentary produced by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in 1983. Charlie wanders into a store and amuses himself while a clerk (Albert Austin) observes. The floorwalker (who bears a striking resemblance to Charlie) and store manager (Eric Campbell) attempt to embezzle a suitcase filled with cash while their startled secretary (Edna Purviance) observes. Identities are confused and the floorwalker (dressed in Charlie's cloths) is arrested by the store detective, while the manager struggles with Charlie, and the escalator, to retrieve the suitcase.
This is the first picture Charlie Chaplin made at Mutual studios. After
a year-long maturing period at Essanay, he had at last set off in
search of greater creative freedom and vastly inflated salaries. This
is precisely what Mutual gave him.
The most obvious difference between the Floorwalker and the shorts that went before it is the level of confidence and cinematic professionalism Chaplin now displays. There is a lengthy opening sequence before the little tramp even appears, establishing the antagonists and the scam in which Charlie will later become embroiled. Eric Campbell is introduced with a formidable close-up, giving him a more menacing and memorable entrance. There's also a bit of bold cross-cutting, some of which becomes a joke in itself. For example, we cut back-and-forth from Albert Austin tussling with the essentially harmless Charlie, while behind his back a gang of thieves rob the store blind. That particular gag also shows his willingness to sometimes move the camera away from himself, making his little tramp the cause of the comedy but not the focus of it. These were all techniques Chaplin had used before, but never quite to this extent or with this much bravura.
With a new studio came new supporting actors, and here we see the introduction of two very important figures in the Chaplin career. Most noticeable of these was the stupendous Eric Campbell, who fulfilled in the Mutual films the role of the bully. Campbell's appeal works on the old adage of "the bigger they come the harder they fall", but he's also a wonderfully expressive comedy character, all his movements looking comically exaggerated because of his size. The floorwalker also marks the debut of Albert Austin, who does a similar job to that of Billy Armstrong in the Essanays, that is, a lanky twerp for Charlie to wind up. He makes a good impression here, tumbling helplessly and striving to maintain his dignity. Fortunately, Chaplin brought across some of his best collaborators from the Essanay days, but Leo White and even Edna Purviance get a bit lost among all the new faces here. Honourable mentions go to Charlotte Mineau and Lloyd Bacon, both of whom had bit parts in a few Essanay pictures, now appearing in meatier roles.
In spite of its technical polish and auspicious debuts, it has to be said that the Floorwalker is one of the less entertaining Mutual pictures. It has its moments (surely the best of which is Charlie's "mirror-image" routine with Lloyd Bacon, repeated years later by the Marx brothers in Duck Soup), but there is bit too much going on and a few too many characters, with not enough high quality comedy in between. Chaplin would have to do a little better than this to justify his hefty new pay packet.
Still, let us not forget that all-important statistic Number of kicks up the arse: 6 (3 for, 3 against)
In this silent short we see Chaplin creating chaos in a department store.He becomes mixed in a scheme of the store manager and the store's floorwalker to embezzle money from the establishment.The Floorwalker (1916) is Charlie Chaplin's first Mutual Film Corporation film.Eric Campbell plays Store manager.Edna Purviance is Manager's secretary.Lloyd Bacon is Assistant manager.Charlotte Mineau plays Beautiful store detective.This is not the best Chaplin short, but it does have its moments.It's most enjoyable to watch Chaplin doing his ballet moves while Campbell chases him in the office.And then there's the mirror gag with Bacon, with whom Charlie bears some likeness.It's similar to what Groucho Marx did in Duck Soup in the 30's.We also get to see a chase down an upward escalator.For Chaplin fans, like myself, this short is one not to be missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In May of 1916, Chaplin released his first of twelve films for Mutual called The Floorwalker, which he edited, wrote, produced, and directed. It's notable as the first film he produced in his career. It's reminiscent of his earlier Keystone comedies in at least one respect: It's heavily reliant upon slapstick. However, now with complete control over his films, Chaplin could incorporate what he wanted to and how he wanted to do things in his films. In The Floorwalker, employs slapstick, visual gags, and mistaken identity in a plot about a ne'er-do-well set loose in a department store. The film builds to a comic crescendo utilizing an escalator, as Chaplin inadvertently puts the kibosh on store employees' plans to rob the place. The highlight, of course, is Chaplin's use of the escalator, a first in movies. Edna Purviance appears in a brief role as the store manager's secretary. The film marks the first appearance of burly comedic actor Eric Campbell, who plays the thieving store manager. Campbell became an excellent comic foil for Chaplin in his Mutual efforts due to the enormous size difference between the two men and the visual emphasis of silent films. Lloyd Bacon and Wesley Ruggles appear in supporting roles. **1/2 of 4 stars.
If you have read my other reviews of Chaplin's comedy shorts, you may
have noticed that I have generally given very poor reviews of films
made during his first couple years in Hollywood (1914-1915). In
general, they had no script or direction, were never really edited and
just weren't particularly funny. In addition, Chaplin had a lot to
learn about and develop regarding his Little Tramp character. by 1916,
however, the movies began to improve as Chaplin was now the creative
force behind all his films and he had honed his craft.
For a 1916 short, this is a pretty good film. It does have a pretty decent plot and it's pretty enjoyable. There's just one problem and I doubt if it is Chaplin's fault. When the film is nearing its conclusion, it just seems to end abruptly during the final climactic fight. I really think that the last few seconds of the film have been lost and that is why it ends this way. This isn't too uncommon for Chaplin shorts, as many have been pieced together from many different prints and many differing versions of the same short exist. I'd love to see a more complete print than was available on THE ESSENTIAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN COLLECTION, v. 7.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have actually seen outtakes from this film in the TV miniseries UNSEEN CHAPLIN, and separately as a boy. It is one of the Tramp's finest performances, bar none, and features my favourite situation, a case of mistaken identity. The Tramp enters a huge department store and is mistaken for the title character, who is his exact double except for the fact that he is taller than him - and I'd like to know how Chaplin managed that! Eventually, of course, everything is straightened out, and the thieving floorwalker is arrested. One of the few times where Chaplin portrayed a villain, this is among the best of the short comedies he directed over the years.
Although Charlie Chaplin made some great short comedies in the late 1910's,
others don't quite make it. Examples like His New Job and Shanghaied come to
mind, and I would also The Floorwalker in this category.
Charlie gets mistaken for a manager of a department store (and vice versa). This manager tries to steal money from the cash register and make a run for it, and Charlie is just an honest costumer but getting blamed for some missing objects, stolen by other costumers.
There aren't many laughs in it, except for the last couple of minutes or so with some great scenes on the escalator. For the rest, quite disappointing.
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