Sunday, June 3, 2012

Phil sees THE KID at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-June 2, 2012

Charlie Chaplin & Jackie Coogan (1921)
During the annual Charlie Chaplin Days over in Niles, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum showed Chaplin's first feature film. THE KID has been regarded as a silent film classic, one of Chaplin's most beloved films. Two Chaplin shorts were shown as well. Pianist extraordinaire Bruce Loeb provided the music accompaniment.

The first short shown was GENTLEMEN OF NERVE, starring Chaplin and the beautiful Mabel Normand. In this early film, Mabel and her male companion Ambrose (Chester Conklin) attend an auto race competition where they meet Charlie and his friend. Soon Charlie's friend attempts to enter the raceway through a hole, but he gets stuck and a Keystone policeman (the great Edgar Kennedy) shows up. Eventually Mable and Chaplin become smitten with one another while their friends get arrested. The film was directed by Chaplin, but you can see Sennett's influence in the film. Chaplin's Tramp character wasn't fully developed yet, and he's a little bit more mean, lacking the pathos he would have in the later films. The film was released by Mack Sennett's Keystone Company on October 29, 1914.

The second short of the night was WORK, an Essanay film that he made in Los Angeles after he left Niles. Chaplin is an assistant paperhanger to his boss Izzy A. Wake (Charles Inslee). The husband is mad and yelling because he doesn't have his breakfast, the wife is ignoring him and yells at the maid (the beautiful Edna Purviance) to take make him is breakfast. Charlie is having difficulty with the wallpaper. The wife's secret lover shows up, which causes her husband to get his gun and shoot him in his bum. Oh, did I mention the exploding stove gag that plays a pivotal and hilarious role at the end of the film? Chaplin had almost fully developed the character of the little tramp, but still needed some tweaking. He also wrote, directed, and stared in the film. It was released to theaters on June 21, 1915.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1921)
After a brief intermission, the night continued with the night continued with one of Chaplin's finest films ever: THE KID. The film stars our favorite Tramp who happens to find an abandoned baby on his morning stroll. He cares for the baby and raises him as his own. Jackie Coogan plays the Kid, who was just five years old when he made the film. Chaplin discovered Coogan on the theater stage and casted him on the spot. Years later Coogan would also be known as Uncle Fester on The ADDAMS FAMILY television show. Purviance also starred in the film as the mother who abandoned her son and regretted her mistake. The film was released to the world on February 6, 1921. The film is highly regarded as on of the finest films ever made in cinema's history. For those who have never seen the film, I would highly recommend it and it is available to rent or purchase.

As I stated in my previous review, this was the centerpiece for the Charlie Chaplin Days celebration this past weekend, and I had a blast! There are many more fun events coming up at the museum! To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, on how to become a member, and to view their weekly film schedule, visit their website at
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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