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The Idle Class (1921)

A tramp sneaks into a upper class golf resort. The tramp meets a rich woman who is having an argument with her drunken husband. Complications arise when she mistakes the tramp for her husband.


Charles Chaplin (as Charlie Chaplin)


Charles Chaplin (as Charlie Chaplin)

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Complete credited cast:
Charles Chaplin ... Tramp / Husband (as Charlie Chaplin)
Edna Purviance ... Edna, Neglected Wife


The conflict here is between Charlie the wealthy and alcoholic husband and Charlie the Tramp: the idle rich and the idle poor. In the opening scene wealthy Edna descends from a Pullman car while the Tramp crawls out from under another one. At a fancy masquerade ball Edna's husband appears as a knight whose visor is stuck closed. The Tramp shows up, running from the law, and is mistaken for the husband. Edna finds the new "husband" more to her liking than the real one. When true identities are revealed, a fight breaks out and the Tramp is ejected. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HIM AND HIMSELF He's as funny as him as he is as himself. A fun-fable of a minnow that went swimming with gold fish. Poor Fish! (Print Ad- Nashua Telegraph, ((Nashua, NH)) 5 December 1921)


Short | Comedy






Release Date:

25 September 1921 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Vanity Fair See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System) (re-issue)| Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Charles Chaplin underwent a bit of a creative block prior to making this film. In an attempt to generate some ideas for a new project, Chaplin strolled through the studio's prop building grabbing and playing with various objects. Ultimately, he stumbled upon a set of golf clubs and envisioned his character, the Tramp, playing golf. The incident sparked the creation of this film. See more »


When the father-in-law smacks Charlie's doppelganger in their room, the feather falls off his armor helmet. When the father-in-law pulls him out of the room into the hall, the feather is back on the helmet. See more »


Husband: My wife - - and flirting.
See more »


Featured in Born in '45 (1966) See more »

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User Reviews

"The Lonely Husband"
27 August 2010 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

While Charlie Chaplin's little tramp persona has been famous worldwide for nearly a century, a character he created back in his musical hall days is less well-known. That character was the alcoholic aristocrat. Here, in the Idle Class, he makes his final appearance, and his only one opposite the tramp, in a mistaken identity comedy that prefigures Chaplin talkie The Great Dictator.

In spite of this being his swansong, the posh drunk's personality is more fully fleshed out here than ever before, as if Chaplin was eking the utmost out of the character before abandoning him. Chaplin also involves him in gags of a type he did not often do; the pull-back-and-reveal joke, like the shot revealing he is wearing no trousers, or the elaborate arrangement of people and props as he tries to conceal it from the people around him. These jokes are hilarious, but they are not typical Chaplin – they draw too much attention to the artifice of it all, and threatens to detract from the humanity of the characters, which is why he would never have used such gags with the little tramp.

Speaking of the little tramp, he is far from absent in The Idle Class, and there is plenty of his kind of humour here. He gets a great entrance, emerging from a little hatch on the underside of a train after the grand arrival of an assortment of toffs. There are some supremely confident gags on a golf course, where in the classic style of the Mutual shorts the focus is upon the trail of chaos that the tramp leaves behind him. For example, we see Charlie sauntering into the distance while in centre-screen his two fellow golfers get into a fight over a misunderstanding he has caused. In a following shot only his legs appear, as he stomps on a straw hat in one corner of the screen, causing yet more mayhem. Charlie is not shown directly, but it is his personality and his influence on the comedy you remember. Compare that to the scenes of the wealthy drunkard, in which Chaplin is always on screen because the character is weaker and requires our constant attention to work.

So, an odd little Chaplin short, featuring much material of a kind he would not return to again. And yet it is very effective and funny, even when it wasn't in a mode that suited him. As if to prove the value of the kind of gags we see in The Idle Class, they went to live on in the work of his fellow silent comics. Whether the influence of this picture was significant or not, those pull-back-and-reveal gags are used to great effect in Harold Lloyd's films, while those elaborately staged sight-gags were of course a staple for Buster Keaton.

All of which heralds the timely arrival of that all-important statistic – Number of kicks up the arse: 7 (2 for, 4 against, 1 other).

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