Anyhow, getting back to the matter at hand: The Count stands as one of Charlie's lightest and most playful short comedies, perhaps not one of his very best but highly enjoyable nonetheless. There's a lot of good byplay between pint-sized Charlie and his most memorable "heavy," the enormous Eric Campbell, who wears an outrageous beard this time around. Campbell plays a tailor and Charlie is his assistant, soon fired for ineptitude; but before long the former apprentice gets mixed up in the conniving tailor's scheme to impersonate a count, in order to court a wealthy heiress (Edna Purviance). I especially enjoyed the bit when Campbell explains his scheme to Charlie, and punctuates the speech with his elbow in a "Get it?" gesture, until Charlie finally slides a wooden chair into place to protect himself. Through various complications Charlie himself is mistaken for the count, and receives royal treatment at a grand party at Edna's mansion, while his boss is forced to serve as his assistant. The party is the setting for a number of amusing comic set-pieces, including a dinner of spaghetti and watermelon (when did you last see these dishes served together?), and a dance in the ballroom. For me, the dance is the film's highlight, as it displays Chaplin at the peak of his physical skill, sliding and gliding about with almost supernatural agility. Only Mickey Mouse could move so well, and with such comic grace!
The Count may not rank with Chaplin's greatest short comedies, but if any of his contemporaries had made this same film it would probably be regarded as something special. It's hard for me to be objective about this particular movie because The Count was one of the first Chaplin comedies I ever saw, way back in grade school, when I borrowed an 8mm print from my local library, threaded it up on my projector, and threw the beam onto a wall of my room. It was the first inkling I had that Chaplin's reputation as a great comedian was so well deserved, the first time I said to myself: "Hey, this guy really IS funny!"