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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:


Author: luciferjohnson from NYC
18 December 2004

One of the funniest movies every made, and definitely one of Chaplin's finest. It refreshingly lacks the pathos that Chaplin (sometimes unwisely) inserted in his later movies.

This short is memorable because of its unrelenting comedy "business," such as the famous scene in which a customer brings in an alarm clock and Chaplin examines it like a doctor, eventually taking a pair of pliers and yanking out its innards. This and other routines were later stolen by other comedians. For example, the scene in which an old actor comes in to sell a ring. This bit was stolen, in every single detail--down to Chaplin spitting crackers while crying--by Abbott & Costello.

Chaplin's constant tussling with another shop assistant, played by John Rand, is hilarious. Oddly, Rand did not receive screen credit for his role, even though he appears in almost every scene and is brilliant.

The Pawn Shop also provided good roles for other Chaplin regulars, including Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Albert Austin (as the customer with the clock), and Henry Bergmann as the pawn shop proprietor.

One interesting sidelight to this film is that the Bergmann character wears a skullcap and is identifiably Jewish--which is accurate enough, given that most urban pawnshops were owned by Jewish people at the time. This means that two of the main characters, he and Purviance, were Jewish. That was unusual at the time, particularly because the characters are not stereotyped.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

One of Chaplin's Best

Author: wadetaylor from Memphis
27 October 2005

This is definitely one of Chaplin's top 5 or 6 shorts. The part with Albert Austin and the clock is just so hilarious, and I really like the end of that bit where the drunk gets pushed down, just because it makes no sense.

I think this is the exact point in Chaplin's oeuvre in which he matured to the point in which he could make masterpieces. Don't get me wrong I like many of his earlier shorts, but everything he did from this point on could be argued as a masterpiece of comic cinema.

It is true that there isn't a great amount of pathos in this one, but I like the fact that there a just so many ridiculous situations that come one after the other. A+ grade.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

dangerously funny

Author: nelsonjcole from maine
27 July 2004

I saw this with a friend at a screening with a live ragtime orchestra (Paragon Ragtime Orchestra?). It was excellent. A good print and good music (not always easy to find in silent movie reissues). Both of us probably never laughed harder; I was actually worried at one point that I was going to hurt myself. While dedicated Buster Keaton fans, we were forced to admit that Chaplin was an equal, at least. Try to find a decent print and appropriate scoring. It should look good and play at normal speed, not fast, which only happens during a poor transfer of these public domain films (I think the old silents were made at 18 frames a second, and playing them on today's 24 fps speeds them up). Awesome to think that one of the earliest pioneers in film has not been surpassed--or even equaled.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Pretty Good Chaplin Short Feature

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
19 July 2001

"The Pawnshop" is a pretty good Charlie Chaplin comedy, with some routine stretches but also some very good slapstick. It features Charlie as an assistant in a pawnshop, engaged in a heated rivalry with another employee, trying to stay on the good side of the boss and the boss's pretty daughter, and occasionally waiting on a customer. The beginning has some very funny moments, with some slapstick that makes good use of the props, which include a feather duster and a ladder. There is a funny finale with Eric Campbell - one of Chaplin's best regular supporting players - playing a thief. The parts in between have some good moments, too, but they overdo it a bit with Charlie's fights with the other shop assistant. Overall, this is an average short feature for Chaplin, which means it is pretty good by most other standards.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

One of his finest

Author: TheOtherFool from The Netherlands
16 April 2004

I've seen about 15 early shorts by Chaplin so far and this is definately in the top 5. Charlie works at a pawnshop and has to deal with several customers, his boss and ultimately a thief. But, once again, he saves the day.

Great slapstick early on with the 'ladder-scene' and later on with what seems to be a cello or contra-bass (I know nothing of those sort of things), hitting people in the face. There's also a very funny scene with an alarm-clock, which Charlie 'fixes', but not quite!

Although probably not up there with The Adventurer (my favorite short so far) or The Tramp, this is pretty funny stuff, even by Chaplins standards. Final score: 8/10.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A perfect example of what made Chaplin so great.

Author: lartronic from Akron, Ohio
17 August 2000

This was made when Chaplin was the highest point in his career, and is a perfect example of what he could do. The plot is simple enough: Charlie nearly destroys everything at a pawnshop, and the audience has a great time watching.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Superior Chaplin.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
14 November 2011

This is funnier and more inventive than some of his earlier work, and it's completely free of the pathos that would be found in his later work.

Chaplin is an assistant in a pawn shop that's run by a jumbo-sized, bearded older man who is alternately hysterical and furious and who, in both appearance and demeanor, reminded me of my cabinet-maker grandfather. Chaplin shows an amazing physical dexterity in some of the slapstick episodes and I couldn't help comparing them to the same sorts of gags that showed up in Laurel and Hardy. Without knocking Laurel and Hardy, the approaches are entirely different. Laurel and Hardy try desperately to be polite, efficient, and relatively normal. The pace is slower and more deliberate. Chaplin is faster, more aggressive, meaner. He kicks people in the pants for little reason. And he's a whirlwind of action. Even when he pretends to be unconscious in order to gain the attentions of his girl friend, he falls to the floor in a twinkling and is up just as fast to receive her ministrations.

The most memorable scene probably has to do with a customer who brings in an alarm clock. Behind the counter, Charlie exams it as a doctor would examine a patient, percussing its case, twinging its bell, and then he dismantles it roughly before handing the hatful of disordered pieces back to the guy and rejecting it with a shrug.

I think I prefer the shenanigans in the back room but partly because they involve that apoplectic owner and, I guess, because after Charlie knocks an armed robber unconscious he breaks the fourth wall, and whips around with a quick TA-TAH to the camera before the film ends.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"I'll give you another chance"

Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
5 February 2010

A truly great comedian doesn't sit around dreaming up funny situations – they take a look at what is around them and make something funny out of it. This is what stand-up comics do when they make satire out of anecdotes from their own life or surroundings. And in another way this is what Charlie Chaplin does in a picture like The Pawnshop, where he takes a realistic setting that could appear in any straight drama (or, indeed, the real world) and simply plays around with the props and conventions of the environment.

The Pawnshop is known as one of Chaplin's greatest "prop" pictures, in which he manages to sustain an entire twenty-five minute short just through messing around with the bric-a-brac and getting in the way of his co-workers. Still, what he is doing is really quite simple. He is merely very inventive at thinking up mismatches between an item and its purpose – for example using a mangle to dry crockery or absent-mindedly cleaning a violin with a soapy cloth. Like all the best comedians, Chaplin's genius lies in his timing and positioning. He never lets any routine run for too long and become boring or repetitive. He places gags where they will have the most impact – such as the spraying of crumbs when listening to the "sad story", which he does towards the end of the sequence to diffuse the over-the-top, hammy build-up. For a piece like the well-known "clock dissection", he is able to play it slowly in just two long shots because the material has plenty of potential, and he can keep the audience wondering just how far it will go.

Watching The Pawnshop, I was struck by how much more editing there now is in Chaplin's pictures. His earlier style was to keep everything in unbroken takes and let the comedy unfold naturally, but now he is throwing in a lot of angle changes and reaction shots (which is in any case consistent with how cinema was developing at this time). However he still preserves the flow of the picture by making sure the various edits complement each other. For example, in one of Charlie's fights with John Rand, we cut over to Henry Bergman gesticulating angrily at the woman with the goldfish bowl – so the pace of movement in the two shots is consistent. In an earlier fight, he throws in a couple of shots of Edna Purviance hearing the brawl from the next room. These are in mid-shot and last only a split second, thus having a snappy feel and not breaking the tempo of the fight. This is proper film-making technique in the service of comedy.

Genius as he was, where would Chaplin have been without his fine supporting cast? The Pawnshop contains some of his regular co-stars at their best, including the debut of the reliable Henry Bergman. Chaplin collected generic stock characters, and Bergman is his archetypal Jolly Fat Man. Look at the way Bergman falls – his feet go one way, his head another, while the centre of his bulk goes straight down. John Rand is great as the pompous and indignant antagonist, and he manages to match Charlie for stance and timing as he suddenly dives back to work whenever the boss walks in. There's also one the best appearances of gangly Albert Austin, whose concerned but naively trusting expression really adds to the clock dissection, making the build-up seem funnier by contrast because his face stays the same regardless of how drastic the things Charlie does to his clock are. The appearances of Eric Campbell and Edna Purviance are slightly shorter than usual, but nonetheless worthy.

Which brings us hurtling towards that all-important statistic – Number of kicks up the arse: 7 (7 against)

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Great Legendary Tramp !

Author: Umar Mansoor Bajwa ( from Lahore, Pakistan
14 November 2007

Charlie Chaplin is one of the greatest and all time finest comedian of all ages, as yet. His early silent portrayals like this surreal and sentimental presentation is his excellent work in its living originality.

His visage and gestures, his cap and the movement of stick are all lovely trademarks of this legendary comedian. Highest paid actor of his time, he deservedly ranks as an artist who is appropriately knighted with the title of "SIR".

Given the present comedy standards (if any) which mostly circumvent on computerized graphics and crazy mannerisms, it seems posterity would have to wait for quite a time to discover some real like of this paradoxically naughty, mischievous, simple, innocent and endearing little tramp.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Great slapstick, disappointing plot

Author: Tom Gooderson-A'Court ( from United Kingdom
5 September 2012

Charlie Chaplin's sixth film for Mutual is one with very high highs and disappointingly low lows. It features a scenario and story which doesn't really go anywhere but also features several moments of slapstick that are amongst his best to date.

Chaplin stars as a pawnshop assistant and gets in a long running fight with fellow employee John Rand. Typically inept at his job, Chaplin is eventually fired only to be taken back on straight away after his boss Henry Bergman has a change of heart. Meanwhile Chaplin's attentions are drawn to Bergman's daughter Edna Purviance who is busy baking in the back of the shop. Trouble appears late on as a thief, Eric Campbell enters the shop intent on taking it for everything it's got.

As I mentioned the plot is a little basic here. There is no character development and the romantic component is only hinted at. Where the film is successful is with its slapstick elements. Two areas stand out for me. The first is Chaplin's long fight with John Rand. Chaplin portrays a peculiar but extremely funny fighting style and his character in general looks like he's off his head on something. The standout though is while the fight is happening; Edna Purviance hears the ruckus and comes to investigate. Although Chaplin is beating Rand to a pulp, when he hears Edna approaching he falls to the floor and into a foetal position, faking pain. Edna immediately starts yelling at Rand for hitting the poor, defenceless Chaplin and while she does so Chaplin repeatedly checks out her bum and turns to the camera with a cheeky grin on his face. It's a fantastic scene.

Other great moments include Chaplin being ordered to wash up and putting the crockery through a mangle and a scene in which he values a clock by taking it to pieces, destroying it and then turning it down as it's broken. Moments like these remind me just how inventive and clever Chaplin was capable of being with his comedy. It's just a shame here in The Pawnshop that the comedy isn't coupled with a more impressive plot.

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