Charlie is an expert bricklayer. He has lots of fun and work and enjoys himself greatly while at the saloon. As he leaves work his wife takes the pay he has hidden in his hat. But he steals... See full summary »
Charlie is an expert bricklayer. He has lots of fun and work and enjoys himself greatly while at the saloon. As he leaves work his wife takes the pay he has hidden in his hat. But he steals her purse so he can go out for the evening. He has a terrible time getting home on a very rainy night. When he does so he finds his wife waiting for him with a rolling pin. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Pay Day" was Charlie Chaplin's last short film, and I think it's one of his best--not especially for the gags or scenario, but mostly because of its technical superiority in film-making. I consider the scenario substandard; I prefer Charlie as a real tramp, not a man of domesticity in the tramp outfit, but that's just my preference. Doubtless, "Pay Day" is better constructed than "A Day's Pleasure", another First National short where Chaplin plays a married everyman. And, there are some very funny scenes in "Pay Day". The bricklaying at his construction job is a highlight--a carefully choreographed gag projected in reverse motion. Additionally, Chaplin is hilarious when playing a drunk.
The night scenes when the tramp becomes inebriated and his subsequent follies at his apartment are better photographed than any scenes in a Chaplin film before. Chaplin is well known to be a rather minimalist, even unimaginative, filmmaker when it came to the more technical aspects of the art, such as cinematography, but he and cinematographer Roland Totheroh tried something different here with the lighting. Their films usually feature very flat lighting, but here they employed backlighting, adding another dimension to the film's images. When Chaplin tiptoes towards the camera oblivious of his wife standing behind him in their apartment, he seems ready to fall off the screen.
The night scenes are particularly striking; the backlighting more fully exposes shadows and the shades of gray, highlighting the textures of the sets and streets. The scene where the tramp attempts to get a ride on the trolleys was broken into location shots for the trolleys and studio shooting for when Chaplin is in front of the walled background. Chaplin was by then organizing his films for more efficient production, and the result is this great-looking short.
Art director Charles D. Hall, who would have a prestigious career designing sets for various horror flicks, helped greatly to expand Chaplin's films spatially at First National, which included simply featuring more sets and covering a greater area. Of course, the difference between the First National films and his ones before has as much to do with having his own studio, but Hall's contribution shouldn't be ignored. Even though the sets are still stagy (the missing wall confounded by a lack of changing camera placements), the backlighting highlights their texture and dimensions. "Pay Day" is Chaplin's most tactile short. The Mutual films were a period of refining Chaplin's tramp persona, as were some of the First National pictures, but these First National films were also a period of experimenting with his film-making--in ways as simple as the number of reels to the technical experiments such as in "Pay Day".
6 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?