Cruel, Cruel Love (1914) Poster

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Chaplin is enjoyably hammy in this very early role
wmorrow598 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a treat for silent comedy buffs: an amusing Keystone short which features an outrageously over-the-top performance from young Charlie Chaplin, whose mugging and eye-rolling looks like a wicked send-up of rival comic (and ex-Keystone colleague) Ford Sterling. Unless you're familiar with Chaplin's early work you might not even recognize him here, for in this film he portrays an upper class fop and wears a top hat and frock coat, and also sports a long mustache different from his usual style. He resembles the con man character he played in his very first film, Making a Living, but this time he's not crooked, just foolish. In any case the Little Tramp is nowhere to be found in Cruel, Cruel Love, although in the opening scene there's a bit that Chaplin would reuse in The Pawnshop: when the leading lady gently pats Charlie's face then withdraws her hand, he promptly pulls her hand back in place for more.

The plot is simple. Charlie loves Minta, but when she catches him in a compromising (though innocent) situation with her maid she breaks off their engagement. Distraught, he returns home and takes poison -- or so he thinks. His butler has substituted water for the poison and stands by, finding the whole situation hilariously funny. For a Keystone short Cruel, Cruel Love is light on slapstick until the last minute or two. Most of the humor comes from Chaplin's hilariously melodramatic posturing. From the moment Minta rejects him he strikes one "tragic" pose after another, so overcome is he with the sheer AGONY of the situation. (Oddly, watching this I found myself reminded of high school; our hero's histrionics nicely capture the kind of self-dramatization indulged in by so many teenagers.) The funniest moment comes when Chaplin, under the impression he has taken poison, wildly hallucinates what the title card calls A Vision of His Destiny. This turns out to be a stylized, Expressionistic Hell, complete with demons who repeatedly hoist Charlie into the air with pitchforks. The stark black backdrop in this scene is suggestive of Chaplin's much later WWI Liberty Loan short, The Bond, but the wild-eyed close-ups of Charlie which precede and follow the sequence are unlike anything else in his work. This bit alone is worth the price of admission.

For many years Cruel, Cruel Love was believed to be a lost film, and during that time various reference books attributed the role of the butler to Chester Conklin. Viewing the film now, however, it's obvious that the butler is played by the much taller Edgar Kennedy, who is quite recognizable in a number of medium shots. His hair looks a little strange, dyed gray and combed over to make him resemble Mack Sennett, but when he rocks with laughter you just know it's Edgar Kennedy. And he looks like he's having the time of his life, too.
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Charlie's acid trip
23skidoo-416 June 2004
Cruel Cruel Love might be one of Chaplin's funniest Keystone comedies, even though he doesn't play The Tramp! Instead, he plays a variation of the character he played in his debut, Making a Living -- or at least he wears the same costume.

This film lets Chaplin go completely crazy, hamming and mugging mericilessly. This is not the subtle or graceful Chaplin of later years. This is a manic Chaplin, and while this could well have made Cruel Cruel Love into a disaster, instead it makes this film drop-dead hilarious.

Chaplin plays a bigwig who is jilted by his girlfriend. He decides to take poison and kill himself, but his butler gives him water instead, and then laughs his head off as his boss goes through some of the strangest, most convoluted "death throes" ever seen.

This film includes some surprisingly good (for 1914) special effects - namely a dream sequence in which Chaplin hallucinates that he has gone to Hell. At one point, Chaplin actually turns the comedy into horror by adopting a rather bizarre "death face" that actually is a little disturbing to see. For a moment I thought I was watching a Lon Chaney film.

Of the first dozen or so Chaplin comedies for Keystone, this is definitely one of the best, and well worth seeking out.
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About 60% of the Original
jayraskin117 December 2012
This was Chaplin's ninth film at Keystone and the third of four Chaplin films directed by George Nichols. It is important to note that this film was lost for a long time and only about 9 of the original 16 minutes has been found.

We can guess that most of the lost footage starts at around 3 minutes and 30 seconds just before we see Chaplin taking poison. What we don't see is his decision to take poison, his relationship with his butler, played by Edgar Kennedy, and the butler substituting a harmless drink for the poison. We can easily guess that all this was the content of the missing scenes based on the acting and actions in later scenes.

This film seems like it should be associated with Chaplin's first film, "Making a Living" as he wears the Gray waistcoat and top hat from that film and Minta Durfee who is also the love interest from that film is the love interest here.

Eva Nelson does a funny bit as the maid. She hurts her ankle and Chaplin helps her. Durfee does not see her hurting her ankle. This causes Durfee to mistakingly believe that Chaplin was trying to seduce her. Nelson's film career just started a few weeks before in Chaplin's "Tango Tangled." She appeared in 10 Keystone films in 1914. She then did nine more short films in 1915 and 1916, including six with Chaplin impersonator Billie Ritchie. That is all of her short film career.

William Hauber does a nice job as a gardener who convinces Durfee that Chaplin hasn't betrayed her with her maid. He appeared in some 75 Keystone films from 1912 to 1916 and then worked in some 30 Larry Semon films over the next 10 years.

This film contains the first Chaplin "Dream sequence." He imagines himself going to hell after drinking the poison. "The Bank," "The Kid," "Sunnyside" "The Gold Rush" and "Modern Times" are some other Chaplin films with dream sequences.

Chaplin's performance in this film looks ridiculous rather than funny; however, that is probably due to the missing scenes. If we had those scenes, we could see Chaplin's transition from despair to hysteria. We can only hope that someday, some way, the missing scenes may be found.
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Chaplin and Juliet
TheOtherFool19 October 2004
Cruel, Cruel Love works almost exactly like Romeo and Juliet. Well, with a happy ending, that is.

Charlie is a Lord wanting to marry a girl, but she thinks he's cheating with the maid. Charlie is so disappointed and unhappy he tries to poison himself. When the girl finds out nothing happened between the maid and Charlie she wants him back... so Charlie is calling the medics what to do next.

When he finds out he only drank some water (well, I think that's what it is) he is kicking some butts in the end just for the sake of it.

Early Chaplin short, in which he isn't the tramp for a change, has some moments but really isn't as funny as most of his work.

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Only for die-hard fans of Chaplin
MartinHafer23 May 2006
In 1914, Charlie Chaplin began making pictures. These were made for Mack Sennett (also known as "Keystone Studios") and were literally churned out in very rapid succession. The short comedies had very little structure and were completely ad libbed. As a result, the films, though popular in their day, were just awful by today's standards. Many of them bear a strong similarity to home movies featuring obnoxious relatives mugging for the camera. Many others show the characters wander in front of the camera and do pretty much nothing. And, regardless of the outcome, Keystone sent them straight to theaters. My assumption is that all movies at this time must have been pretty bad, as the Keystone films with Chaplin were very successful.

The Charlie Chaplin we know and love today only began to evolve later in Chaplin's career with Keystone. By 1915, he signed a new lucrative contract with Essenay Studios and the films improved dramatically with Chaplin as director. However, at times these films were still very rough and not especially memorable. No, Chaplin as the cute Little Tramp was still evolving. In 1916, when he switched to Mutual Studios, his films once again improved and he became the more recognizable nice guy--in many of the previous films he was just a jerk (either getting drunk a lot, beating up women, provoking fights with innocent people, etc.). The final evolution of his Little Tramp to classic status occurred in the 1920s as a result of his full-length films.

This short features Chaplin but not as the Little Tramp--his mustache is different and he looks a little more like a dandy. Charlie has a girlfriend, but she catches him with the maid so she breaks up with him. He is so despondent that he takes what he thinks is poison--at which time he goes through the most over-acted death scene in history while some annoying guy laughs hysterically again and again and again and again and again because the poison is actually just water. The ambulance arrives and tell him he's fine and his ex-girlfriend runs back and professes her love. This short DOES have a bit more coherence and plot than most early Chaplin shorts from Keystone, so it merits a 3. Only a 3 because it is terribly over-done and not especially funny.
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"It's only water..."
classicsoncall21 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know if it's even fair to assign a numerical rating to old film shorts like these. Chaplin became a legend and he had to get his start someplace, but this piece can hardly be considered much more than of historical interest. The story line as mentioned here on the IMDb title page states that it's about a rich lord who loves a girl, but I never got the impression that Chaplin's character was nobility. His 'Lady' (Minta Durfee) becomes jealous when she sees him tend to a housemaid's sprained ankle and abruptly calls off their engagement. In distress, the 'Lord' (Chaplin) decides to commit suicide, but his butler intervenes by offering a glass of water instead of poison. The butler was portrayed by an unrecognizable Edgar Kennedy, who I used to get a big kick out of watching when I was a kid.

Those of you who have read my reviews will know I often get sidetracked mentioning when a commercial advertisement pops into view as product placement for a popular item. I can't tell you how many times you'll see Coca-Cola making a spot appearance in a movie, and I don't know when the first time it might have occurred, but here it's 1914 and there's pretty much a full frame of a Coca-Cola sign on the side of a neighborhood store. Maybe inadvertent just because it was there, but I have to wonder.

In any event, The Lord and his Lady make up at the end of the picture's short run, both realizing I guess that they were made for each other. How Chaplin's character believed he actually drank poison seemed like a bit of a stretch to me, but his relief was profuse when his gal stated that "It's only water."
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The cruelty of love
TheLittleSongbird24 May 2018
Am a big fan of Charlie Chaplin, have been for over a decade now. Many films and shorts of his are very good to masterpiece, and like many others consider him a comedy genius and one of film's most important and influential directors.

He did do better than 'Cruel, Cruel Love'. Can understand why the Keystone period suffered from not being as best remembered or highly remembered than his later efforts, but they are mainly decent and important in their own right. 'Cruel, Cruel Love' is a long way from a career high, although among the better very early Keystone comedies.

'Cruel, Cruel Love' is not as hilarious, charming or touching as his later work and a good deal of other shorts in the same period. The story is flimsy and the production values not as audacious, the humour only amusing and lacking freshness at times and parts a touch scrappy and occasionally convoluted.

For someone who was relatively new to the film industry and had literally just moved on from their stage background, 'Cruel, Cruel Love' is not bad at all.

While not audacious, the film hardly looks ugly, is more than competently directed and is appealingly played. Chaplin looks comfortable for so early on and shows his stage expertise while opening it up that it doesn't become stagy or repetitive shtick. His character is not one of his most likeable though

Although the humour, charm and emotion was done even better and became more refined later, 'Cruel, Cruel Love' is mildly humorous, sweet and easy to like, though the emotion is not quite there. It moves quickly and doesn't feel too long or short.

Overall, far from one of Chaplin's best but not bad at all. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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The version I watched of Cruel, Cruel Love that starred Charlie Chaplin left much to be desired for me
tavm12 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Just watched 9 minutes of what was, according to this site, originally 16 minutes of this short on YouTube. It seems in this one, Charlie Chaplin is actually quite wealthy with much love for his wife but when the latter catches her with the maid in a position that turns out to be quite innocent, she threatens to leave him. So he tries to poison himself but the bystander who laughs at him turns out to have filled the glass with water. Okay, with that plot out of the way, I'll just say that with the exception of a dream sequence of Charlie with some devils and some knockabout slapstick at the end and some of his reactions of him after drinking the potion, I didn't find this short very funny. Perhaps if I were ever to see a more complete version of Cruel, Cruel Love...
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Chaplin's Eighth Film Returns Him To Making A Living
CitizenCaine22 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Chaplin's eighth film has him returning to the foppery of Making A Living: His debut film. He's not the tramp here, but he's a victim of circumstance, which was often the basis for silent shorts. His girlfriend thinks that he's been taking up with her maid behind her back. However, the audience could clearly see how the maid had her own boyfriend before running into Chaplin. Charlie's girlfriend doesn't see it that way and sends him packing. Charlie thinks he's poisoning himself at home, and his butler laughs hysterically because it's just water. However, when the medical personnel arrive later, at first they're not sure who took the poison. Charlie tries neutralizing the poison with what appears to be milk and his a dream-like visit to hell before being reunited with his loved one. The hell visit is expressionistic in its brief portrayal of what would have been Charlie's punishment had he succeeded. When it's all said and done, the obligatory slapstick brawl brings down the curtain. ** of 4 stars.
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Dull, dull film
JoeytheBrit25 June 2009
For every decent movie Chaplin made in 1914 it seems like he made a dozen duds - and this is one of the duddiest of them all. Chaplin either hadn't developed the character of the little tramp when he made this short or he had decided to give him a break for a while. Here he plays something of a toff who, through a misunderstanding, finds himself jilted by his beloved so decides to commit suicide. Unnknown to him, his butler switches the poison he intends to take for water. Despite this, Chaplin's character goes through exaggerated death throes until the truth comes to light, whereupon he starts kicking everyone in sight. As with most of his early films, this is pretty primitive stuff - I don't think I laughed (or smiled) once...
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Chaplin misses the mark completely…
Anonymous_Maxine10 May 2007
Chaplin famously churned out an enormous number of short comedies for Keystone during his first year in the film-making business, and while the majority of them are pretty sad comparisons to the later films that he would become famous for, Cruel, Cruel Love definitely ranks as one of the less memorable. A lot of people complain about these early comedies, no doubt because Chaplin is known as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and yet the films he made in 1914-1915 are most definitely not the greatest films of all time, but this one gives a clear look at what a lot of people are turned off by.

Chaplin does not play the tramp, but some sort of bizarre jerk with a hideous mustache and what appears to be an unenviable future. Like in many of Chaplin's early comedies, this one devolves into a widespread kicking and punching match by the end of the film. This has been going on for months by this point, and I believe that Chaplin was just giving his audience what they wanted at the time, but this is the first time that I have gotten the feeling that he is just running out of ideas.

I think Chaplin may have been progressing past what he would later refer to as the good old days when films could just be slapped together in a park, and so he tried to do something different, try on a slightly different characterization for a while, but unfortunately it just doesn't work. The film as a whole comes off as a bit of a disjointed mess, Chaplin makes some faces that I could have gone the rest of my life without ever having seen, and his heart is clearly not in it. Just his feet and his fists.
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3 Early Chaplin
Michael_Elliott8 March 2008
Cruel, Cruel Love (1914)

*** (out of 4)

Charles Chaplin short from the Keystone Studios has him playing a broken man who decides to kill himself after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Minutes after taking the poison he receives a letter from her saying she wants him back. This is an early Chaplin film so naturally he hadn't perfected his skill as a comedian but he turns in an interesting performance here. While the film isn't fall down hilarious it does offer up enough good scenes to make it worth viewing. One of the better scenes in the film has Chaplin seeing his future with suicide and going to Hell where two devil keep messes with him in the flames. Another nice sequence has Chaplin trying to fight the doctors trying to save him at the end of the film. Edgar Kennedy has a brief role as the butler.
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