The Pawnshop (1916) Poster


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luciferjohnson18 December 2004
One of the funniest movies every made, and definitely one of Chaplin's finest. It refreshingly lacks the pathos that Chaplin (sometimes unwisely) inserted in his later movies.

This short is memorable because of its unrelenting comedy "business," such as the famous scene in which a customer brings in an alarm clock and Chaplin examines it like a doctor, eventually taking a pair of pliers and yanking out its innards. This and other routines were later stolen by other comedians. For example, the scene in which an old actor comes in to sell a ring. This bit was stolen, in every single detail--down to Chaplin spitting crackers while crying--by Abbott & Costello.

Chaplin's constant tussling with another shop assistant, played by John Rand, is hilarious. Oddly, Rand did not receive screen credit for his role, even though he appears in almost every scene and is brilliant.

The Pawn Shop also provided good roles for other Chaplin regulars, including Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Albert Austin (as the customer with the clock), and Henry Bergmann as the pawn shop proprietor.

One interesting sidelight to this film is that the Bergmann character wears a skullcap and is identifiably Jewish--which is accurate enough, given that most urban pawnshops were owned by Jewish people at the time. This means that two of the main characters, he and Purviance, were Jewish. That was unusual at the time, particularly because the characters are not stereotyped.
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One of Chaplin's Best
wadetaylor27 October 2005
This is definitely one of Chaplin's top 5 or 6 shorts. The part with Albert Austin and the clock is just so hilarious, and I really like the end of that bit where the drunk gets pushed down, just because it makes no sense.

I think this is the exact point in Chaplin's oeuvre in which he matured to the point in which he could make masterpieces. Don't get me wrong I like many of his earlier shorts, but everything he did from this point on could be argued as a masterpiece of comic cinema.

It is true that there isn't a great amount of pathos in this one, but I like the fact that there a just so many ridiculous situations that come one after the other. A+ grade.
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dangerously funny
nelsonjcole27 July 2004
I saw this with a friend at a screening with a live ragtime orchestra (Paragon Ragtime Orchestra?). It was excellent. A good print and good music (not always easy to find in silent movie reissues). Both of us probably never laughed harder; I was actually worried at one point that I was going to hurt myself. While dedicated Buster Keaton fans, we were forced to admit that Chaplin was an equal, at least. Try to find a decent print and appropriate scoring. It should look good and play at normal speed, not fast, which only happens during a poor transfer of these public domain films (I think the old silents were made at 18 frames a second, and playing them on today's 24 fps speeds them up). Awesome to think that one of the earliest pioneers in film has not been surpassed--or even equaled.
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Pretty Good Chaplin Short Feature
Snow Leopard19 July 2001
"The Pawnshop" is a pretty good Charlie Chaplin comedy, with some routine stretches but also some very good slapstick. It features Charlie as an assistant in a pawnshop, engaged in a heated rivalry with another employee, trying to stay on the good side of the boss and the boss's pretty daughter, and occasionally waiting on a customer. The beginning has some very funny moments, with some slapstick that makes good use of the props, which include a feather duster and a ladder. There is a funny finale with Eric Campbell - one of Chaplin's best regular supporting players - playing a thief. The parts in between have some good moments, too, but they overdo it a bit with Charlie's fights with the other shop assistant. Overall, this is an average short feature for Chaplin, which means it is pretty good by most other standards.
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Superior Chaplin.
rmax30482314 November 2011
This is funnier and more inventive than some of his earlier work, and it's completely free of the pathos that would be found in his later work.

Chaplin is an assistant in a pawn shop that's run by a jumbo-sized, bearded older man who is alternately hysterical and furious and who, in both appearance and demeanor, reminded me of my cabinet-maker grandfather. Chaplin shows an amazing physical dexterity in some of the slapstick episodes and I couldn't help comparing them to the same sorts of gags that showed up in Laurel and Hardy. Without knocking Laurel and Hardy, the approaches are entirely different. Laurel and Hardy try desperately to be polite, efficient, and relatively normal. The pace is slower and more deliberate. Chaplin is faster, more aggressive, meaner. He kicks people in the pants for little reason. And he's a whirlwind of action. Even when he pretends to be unconscious in order to gain the attentions of his girl friend, he falls to the floor in a twinkling and is up just as fast to receive her ministrations.

The most memorable scene probably has to do with a customer who brings in an alarm clock. Behind the counter, Charlie exams it as a doctor would examine a patient, percussing its case, twinging its bell, and then he dismantles it roughly before handing the hatful of disordered pieces back to the guy and rejecting it with a shrug.

I think I prefer the shenanigans in the back room but partly because they involve that apoplectic owner and, I guess, because after Charlie knocks an armed robber unconscious he breaks the fourth wall, and whips around with a quick TA-TAH to the camera before the film ends.
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"I'll give you another chance"
Steffi_P5 February 2010
A truly great comedian doesn't sit around dreaming up funny situations – they take a look at what is around them and make something funny out of it. This is what stand-up comics do when they make satire out of anecdotes from their own life or surroundings. And in another way this is what Charlie Chaplin does in a picture like The Pawnshop, where he takes a realistic setting that could appear in any straight drama (or, indeed, the real world) and simply plays around with the props and conventions of the environment.

The Pawnshop is known as one of Chaplin's greatest "prop" pictures, in which he manages to sustain an entire twenty-five minute short just through messing around with the bric-a-brac and getting in the way of his co-workers. Still, what he is doing is really quite simple. He is merely very inventive at thinking up mismatches between an item and its purpose – for example using a mangle to dry crockery or absent-mindedly cleaning a violin with a soapy cloth. Like all the best comedians, Chaplin's genius lies in his timing and positioning. He never lets any routine run for too long and become boring or repetitive. He places gags where they will have the most impact – such as the spraying of crumbs when listening to the "sad story", which he does towards the end of the sequence to diffuse the over-the-top, hammy build-up. For a piece like the well-known "clock dissection", he is able to play it slowly in just two long shots because the material has plenty of potential, and he can keep the audience wondering just how far it will go.

Watching The Pawnshop, I was struck by how much more editing there now is in Chaplin's pictures. His earlier style was to keep everything in unbroken takes and let the comedy unfold naturally, but now he is throwing in a lot of angle changes and reaction shots (which is in any case consistent with how cinema was developing at this time). However he still preserves the flow of the picture by making sure the various edits complement each other. For example, in one of Charlie's fights with John Rand, we cut over to Henry Bergman gesticulating angrily at the woman with the goldfish bowl – so the pace of movement in the two shots is consistent. In an earlier fight, he throws in a couple of shots of Edna Purviance hearing the brawl from the next room. These are in mid-shot and last only a split second, thus having a snappy feel and not breaking the tempo of the fight. This is proper film-making technique in the service of comedy.

Genius as he was, where would Chaplin have been without his fine supporting cast? The Pawnshop contains some of his regular co-stars at their best, including the debut of the reliable Henry Bergman. Chaplin collected generic stock characters, and Bergman is his archetypal Jolly Fat Man. Look at the way Bergman falls – his feet go one way, his head another, while the centre of his bulk goes straight down. John Rand is great as the pompous and indignant antagonist, and he manages to match Charlie for stance and timing as he suddenly dives back to work whenever the boss walks in. There's also one the best appearances of gangly Albert Austin, whose concerned but naively trusting expression really adds to the clock dissection, making the build-up seem funnier by contrast because his face stays the same regardless of how drastic the things Charlie does to his clock are. The appearances of Eric Campbell and Edna Purviance are slightly shorter than usual, but nonetheless worthy.

Which brings us hurtling towards that all-important statistic – Number of kicks up the arse: 7 (7 against)
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One of his finest
TheOtherFool16 April 2004
I've seen about 15 early shorts by Chaplin so far and this is definately in the top 5. Charlie works at a pawnshop and has to deal with several customers, his boss and ultimately a thief. But, once again, he saves the day.

Great slapstick early on with the 'ladder-scene' and later on with what seems to be a cello or contra-bass (I know nothing of those sort of things), hitting people in the face. There's also a very funny scene with an alarm-clock, which Charlie 'fixes', but not quite!

Although probably not up there with The Adventurer (my favorite short so far) or The Tramp, this is pretty funny stuff, even by Chaplins standards. Final score: 8/10.
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The Great Legendary Tramp !
Umar Mansoor Bajwa14 November 2007
Charlie Chaplin is one of the greatest and all time finest comedian of all ages, as yet. His early silent portrayals like this surreal and sentimental presentation is his excellent work in its living originality.

His visage and gestures, his cap and the movement of stick are all lovely trademarks of this legendary comedian. Highest paid actor of his time, he deservedly ranks as an artist who is appropriately knighted with the title of "SIR".

Given the present comedy standards (if any) which mostly circumvent on computerized graphics and crazy mannerisms, it seems posterity would have to wait for quite a time to discover some real like of this paradoxically naughty, mischievous, simple, innocent and endearing little tramp.
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Good Business
hausrathman16 January 2004
Charlie plays an assistant at a pawnshop with a eye for the owner's daughter and a skill for making mischief. "The Pawnshop" is perhaps least plotted of Chaplin's Mutual films. Charlie thwarts Eric Campbell's plan to rob the business, but little screen time is devoted to that story. This is a situational, or should I say, occupational comedy, where Charlie and his talented cast and crew try to make the most of a particular setting. The best sequence in the film comes when customer Albert Austin arrives with a clock to pawn. Charlie hilariously and inventively destroys the clock in his attempt to discern its value. This "business" - the ability to wring comic potential from simple everyday items - is a lost skill among modern comics. Chaplin was a master at it, and this film serves as a good example why.
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Pawnshop Charlie
TheLittleSongbird12 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 post-Essanay period after leaving Keystone, 'Pawnshop' is not one of his very best but is one of his best early efforts and among the better short films of his. 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 and Mutual periods were 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 'The Pawnshop'.

The story is more discernible than usual and is never dull, but is sometimes a bit too busy and manic and flimsy in others.

On the other hand, 'The Pawnshop' looks pretty good, not incredible but it was obvious that Chaplin was taking more time with his work and not churning out 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 most hilarious or touching, 'The Pawnshop' is still very funny with some clever, entertaining and well-timed slapstick, didn't mind that the pathos wasn't there as it was not the right kind of story. It moves quickly and there is no dullness in sight. The clock scene is one of the most uproariously funny and best scenes of any of Charlie early career output.

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, particularly the charming regular leading lady Edna Purviance.

Overall, very enjoyable. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Great slapstick, disappointing plot
tgooderson5 September 2012
Charlie Chaplin's sixth film for Mutual is one with very high highs and disappointingly low lows. It features a scenario and story which doesn't really go anywhere but also features several moments of slapstick that are amongst his best to date.

Chaplin stars as a pawnshop assistant and gets in a long running fight with fellow employee John Rand. Typically inept at his job, Chaplin is eventually fired only to be taken back on straight away after his boss Henry Bergman has a change of heart. Meanwhile Chaplin's attentions are drawn to Bergman's daughter Edna Purviance who is busy baking in the back of the shop. Trouble appears late on as a thief, Eric Campbell enters the shop intent on taking it for everything it's got.

As I mentioned the plot is a little basic here. There is no character development and the romantic component is only hinted at. Where the film is successful is with its slapstick elements. Two areas stand out for me. The first is Chaplin's long fight with John Rand. Chaplin portrays a peculiar but extremely funny fighting style and his character in general looks like he's off his head on something. The standout though is while the fight is happening; Edna Purviance hears the ruckus and comes to investigate. Although Chaplin is beating Rand to a pulp, when he hears Edna approaching he falls to the floor and into a foetal position, faking pain. Edna immediately starts yelling at Rand for hitting the poor, defenceless Chaplin and while she does so Chaplin repeatedly checks out her bum and turns to the camera with a cheeky grin on his face. It's a fantastic scene.

Other great moments include Chaplin being ordered to wash up and putting the crockery through a mangle and a scene in which he values a clock by taking it to pieces, destroying it and then turning it down as it's broken. Moments like these remind me just how inventive and clever Chaplin was capable of being with his comedy. It's just a shame here in The Pawnshop that the comedy isn't coupled with a more impressive plot.
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Nice, but too long
rbverhoef17 January 2004
For a two reeler this short felt a little too long. In the end it became more of the same although the biggest laugh is very near to the end. Chaplin is working in a pawnshop and he fights with one of his co-workers, argues with his boss, pulls off some nice things with customers and saves the day.

Like I said it became a bit dull. There are some great sequences, especially one involving a balancing ladder. The physical action in that sequence made me think of the physical comedy done by Buster Keaton. A nice short, nothing more.
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A genius of pantomime at his best
pearseha17 March 2005
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.
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Chaplin's Best Mutual Film
springfieldrental14 July 2021
Charlie Chaplin was hitting his comedic stride late 1916 when he produced three highly praised films. October 1916's "The Pawnshop" proved to be his most popular Mutual Film Corporation movie, the sixth under his one-year contract. This two-reeler has been called Chaplin's greatest use of props during his career, and he intentionally set up his plot to showcase his handling of objects found in a pawnshop. These standout comedy routines include a ladder, a clock, and a feather duster.

Chaplin plays an employee who causes havoc (as his characters frequently do) inside his boss/owner's pawnshop. The owner, actor Henry Bergman, previously was a stage performer who became a frequent contributor in Chaplin films beginning with "The Pawnshop." His last film (and with Chaplin) was 1940's "The Great Dictator" before the comedian financially helped Bergman establish his celebrity-filled popular Hollywood restaurant, "Henry's."
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The clock scene - a comic masterpiece!
nikosdargenti22 January 2021
In one of his rare impersonations as a malicious figure, Chaplin gives a unique example of his creative genius. Uproariously funny and deeply humane at the same time, this is for me the best scene of his whole oevre.
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The Pawnshop review
JoeytheBrit29 June 2020
Chaplin causes the usual brand of havoc as a pawnshop assistant who, when not dealing with customers in his own inimitable fashion, engages in a running feud with co-worker John Rand. An entertaining short that's at its best when focusing on the physical comedy - particularly the frequent battles with Rand, who proves to be a worthy foil.
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You never forget your first, isn't that what they always say?
Mr-Fusion30 April 2017
I'd gone through a brief Charlie Chaplin period in my mid-teens, and it was all due to "The Pawnshop". I'd stumbled on this in a local museum (COSI) and thought it was hilarious, primarily because this is almost entirely a scuffle between The Tramp and the other guy in the shop (John Rand). He's the worst employee you could ask for, breaking half the store, picking a fight at every turn, harassing clients.

But if you're looking for Chaplin's gifts as a comedian, then look no further. This is an impressive showcase of choreography, pantomime and stunts. Not to mention his gift for being a cheeky son-of-a-B.

It's just one gag after another, some of them great, all of them coming right at you. Give the man a set and a truckload of props, and watch him go to town.

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Not a bad story but way too much slapping and kicking
MartinHafer6 July 2006
In 1914 and early 1915, Chaplin did his first comedy shorts. In general, they were pretty awful--with almost no plot and consisting of him mugging it up on camera and hitting people. However, in 1915 he left Keystone Studio and began making better films with Essenay (though there are some exceptions) and finally, in 1916, to Mutual where he made his best comedy shorts. These newer films had more plot and laughs and usually didn't relay on punching or kicking when they ran out of story ideas.

This movie excels because it has plenty of plot, but it also is highly reminiscent of his poorer early films because there is way too much reliance on cheap slapstick--in particular, Chaplin punching and kicking his coworker for absolutely no reason. In the story, Charlie is hired and within a minute, he's punching and kicking a coworker for no apparent reason. The film is redeemed, somewhat, by the excellent ending and plotting.
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Charlie in a pawnshop
Petey-104 March 2011
Charlie Chaplin shows, once again, his great slapstick skills as a pawnshop assistant.The movie is The Pawnshop from 1916.It's his 6th film for Mutual Film Corporation.Henry Bergman portrays Pawnbroker.Edna Purviance is His daughter.John Rand plays Pawnshop Assistant.Albert Austin is Client with clock.Wesley Ruggles is Client with ring.Eric Campbell portrays Thief.One of the funniest and most memorable scenes is where a client brings an alarm clock and Chaplin breaks it and says it is not acceptable.And there are many other funny scenes like that.Chaplin was a true genius of slapstick comedy.You have to see this film
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Charlie of the Pawn
lugonian11 September 2015
Charlie Chaplin is at it again in another comedy short for which he wrote, directed as well as starred in THE PAWNSHOP (Mutual/Lone Star Studios, 1916). Following the pattern of working man comedies for the studio starting with THE FLOORWALKER (1916) and THE FIREMAN (1916) followed by occasional drifter characters as in THE VAGABOND (1916), for his sixth Mutual comedy, he's back in the working force again, this time in a pawn shop creating havoc under the watch of nameless characters as his employer (Henry Bergman), the employer's daughter (Edna Purviance) and fellow co-worker (John Ran, resembling silent comic Chester Conklin) with whom he shares a kicking contest from time to time in the seats of their pants.

The plot is a slight one consisting of runabout gags in the usual Chaplin tradition. After arriving late for work, Charlie begins his new day of antics as using a duster on a fan that's still in motion, shifting the latter back and forth, unintentionally hitting those around him, particularly his co-worker (John Rand) and his employer (Henry Bergman), to dust off the ornamental fixtures outside the pawn shop as observed by a policeman (Frank J. Coleman). Nearly getting fired, Charlie is given a second chance, making an impression with the boss's daughter (Edna Purviance), later coping with oddball customers at the front counter, including an out of work actor (James T. Kelly) with a hard-luck story; another (Albert Austin) wanting two dollars as a trade in for his alarm clock; an elderly woman (Charlotte Mineau) wanting something for her gold fish bowl; and a jeweler (Eric Campbell) wanting to see some diamonds for purchase, unaware to all (except for the viewer reading the title card identifying him as "A Crook") that he's there to rob the place.

An extremely funny comedy, with one of the highlights being that from Albert Austin, the man with the alarm clock. He really doesn't do anything but just stands there, watching Charlie playing doctor as he checks over the clock with a stethoscope, resulting to a hilarious scene close. Somehow, these few minutes between Chaplin and Austin is as good as it gets. Another moment of funny business has Charlie helping Edna in the kitchen by passing plates and cups to dry through a clothes wringer. Surprisingly, Eric Campbell, the giant-size adversary usually part of Charlie's antics, gets little screen time, making his first appearance very late into the story. In spite of his limitations, Campbell makes every moment of his count where laughs are concerned. Henry Bergman, (no relation to Ingrid or Ingmar), resembling some cast member from "The Jazz Singer" in his Hebrew garb, doing what he does best as part of Chaplin's stock company of players.

A laugh fest at best that, along with Chaplin's other Mutuals, THE PAWN SHOP has circulated on public television in the sixties and seventies with musical soundtrack with sound effects lifted from early 1930s reissue prints, prints that have been available to home video in the 1980s and 90s by Blackhawk and/or Republic Home Video, or original scoring for commercial television for "Charlie Chaplin Comedy Theater" that originated in the 1960s. In later years, THE PAWN SHOP has become available on DVD, namely KINO Home Video with new orchestration and at longer length (28 minutes) through silent speed projection, the print occasionally shown on cable television's Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 13, 1999). So if anyone has anything to pawn, particularly a clock once belonging to Albert Austin, take it to Charlie's pawn shop, and then go seek professional help. Next Chaplin Mutual comedy: BEHIND THE SCREEN (1916). (***)
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Earliest Pawn Stars
redryan6420 January 2015
AS IS THE case with so many of Mr. Chaplin's two reel comedies, they pack as much action and bang for the buck as would a feature film. Having absolute control of his films from inception to completion, Charlie would shoot and re-shoot scenes until he got it exactly the way that he wanted it.

THE RELIANCE ON so many of his trusted thespians who constituted a most capable repertory company, helped to ensure that the finished product would be the best version of the movie that it could be. The roster, which included names such as Edna Purviance, Henry Bergman, Eric Campbell and Albert Austin, among others, knew their trade and plies it in the manner that Charlie wanted.

AS FOR OUR film of honor today in its specifics, THE PAWNSHOP (Lone Star/Mutual, 1916), as with so many other memorable movies, begins with a simple premise. A youthful male employee comes to work for a rather elderly boss. Added to the mix, we have the pawnbroker's vivacious, young (woo, woo, woo, woo!) daughter, some varied characters as customers and interplay with the mechanical world.

IT ALL SOUNDS so simple. But it is no sure-fire formula for success; as it needs proper intensity and the carefully crafted timing, balance & variety of the selection of gags. It also takes old fashioned L-U-C-K!

OUR FRIEND, SCHULTZ, says that "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity!" Schultz says he once read that in a fortune cookie at Harmony Chinese Restaurant on Archer Avenue in Chicago.
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Chaplin at some of his best
lee_eisenberg21 October 2012
One of Charlie Chaplin's really early movies casts him as a pawnshop employee who, through no fault of his own, has a tendency to make a mess of everything. The whole thing is a riot, especially the sequence with the ladder. I think that it was a few years later when Chaplin started incorporating social themes into his movies. In the meantime, the man known as the Tramp knew exactly how to show some absolutely hilarious stuff. The daughter is played by Edna Purviance, who was probably his most frequent co-star, appearing in his movies as late as the '50s.

All in all, if we appraise "The Pawnshop", it's worth a whole lot! Just plain fun.
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