His Trysting Place
Charlie's wife sends him to the store for a baby bottle with milk. Elsewhere, Ambrose offers to post a love letter for a woman in his boarding house. The two men meet at a restaurant and eac... Read allCharlie's wife sends him to the store for a baby bottle with milk. Elsewhere, Ambrose offers to post a love letter for a woman in his boarding house. The two men meet at a restaurant and each takes the other's coat by mistake. Charlie's wife thinks he has a lover; Ambrose's belie... Read allCharlie's wife sends him to the store for a baby bottle with milk. Elsewhere, Ambrose offers to post a love letter for a woman in his boarding house. The two men meet at a restaurant and each takes the other's coat by mistake. Charlie's wife thinks he has a lover; Ambrose's believes he has an illegitimate child.
Soon, of course, complications arise. We meet another, somewhat older couple staying in a nearby hotel. They're played by Mack Swain and Phyllis Allen, two startling-looking performers who had no qualms about using their appearance to get laughs. (When I saw this film at a recent public screening the audience enjoyed the strenuous mugging of Swain and Allen as much as the antics of Charlie and Mabel.) As Mack exits through the lobby of their hotel he encounters a nice young lady who asks him to mail a letter for her. He agrees, unaware that it's a note to her lover setting up a meeting. Charlie, meanwhile, goes out to get his baby son a new bottle, buys one, and tucks it into his coat pocket. In the film's most memorable sequence Mack and Charlie meet up at a shabby little café where Mack's sloppy eating habits deeply annoy Charlie. Meals always seemed to inspire Chaplin's most memorable scenes, from these early comedies to the routine with the missing coin in The Immigrant, and all the way to the haywire feeding device in Modern Times. Here, the set-up is much simpler and the bit is comparatively brief, but Chaplin and Swain make an amusing visual contrast and somehow the sequence is funny from the moment Charlie sits down. Immediately, the two guys launch a competition for Most Vulgar Eating Habits award. Mack slurps his soup so grossly we can almost hear him, while Charlie gnaws a huge bone like a wolverine. Within moments they're fighting, and before you know it Charlie is wiping the floor with Mack and attacking everyone else in the place for good measure. It's a strangely exhilarating spectacle. Speaking of eating scenes, ten years later Mack would share a cabin with Charlie in the Yukon in The Gold Rush, where Charlie would dine on a boiled shoe and a delusional Mack would hallucinate that his roommate was a chicken!
Getting back to Keystone Land: when the combatants leave the café after duking it out they manage to mix up their overcoats. (The two men are sized so differently this seems unlikely, but why quibble?) Thus, Mack goes off with a baby bottle in his pocket while Charlie carries the letter setting up a rendezvous. Soon after Charlie returns home Mabel finds the letter in his coat, assumes the worst, and expresses her displeasure by breaking an ironing board over his head. Meanwhile, Mack and his wife meet up in the park. He's still boiling mad about the incident in the café and she is sympathetic until she finds the baby bottle in his pocket. Phyllis instantly assumes her husband is the father of a secret child, doubtless the result of an illicit relationship. Charlie, fleeing his wife's wrath, rushes to the park with Mabel in pursuit. The two couples encounter each other, a cop gets involved, and more mayhem results.
For me, the sequences that conclude the film are anti-climactic. His Trysting Place peaks when Mabel cracks that ironing board over her husband's noggin, and everything that follows is standard Keystone park shenanigans, overly familiar from so many other comedies of the period. Chaplin's unaccustomed role as Dad is the major novelty here, but he doesn't carry the whole comic burden on his shoulders. This is an ensemble piece, and it's nice to see Mabel, Mack and Phyllis each given a moment or two to shine.
- Feb 12, 2008