The Professor (1919) Poster

(1919)

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7/10
Professor Bosco's unfinished tale
ackstasis31 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
By 1919, five years after his debut appearance in 'Making a Living,' Charles Chaplin was already one of the most famous silent comedians of all time. His character of The Tramp, the bumbling but good-natured vagrant, had already made him an international star, and 'The Professor' represents an (abandoned) attempt by Chaplin to portray a different character, something he only did a handful of times pre-1940.

Professor Bosco (Chaplin) is a poor street performer who dejectedly arrives at a rundown flophouse, a box of circus fleas clasped tightly under one arm. His day has been an unsuccessful one, and we sympathise immediately with this weary, down-on-his-luck old man, as he jadedly hands over payment for a night's accommodation. Slumping down onto a bed, aside similarly homeless and unsuccessful men, Bosco ensures the wellbeing of his beloved fleas, counting each one individually to make certain of their presence. He even examines a flea from the beard of the scratching man beside him to ensure that it is not one of his own performers (before tersely returning it to the beard).

Throughout the night, Bosco's fleas escape on two occasions – the first when Bosco accidentally knocks the box off his bed, and the second when a curious stray dog wanders into the flophouse. Having newly acquired Bosco's population of performing fleas, the scratching dog flees into the streets, and a panic-stricken Bosco chases it into the night.

Despite a few amusing moments (including Chaplin's memorable "flea trainer" routine, which was recycled for his 1952 film, 'Limelight') 'The Professor' perhaps works better as a tragedy than a comedy; though, admittedly, this may just be because of my slow, mournful selection of accompanying music (Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major). This tantalising snippet into Professor Bosco's life is poignant and touching; whatever the reasons for Chaplin abandoning the project, I'm just glad that this much remains for us to enjoy.
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7/10
Interesting work of an artist
jluis198418 September 2006
Five years after his 1914 debut in the short "Making a Living", comedian Charles Chaplin was already a successful movie star, an experienced director (directing 53 shorts in 5 years) and probably the most popular comedy actor of his time, and it was just the beginning of the most successful stage of his career. After creating United Artists along with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith, Chaplin found himself with enough power and influence to do practically anything he imagined, and he most certainly did.

Probably among the first ideas he put to work with this recently gained freedom, was this short that showcases an incomplete idea Chaplin had that even when it was never completed entirely, he would use the elements of this short for his first feature, "The Kid" (1921), and more famously, for his autobiographical "Limelight" (1952) almost 35 years later. "The Professor" is the story of Professor Bosco, a poor street performer who travels with his circus of trained fleas. As he arrives to a hostel to get some sleep, problems arise when his fleas begin to create havoc among the other tramps at the hostel.

"The Professor" follows the same common themes of looking for happiness in adversity and life in poverty that Chaplin was so keen to use. However, unlike the Little Tramp, professor Bosco is an old and somewhat bitter man, who is more worried about his fleas than about his own health. This probably was an attempt to make a change from the Tramp, and Chaplin is quite convincing, they don't even look like the same person. The realism of the scene (despite the comic effect of the fleas) would return in "The Kid" and it seems that Chaplin used the very same locations in both films.

As the film is incomplete, it consists of only a couple of gags, all based on pantomime showcasing Chaplin's complete domain over that technique. The most famous gag, was later used in "Limelight", when Chaplin's character Calvero (an actor), acts like a flea trainer. With the difference that in "The Professor" the fleas are supposed to be real and in "Limelight" are just part of an act, the gag is exactly the same, but that apparently subtle difference makes an enormous change in both films.

It's uncertain why suddenly Chaplin stopped working on this project (probably he felt that Professor Bosco would not be accepted by his fans), but fortunately, Chaplin kept the best of this short in his head for future projects. While this is by no means Chaplin's best short, it's charming and worth a watch not only for historical reasons. Nowadays it can be found in the "Limelight" DVD. 7/10
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7/10
Even though it's incomplete, it's worth seeing.
MartinHafer22 February 2011
If you want to see this unfinished Chaplin film, then get a hold of the DVD for "Limelight" (1952)--a wonderful drama Chaplin made late in life. Why Chaplin never got around to finishing it, I have no idea--but he did incorporate some of the ideas in "The Professor" in "Limelight".

The film begins without credits. Chaplin is almost unrecognizable in a new non-Tramp persona. He looks a bit swarthy and has an exaggerated mustache and mop-like hair. You sure can see some of the Little Tramp in his walk and mannerisms, though. He goes to sleep the night at a flophouse--along with his act, his flea circus. When the fleas accidentally escape, all finds of comedic reactions occur.

It's really a shame this was not completed--it is funny and clever. Perhaps Chaplin or his financers were uncomfortable with his new character or didn't' want to mess with the tried and true formula.
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Older Chaplin
mehmetmutluozdemir12 April 2006
Chaplin looks old in this movie. Even it is not completed this film can be seen in Limelight DVD set. In Chaplin's human drama masterpiece Limelight, Calvero the tramp comedian performs several acts, one of those is the "performing fleas" act. This act was performed by Chaplin originally in this movie "The Professor". Chaplin was related to whole music hall life, vaudeville, singing, Harlequinade and circus. In limelight (which is highly autobiographical) Chaplin is in all. The Professor is I think a quite artistic film. Chaplin is not the usual tramp in this film. He is a flea trainer. There is a scene similar to the scene in The Kid, Chaplin rents a bed just in the same place he does in the kid. And performs his great flea act in this film. I wander why he stopped making this film.
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8/10
Where to catch this unknown work
theowinthrop13 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
THE PROFESSOR was supposed to be an attempt to make a short that broke from the character of the Tramp. He played Professor Bosco, who is the owner of a flea circus, and (although dressed as an old tramp) he has a large whip, which he flashes to keep his fleas in line. He has gone to a flop house to sleep, and we watch several incidents during the night from the other tramps and from a dog, and how they interrupt his fleas which are kept in a cardboard box. At the end of the surviving short he has rounded up his fleas and finds it is time to move on.

It was supposed to be part of a longer short - but instead it was only ten minutes. There may have been more than that ten minutes but this is all that has been recovered in Chaplin's private film vaults. It is one of numerous cut sequences and hitherto unknown films shot by Chaplin that were shown in the three part series UNKNOWN CHAPLIN on Channel 13 (which is available on video).

Whether or not Professor Bosco would have been a successful series or not we'll never know (Chaplin, apparently, decided it would not work). But this sequence did end up (as pointed out in another review on this thread) as the model for the later version that appeared in LIMELIGHT.
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5/10
Chaplin Tries A Change
CitizenCaine27 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Chaplin tries a change of pace in this film and features himself as a tired flea circus performer who beds down for the night in a flophouse. The flophouse curiously looks similar to the one later featured in The Kid with Jackie Coogan. The film was never completed, and I wonder about the particular reason for that. Perhaps it's mentioned in his autobiography or other biographies written about him. I suspect it might have something to do with the idea that Chaplin simply felt the public wouldn't readily accept him in the persona of an older man. Not much happens in the film except the predictable occurrences of some of Chaplin's bunk-mates getting infested with the fleas. Chaplin coaxes the fleas back into a box in his inimitable fashion, and eventually he decides to take his flea circus with him and go somewhere else. It's an interesting curio at most and nothing more, but Chaplin did resurrect the idea of a flea circus decades later in Limelight. ** of 4 stars.
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7/10
Havoc of the fleas
TheLittleSongbird27 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 period after Mutual, 'The Professor' is not one of his very best and not even among the best of this particular period. As said with many of his post-Keystone efforts, 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. The Essanay and Mutual periods were something of Chaplin's adolescence period where his style had been found and starting to settle. After Mutual the style had properly settled and the cinematic genius emerged. Something that can be seen in 'The Professor' though other efforts do it better.

The story is slight and a bit too busy and manic in places. It is an unfinished effort and the incompleteness shows in some of the clarity of the story and flow where it is on the choppy side at times.

On the other hand, 'The Professor' looks good, not amazing 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.

'The Professor' is very funny and charming. The humour is not much but what there is is very well timed and close to hilarious and the charm doesn't get over-sentimental. It generally moves quickly and there is little dullness in sight. It is also very touching, perhaps the most poignant of his 1919 efforts.

Chaplin directs more than competently and the cinematic genius quality is emerging. He also, as usual, gives a playful and expressive performance and at clear ease with the physicality and substance of the role. The support is good and the chemistry charms.

Overall, good but not great. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Chaplin and his flea circus
Horst_In_Translation9 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The Professor" is an American movie from 1919, which means 3 more years and it will have its 100th anniversary. This one only runs for 7 minutes, but I believe this is just one extract and Chaplin intended this as a full feature movie. I may be wrong though. Anyway, it is of course a silent and black-and-white film. Chaplin was around the age of 30 when he made this one, but he looks really old in here, probably intended as he plays a professor and they are usually older. Anyway, his professor is of course not a genius of any kind, but one who travels around with a flea circus and you can already imagine what happens here. Yep, the fleas get away and Charlie is busy all the time getting them back. I have seen some of his works and I would not call myself a big silent film lover or huge Chaplin film, even if there were a handful that I liked. This is not one of them, I found it very underwhelming and never really funny. That's why I give it a thumbs-down. Not recommended and I am glad it was that short.
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5/10
What a difference 33 years makes!!
pixrox128 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This failed Charlie Chaplin project did not die in vain. It germinated in the tramp's head for 33 years, and was put over to great effect in the feature-length talkie, LIMELIGHT, in 1952. In fact, a flea circus routine is shown in its entirety during the heyday of London's funniest Vaudeville type, Calvero, during a flashback, and later partially reprized for LIMELIGHT's grand finale. Obviously, it is easier to pantomime dancing buns, as Chaplin's tramp character did for the girls at his cabin in Gold Rush, than it is to pull off a flea circus sans sound. But Chaplin as Calvero in LIMELIGHT recalls Red Skeleton at his best with the perfect timing of his flea circus routine, which augments the expected slapstick with a surprising ribald opening "dialog" with Calvero's pair of fleas. Someone famous probably said failure sometimes is more interesting than success, but in the case of Charlie Chaplin flea circuses, this simply is not true. Therefore, invest some time in watching LIMELIGHT, to which I gave a rating of 9 out of a possible 10. Thought not a silent, LIMELIGHT is as poignant as anything done by the mute tramp.
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