A Jitney Elopement (1915) Poster

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6/10
Three points of interest
wmorrow598 March 2008
In this early short comedy which Charlie Chaplin made for the Essanay company, he reworks a premise employed twice at Keystone the previous year, one which he would continue to revisit in later works: humble Charlie masquerades as a member of the nobility. His motivation varies depending on the situation, but usually he's courting a pretty girl, most often Edna Purviance. In A Jitney Elopement Charlie and Edna are secret sweethearts, but her father insists she marry a count whom he has never seen; since he hasn't seen Charlie either, the way is clear for our hero to impersonate this gentleman and win the girl. When the real count arrives the expected complications erupt. Eventually Charlie and Edna attempt to flee in a "jitney," that is, a Ford automobile which happens to belong to the count.

Even Chaplin's most ardent fans will be hard pressed to find much to enjoy in this rather uninspired short, but while watching it again recently I found three points of interest. First, there is a piece of comic business Charlie executes during a lunch with Edna and her father that is expertly rendered. While chatting away, seemingly unaware of what he's doing, Charlie slices the bread he's holding into a perfect coil, then briefly "plays" it like a concertina, i.e. one of those musical instruments that looks like a big Slinky. It's a brief gag, practically a throwaway, but beautifully performed. It also suits the moment, for Charlie is nervous, and this gives him something to do with his hands. Next, a sequence in a park shortly thereafter features a very rare instance of Edna Purviance taking part in knockabout comedy: she's sitting on a tree branch, and tumbles to the ground twice. For Mabel Normand at Keystone this would have been all in a day's work, but Edna is usually more demure, and was very seldom put in this sort of situation. Lastly, the movie concludes with an extended car chase, which is also a rarity in Chaplin's work. We almost never see Charlie at the wheel of a car. In later years he wrote in his autobiography that he didn't like chases because the player's personality is lost; on those occasions when he did employ chase sequences, they usually occur on foot. For what it's worth, the automobile chase in A Jitney Elopement is well filmed and well edited, with a cute gag or two along the way and a nice wrap-up.

Beyond these minor points, admittedly, there isn't much to see here that Chaplin didn't do better elsewhere, but for viewers interested in studying the work of this uniquely gifted comedian I'd say the "bread gag" and the chase finale make this film worth a look. And for fans of the beautiful, underrated Miss Purviance, this may be your only opportunity to see her fall out of a tree, not once but twice!
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5/10
"Be a good knight and save me"
Steffi_P29 September 2009
Now well into his tenure at Essanay studios, this is the point where Charlie Chaplin really starts to gain confidence and build a blueprint for his short features. What's significant about a Jitney Elopement is that it represents the most serious thought he has put so far into developing a story, and trying his hand at straight dramatic direction.

The picture opens, not with the tramp, but with a scene establishing the set-up and a background story for the action to take place in. Chaplin here demonstrates what he has learnt from DW Griffith, with some neat, functional shots, and making nice use of tree branches to frame Edna Purviance. As his little tramp character has developed, he is giving him more attention-grabbing entrances, this time appearing from an iris in an iconic pose, framed starkly against a brick wall.

However, a Jitney Elopement is often thought as one of Chaplin's weakest Essanay efforts, and it's not hard to see why. In spite of this promising opening, Chaplin seems to have skimped on good comedy. The dining-table routine is a bit lifeless, and we then descend into a Keystone-ish farce-in-the-park and car chase. There also seem to have been some problems with editing, as a few two-shot gags are poorly timed looking very unprofessional. Great supporting players like Leo White and Bud Jamison are underused. Chaplin would make a more successful job of blending gags with a romantic storyline in his next appearance – The Tramp.

And now, the all-important statistic –

Number of kicks up the arse: 2 (1 for, 1 against)
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Introduces Some of Chaplin's Favorite Themes
Snow Leopard4 October 2001
This Chaplin comedy is a combination of the type of unfinished knockabout humor from the Mack Sennett-style comedies along with a couple of the themes that Chaplin would later refine and use to much better advantage in later movies. A lot of the film is routine, but it is made more watchable by a couple of ideas that Chaplin always liked: identity mix-ups, and the attitudes of the upper classes. Both come into play as Charlie's character (not yet the 'tramp', but somewhat similar) has a rich rival for the hand of his girl (Edna Purviance - she and Chaplin always make a likable leading couple). Overall, "A Jitney Elopement" is only fair, but a sign of things to come.
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5/10
first half GOOD, second half BAD
MartinHafer7 May 2006
This is one of 5 Chaplin that are on the first DVD of Chaplin's Essanay Comedies. In general, compared to volume 2, the shorts on volume 1 aren't as well-made--because the DVDs are arranged chronologically. Chaplin's skill as a film maker and actor appeared to improve through his stay with Essanay Studios.

The first half of this film consists of Charlie trying to rescue his love from a forced marriage to a rich swell. He impersonates the swell and the film runs smoothly--especially since there is a real plot--something many of the Keystone and early Essanay shorts lack. However, after Charlie's ruse is discovered, the film becomes standard slapstick--with chases and violence, etc. It's like two very different shorts fused together without regard to the whole.
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9/10
Chaplin and Edna make for a good engagement
raskimono22 March 2004
Chaplin at Essany Studios, the one he was at before moving to Mutual studios had Chaplin creating his love for spoofing the upper classes. In this movie, he does not play the tramp. Instead a working class fellow who is in love with a upper class girl but problems ensue when a Count asks for hand in marriage. His beloved asks to be saved and Chaplin comes in to impersonate the Count. The Count arrives while he is there and Mayhem ensues. I cannot pan a Chaplin movie or short. The worst rating I have ever given a Chaplin movie is an 8/10. This is because of his inventive slapstick and physical grueling and innovative comedy routines. In this one, we get a great car chase and a scene where Chaplin holds the camera still while the cars go round and round in circles recalling a scene from the first Pink Panther movie, A Shot in the Dark. Though not perfect, great fun, none the less.
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7/10
Locations used
josalo4 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In fact, A Jitney Elopement (as were many of the pre-20s silents) was shot in San Francisco, and such locations as The Great Highway (still paved with dirt) and the Murphy Windmill in Golden Gate Park are seen in a bygone era, including much of the post-1906 growth that occurred along the beach (not sure if you can see an actual cable car house, but certainly a number of makeshift structures are seen.) A shot with a car falling off a pier seems to have been shot at Fort Mason. The windmill lost its sails in the 1940's, and in the late 90's the tower was taken down for restoration, which is proceeding. The Golden Gate Park Windmills have a website, check it out.
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7/10
A film in two halves
tgooderson8 June 2012
Edna (Edna Purviance) has been betrothed to a rich Count by her father (Ernest Van Pelt) but she already has a secret love, The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin). Edna persuades her love to save her and he impersonates the Count at tea with Edna and her father. Once the Count (Leo White) turns up with his fantastical facial hair The Tramp is thrown out. Later in a park the foursome come together again and the two young lovers attempt to elope in an act that brings about a prolonged car chase.

There are two very distinct halves to this film and I believe that the first half is amongst Chaplin's best Essanay work to date. Having come off In the Park which was fast and a little bit messy, the first half of A Jitney Elopement was surprisingly slow, calm and more reminiscent of his later feature films. The second half though features a full on frenetic car chase which takes place in and around San Francisco and makes this Chaplin's most sprawling film to date. The title incidentally comes from the type of vehicle that the couple attempt to run away in – a kind of shared taxi.

I have to say that although this is one of Chaplin's less well received Essanay films, I really enjoyed it. It shows the two sides to Chaplin; the slow, methodical craftsman and the fast paced clown and both halves made me laugh. I do prefer the first half however. It's a joy to try and watch The Tramp fit in to unfamiliar circumstances and he gets up to the usual nonsense including using a butler as a cloak stand and dropping sugar cubes into his soup. Later in the chase scene we get to see various parts of San Francisco and its surrounding areas and this is interesting in its own right. The roads are mostly made of mud and the whole are is very sparse. The cars themselves are barely recognisable as cars and Chaplin's especially looks like a cross between a carriage and some sort of 19th century coffee machine.

Although Chaplin was under pressure from Essanay to speed up his output and sometimes the quality of his films suffered I don't think that is the case here. Yes the chase is a little bit too Keystone for Chaplin but he shows that he can still formulate great ideas and execute them well in a short time frame and A Jitney Elopement is a clever and funny effort.

www.attheback.blogspot.com
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So-So
JoeytheBrit20 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This Chaplin short is something of an oddity in that, for much of the running time its static, set-bound action makes for a rather dull viewing experience before Chaplin opens up the action with an extended car chase that offers some great camera-work and interesting glimpses of the muddy streets of LA (presumably) circa. 1915. The story involves Edna Purviance's father planning to marry her off to a Count against both her wishes and those of her down-at-heel beau (Chaplin). There's less physical violence in this one which, together with a lengthy (and quite boring) sequence at a dinner table, slows the action considerably. While the picture picks up with the father's discovery of Chaplin's imitation of the Count, the bulk of the film is too slow to offer any worthwhile entertainment.
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7/10
Knockabout elopement
TheLittleSongbird7 June 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.

From his Essanay period after leaving Keystone, 'A Jitney Elopement' is not one of his very best or even among the best of this particular period. It shows a noticeable step up in quality though from his Keystone period, where he was still evolving and in the infancy of his long career, from 1914, The Essanay period is something of Chaplin's adolescence period where his style had been found and starting to settle. Something that can be seen in the more than worthwhile 'In the Park'.

'The Jitney Elopement' is not one of his all-time funniest or most memorable, other efforts also have more pathos and a balance of that and the comedy. The story is still a little flimsy and is also rather disjointed with tonally it feeling like two different films, the second half being rather too frenetic on the whole.

On the other hand, 'A Jitney Elopement' looks pretty good, not incredible but it was obvious that Chaplin was taking more time with his work (even when deadlines were still tight) and not churning out as many countless shorts in the same year of very variable success like he did with Keystone. Appreciate the importance of his Keystone period and there is some good stuff he did there, but the more mature and careful quality seen here and later on is obvious.

While not one of his funniest or original, 'A Jitney Elopement' is still very entertaining with some clever, entertaining and well-timed slapstick. It moves quickly and there is no dullness in sight.

It is notable, as mentioned, for Chaplin's musical instrument playing, Edna in knockabout comedy mode (not seen before) and the exciting car chase sequence (a first for Chaplin).

Chaplin directs more than competently, if not quite cinematic genius standard yet. He also, as usual, gives an amusing and expressive performance and at clear ease with the physicality of the role. The supporting cast acquit themselves well, with charming Edna Purviance.

Summing up, worth a look though Chaplin did better. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Not among His most memorable
Horst_In_Translation31 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"A Jitney Elopement" is an American black-and-white silent short film from 1915, so this one is already over a century old. The reason why it is still somewhat known today is because it stars one of the greats from his era, Charlie Chaplin, actually the greatest perhaps and he also directed here with his regular Edna Purviance appearing right next to him as the love interest. Chaplin is the likable fool once more, who is still wanted by the girl, but not so much by her father, who has his own plans about whom his daughter should marry. Despite some of these relationship struggles, it is probably never a romance film and even less a drama. Comedy is king for Chaplin like most times in here too and the result are some okay situations that are mildly funny, but nothing that stands out too much. The ending is kinda sweet, but I don't think it's really worth sitting through the previous 25 minutes to reach it. The story may not even be deep and convincing enough quality-wise for under half an hour. Perhaps I am a bit biased because I'm neither the greatest Chaplin nor the greatest silent film fan, but he has made and appeared in soundless films that I enjoyed way more than this one. Gotta give it a thumbs-down overall and I'd recommend the watch only to His biggest fans. Everybody else skip it and you won't be missing much from any perspective.
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7/10
Very funny Charlie Chaplin short
Leofwine_draca23 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A JITNEY ELOPEMENT is a very funny silent short from 1915, starring the one and only Charlie Chaplin. He plays his usual character, mistaken for an aristocratic suitor and invited into a posh family's household for afternoon tea. This short is full of the slapstick humour you'd expect, and just so happens to be very funny, especially with Chaplin's little tics and mannerisms. The bit where steam comes out of his nostrils after drinking the hot coffee is a good example of this film's humour. The version I watched was a re-release from the 1950s featuring a British comic adding narrator, which added to the experience for a change.
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4/10
Three Films In One?
CitizenCaine13 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This fifth film Chaplin edited, wrote, directed, and starred in seems like two films in one. The first half has Chaplin impersonating a much older, stuffy count who is to marry Edna Purviance. Chaplin and Edna are each other's true love of course. The impersonation goes well until the real count shows up: Count Chloride De Lime! The film bogs down a bit during a meal scene, but Chaplin does have a few sight gags here. Chaplin is found out and tossed out by Edna's father. Everyone meets up in a park where the action typically mimics Chaplin's park comedies for Keystone, including policemen that after Charlie too. Chaplin and Edna have a funny bit on a tree branch before escaping in a car. Chaplin and Edna elope and the chase is on. The last third of the film degenerates into a car chase, which must have been novel in its day. Several other cars can be seen in the background during the driving sequences. All is well in the end, but it's just typical Chaplin we've seen before. Jitney refers to a nickel, I believe, indicating Charlie's lowly status as compared to the count. Warner's director Lloyd Bacon has an appearance as the young butler. *1/2 of 4 stars.
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