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The Pawnshop (1916)
A genius of pantomime at his best
In The Pawnshop, Chaplin shows all of his finest skill- the surreal ability to turn one thing into another, and the slightly twisted ability to make us believe things we know not to be true. As well, we see exactly how sentimental (yet wicked) the Tramp could be at his best. Many people admit to liking the Tramp best in the later, feature length films, but The Pawnshop may make them think twice. Further, Henry Bergman, long time Chaplin confidant and collaborator, is at his peak in this film. Playing, as usual, an overtly Jewish character, his is one of the most sensitive and lovable Jewish pawnbrokers in silent films. Anyone interested in the portrayal of Jewish identity in early cinema will find The Pawnbroker a good addition to their investigation.
The Bond (1918)
A little known gem
A fantastic reason why not to believe Cinema Expressionism was confined solely to Germany! Compare this work to Caligari, and see for yourself. The settings and makeup not only use the black and white scheme to its fullest, but the far out set designs make this a wonderfully abstract short. This little film explodes the myth that Chaplin was not a "filmic" director, as the whole thing depends entirely on artifice. A great way to explore Chaplin as an artist, not just as a movie maker or comic. The Bond may have been made to avert the scandal caused by Chaplin's failure to enlist in the army (his first real hint of bad press, nastily foreshadowing his later troubles), but it is a sign of Chaplin's abilities that he managed to make this short so much more than propaganda. Further, his brother Sidney makes a startling Kaisar!