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Measured in terms of sheer belly-laughs The Cure may well be the
funniest movie Charlie Chaplin ever made. Not one moment is given over
to sentimentality about childhood trauma, unrequited love, poverty or
anything of the sort; this time around, Chaplin is single-minded in his
drive to make us laugh, and he achieves his goal with ruthless and
The story's setting may require a bit of explanation for younger viewers. At the time this film was made there were a number of well-known health resorts in the U.S. and Europe built around mineral springs. It was fashionable for middle- and upper-class people to spend a week or two at these spas to address whatever health problems they might be struggling with, for it was believed that mineral water cured or at least alleviated a variety of ailments. The resorts were visited by well-to-do patients afflicted with everything from rheumatism, gout, or polio to chronic alcoholism, and someone in the latter category who went to a spa to get clean and sober was said to be "taking the cure."
When Charlie arrives at the spa that is our setting, pushed in a wheeled deck-chair by a uniformed attendant and obviously still tipsy, we know right away that despite the familiar mustache he's not the Little Tramp we usually encounter. Here, though slightly disheveled, Charlie sports a dapper ensemble of light jacket, straw boater, and spotted tie, indicating that he's a respectable bourgeois citizen who has come to this place -- probably at the insistence of family or friends -- to dry out. It's soon apparent that he has no intention of changing his ways, however, for his wardrobe trunk is full of booze and he wastes no time in refreshing himself. When an attendant tries to ply him with mineral water he reacts with disgust, and after taking a sip rushes back to his room to wash the taste out of his mouth with liquor. Just to demonstrate that he's not entirely a wastrel, however, Charlie gallantly rescues a young lady (Edna Puviance) from the unwelcome attentions of an obnoxious man (Eric Campbell), and even sobers up long enough to go for a massage and a very brief dip in the spa's pool. Eventually, Charlie's stash of liquor is discovered by the resort's manager and inadvertently dumped into the spring. Soon, everyone in the place except for Charlie and Edna is drunk and disorderly, and Charlie must once again come to Edna's aid.
The great sequences in this comedy begin almost immediately, when Charlie confronts a revolving door and has his first run-in with Eric Campbell, whose unpleasant personality determines that his gouty foot will be fair game for brutality thereafter. Campbell, who wears an especially nasty-looking beard, has a great moment when he appears behind Edna in the lobby, leering at her through a curtain like a crazed goblin. Things get a little risqué when Charlie misinterprets Eric's flirty gestures as meant for himself, but the real comic highpoint comes when Charlie heads for the pool and must fend off a beefy masseur (Henry Bergman). This sequence is absolutely hilarious no matter how many times you see it, and stands with the best work of Chaplin's career.
Perhaps the synopsis of The Cure will sound distasteful to anyone who hasn't seen the film; and granted, attitudes towards substance abuse have changed over time. I maintain that Chaplin was well aware of the seriousness of his subject matter -- his own father died young as a result of alcoholism -- and that he did not take it lightly. The true subject of this film was the contemporary fashion for health resorts, and much of the humor derives from poking fun at the proponents of the spring's curative powers. We see just enough of the spa's administrative staff to get a sense of their self-righteousness, a well-meaning but pompous attitude suggesting that they know all the answers and hold the key to health and happiness. Charlie with his trunk-full of booze is a dangerously subversive element in this atmosphere, and it's his (almost accidental) overthrow of authority that's funny and exhilarating.
The Cure is beautifully staged, expertly performed, and hilarious. Where health and happiness are concerned I'd say that viewing it is as restorative as the spring waters touted by the resort's staff in the film: it's good and good for you.
Very simply the most hysterical of all his Mutuals! Charlie is not only inebriated throughout his stay in rehab but makes sure everyone in the place gets crocked too! A masterpiece! A riot! You'll laugh until you wet your pants!
Charlie, an alcoholic, goes to a health spa for the water cure. He does so, however, only half-heartedly since his luggage is filled almost entirely with alcohol. Once at the spa, he flirts with the always-delightful Edna Purviance and battles with always-menacing Eric Campbell, who finds himself at slight disadvantage in this film since his character suffers from gout. This film, Chaplin's tenth under his twelve-film Mutual contract, doesn't quite scale the heights of his previous one, "Easy Street," but remains one of his most consistently funny shorts. A revolving door is used repeatedly for great comic effect, but the highlight of the film is the massage sequence where Charlie desperately tries to avoid the rough treatment masseur Henry Bergman deals out. Charlie interestingly abandons his normal tramp persona for this film. Although he felt rich drinkers were ripe targets for comedy, he felt that alcoholism in the working class was a serious problem which wasn't suitable for comedy. (Don't ask me for attribution, but I know he said that somewhere.)
Much of the delights in this short film involve a tipsy Charlie (whose
luggage consists entirely of bottles, to the good fortune of the
weirdly bearded porter) and a grouchy, gouty, Eric Campbell - a perfect
foil for Chaplin, he'd be much missed after his death in a road
accident later in 1917.
Edna Purviance, Charlie's usual sweetie in these short films, is a welcome presence, but it is Chaplin himself who shines throughout 'The Cure', whether struggling from the over zealous attention of a Turkish bath attendant, walking his funny walk up steps, or getting stuck along with Campbell in a set of revolving doors.
It doesn't get much better than this.
In "The Cure", one of those 12 marvelous shorts he made during his time
at Mutual Films, Charlie Chaplin turns away for once again from his
'little tramp' image that had already become his 'trademark', and
returns to a role he'd played LOTS of times back in England in his
theater days: that of the wealthy drunkard. And of course, not only his
great experience in this field, but also all the HILARIOUSLY funny
ideas he fits into those two reels of sheer, GREAT comedy, provides
today's audience with JUST the same amount of laughter as it did 100
years ago - Chaplin's films NEVER 'age'...
So our tipsy 'gentleman' arrives at the sanitarium, where he's supposed to get used to drinking water instead of whiskey; he makes us ROAR with laughter with the unbelievable things he does with the revolving entrance door, he flirts with Edna Purviance, just like huge Eric Campbell does (and for a short while, Charlie actually thinks it's HIM who's Campbell's love interest!), turns the massage by Henry Bergman into a wrestling match... While at the same time, the porter starts emptying the liquor bottles Charlie's brought along with him just in case - but that's not all: he throws the remainders of the bottles out of the window right into the sanitarium's water well...
In short: "The Cure" is certainly one of the VERY best silent comedy shorts; and so it's not only a REAL treat for Chaplin fans, but also an IDEAL way for today's audiences, both grown-ups and kids, to discover the magic world of silent movies!
Before Chaplin got into films, he was well known on the English stage
for his roles playing a drunk, yet these roles are undeniably the
weakest performances of his early film career. The movie opens with him
stumbling all over himself as an exasperated bellhop tries in vain to
lead him into a hotel. There is the obligatory mayhem involved in
getting through a revolving door, which goes on for as long as it can.
Chaplin seems to have an almost prophetic knack for milking a gag until
there's nothing left! Once inside, what seemed like just another drunk
movie turns delightfully into something else.
Charlie reprimands a bellhop about to light a cigarette, and wags his finger at him, reminding him that smoking is bad for you health, and then casually opens a suitcase packed to the brim with every kind of alcohol imaginable. Needless to say, soon the bellhop doesn't seem to smoke much anymore, but spends most of his remaining screen time falling over drunk off of booze that he apparently "borrowed" from Charlie's suitcase. And by the way, seeing all of those bottles of 1917 alcohol reminds me of a long standing wish that I could have tasted Coca-Cola back in the old days, when it lived up to its name
Soon Charlie checks into one of those establishments where you go to relax in the pool, spa, sauna, or get a massage, etc. I'm not sure what they're called in English, but I know that in Chinese it translates to "bath house." It's interesting to me to see what the place was like, because when I lived in America I never really spent much time in them, although I have been to some astonishingly nice ones in Colombia and China. It may be the third world, but I guess when a sizable portion of the population has no shower at home, public bathing spots are big business. There's an amusing scene involving a swimming pool and then a frighteningly vicious massage, which appears to be a mandatory experience in this particular bath house, and the massive masseuse chases Charlie all over the place, ultimately flat out fighting with him.
But the best part of the film is that Charlie doesn't just play a drunk, we see him the next morning, and his actual dependency on alcohol is brilliantly portrayed. There is a scene where he charms a young woman off her feet, and she offers him a drink which at first he refuses, given that he's still recovering from the night before. But he takes a sip anyway, and then downs the rest of the glass and pours himself another, eventually taking the whole jug and drinking it down in front of the young lady, who is unimpressed. It mirrors the end of the film, which quite literally illustrates the message of the movie, which is that too much alcohol will lead to your life falling "in the drink."
This is an odd film from the outset, as Chaplin doesn't play the Little
Tramp--the poor but decent soul he usually played. Instead, he's a rich
alcoholic who goes to a spa to "take the cure"; i.e., rest, drink lots
of mineral water and kick his booze habit. It's obvious, though, that
he's not the least bit motivated as his luggage consists of dozens of
bottles of booze. When the staff find them, they throw them out the
window and accidentally into the spring--thus "fortifying" the water
significantly. Everyone there gets drunk and Charlie finds, for the
first time, he actually LIKES water! Highly ridiculous and silly, but
that's slapstick for you. All-in-all, a very good film but quite a
departure for Chaplin.
By the way, some time after I first saw and reviewed this movie I saw the documentary "Unknown Chaplin" and a significant portion of the first part of this interesting British show was about THE CURE. It was very interesting to see how the film evolved. In the beginning, Charlie cast himself as a bellhop and another person as the drunk. But after seeing many takes and re-takes, he apparently decided to do the drunk role himself. Many of the bellboy scenes were re-shot--now with Charlie doing them as the drunk. This documentary is a must-see for Chaplin fans.
This time, Charlie Chaplin plays a drunk who has to spend some time in a health spa. Sure enough, he creates chaos everywhere he goes! "The Cure" was also one of Edna Purviance's early roles. The two of them have a couple of scenes together. But above all, this is an excuse for Chaplin to strut his stuff, and boy does he! It must have been weird for Chaplin, going as he did from being a poor boy in England to being an international superstar. Nonetheless, he gave us some of the greatest comedies of all time. That makes it all the more disgraceful that the US government - mired in McCarthyism - wouldn't let him reenter the country in 1952, forcing him to spend the rest of his life in exile. Fortunately, Chaplin got the last laugh: he won an Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1972, and he remains one of the most beloved entertainers ever.
THE CURE (Mutual Studios, 1917), Written, directed and starring Charlie
Chaplin, his tenth comedy short (20 minutes) for the Mutual studio, is
one of his all time greats. For a title that indicates one to be set in
a hospital with Charlie as an unruly patient who flirts with the nurses
and drives his doctors crazy, in essence, it takes place in a
sanitarium that wherever Charlie goes, trouble follows. For THE CURE,
Chaplin breaks away from his traditional tramp character with derby and
cane for straw hat, white suit and cane retained, stirring as much
trouble as he can, intentionally or not, to those around him.
The story opens at a resort with an assortment of female gossips gathered together seated around the health spring where enters the new resident, the drunken Charlie (Charlie Chaplin), arriving for a rest cure, to nearly fall into the water well on the ground. After being escorted to his room by a frail and thin bellboy, Charlie opens his crate that reveals an assortment of liquor bottles. Once the bottles are discovered with the bearded bellboy found drunk in Charlie's room, the superintendent (Frank J. Coleman) orders the bottles thrown out. The attendant (Albert Austin) takes him literally and throws the bottles out the window where they end up inside the water spring below. In the meantime, Charlie makes his rounds about the resort, encountering an attractive woman (Edna Purviance) being annoyed by the burly gout (Eric Campbell), thus, saving the day by becoming a big annoyance for the big man and hero to the girl. Later at the massage parlor, Charlie begins to have second thoughts of treatment when witnessing how the sadistic masseur (Henry Bergman) works on one of his customers. Following a series of unforeseen circumstances, Edna, whose about to meet with Charlie, discovers, to her disbelief, the refined residents and attendants having way too much fun for themselves in the lobby without knowing the reason why. And if that isn't enough!!!
While there's not much plot nor character background development to go around, THE CURE is non-stop comedy, pure and simple. The carefully planned-out gags are enough to guarantee solid laughs with Chaplin stock character types in their proper roles for background support. As much as Chaplin is the sole attraction when it comes to both character and gags, Eric Campbell should not go unnoticed for his achievement in villainous comedy. Campbell, better known in later years as "Chaplin's Goliath," partakes in some of the greatest sight gags imaginable, including the revolving door, his reaction towards Charlie's misconducts involving his bandaged foot, his involvement with Charlie in both lobby and massage parlor, his trip down the stairs in a wheelchair, among others. Aside from Edna Purviance as Chaplin's frequent female co-star, other members of the cast include James T. Kelly, John Rand, Janet Miller Sully and Loyal Underwood.
In the well documented three-part 1983 documentary, "Unknown Chaplin," there are some detailed moments capturing behind the scenes preparation for THE CURE, with Chaplin directing various sequences that were rehearsed and filmed, but not making it to the final print, and how changes to THE CURE developed into what has become one of Chaplin's finest gems, especially when properly scored on the musical soundtrack.
When presented on public television in the sixties and seventies, this and other Chaplin's Mutual comedies (1916-17) were broadcast with sound effects and musical score taken from 1930s reissue prints. For THE CURE, underscoring consisted of current hit tunes of the day ranging from "Happy Feet" to "Happy Days Are Here Again." These reissue prints later became part of the Blackhawk/ Republic Home Video package dating back to the 1980s. In latter years, Chaplin's Mutual comedies were restored to accurate silent projection speed (25 minutes) with new orchestral score from KINO Video, the prints that have played on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 6, 1999). After listening to different scores from various distributors, nothing comes off better than those orchestrated ones from Blackhawk for that bad scoring takes away the impact for such a fine comedy, considering how these twelve Chaplin shorts for Mutual are simply the cure for what ales you. (****)
At this time, he may have been making his most effective story-based
short pictures like Easy Street and The Immigrant, but Charlie Chaplin
still had time for a good old chaotic mess around, such as was the
staple in his days at Essanay studios.
In fact The Cure is very much like his Essanay pictures, in that it takes an established environment, which Charlie's character then invades and turns topsy-turvy, much as he did in His New Job, Work, A Night in the Show and more. However it is done with the polish and professionalism of the Mutual pictures. The scene is set with a couple of brief images of prim Edwardian ladies sipping daintily at the waters of a health spa. This is the world Charlie will overturn. When Chaplin arrives we are treated to over five minutes of uninterrupted gags, all in a seamless flow. He lampoons revolving doors, pummelling masseurs, and of course Eric Campbell, before building up to a grand scale bit of mischief as the whole clientele and staff become unwittingly intoxicated. What makes it extra funny is the way Chaplin whirls around seemingly unaware of the trail of destruction he leaves behind him.
You can also see in The Cure how neat and effective Chaplin's use of space and timing is now. He first pulls up in a wheelchair quite far back in the shot. In the foreground is that badly-placed waterhole, like an accident waiting to happen. Chaplin builds up a kind of comic suspense in making us wonder how long it will be before he puts his foot in it. There's also a great little arrangement in the shot where Eric Campbell is flirting with Edna Purviance and Chaplin comes walking down the stairs. Campbell is the most animated in this shot, but the camera tilts down as Chaplin descends. Thus are eyes are drawn to Eric but we are also made conscious of Charlie's arrival on the scene.
There's little else to say this is an all-round good effort, and perhaps Chaplin's best "just for fun" picture yet.
But we mustn't forget the all-important statistic Number of kicks up the arse 1 (1 for)
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