It. tit.: Charlot inserviente di banca. Scen.: Charles Chaplin. F.: Harry Ensign. Scgf.: E.T. Hazy. Int.: Charles Chaplin (janitor), Edna Purviance (secretary,), Carl Stockdale (treasurer), Billy Armstrong (janitor), Charles Insley (dicrector), Lawrence A. Bowes (influent customer), John Rand (traveller salesperson/thief), Leo White (customer), Fred Goodwins (watchman/ thief), Bud Jamison (thief), Frank J. Coleman (thief), Lloyd Bacon (thief), Paddy McGuire (thief), Wesley Ruggles, Carrie Clark Ward. Prod.: Jesse T. Robbins per The Essanay Manufacturing Company. DCP. Bn.
The Tramp enters the shot with his back to the camera, going just beyond it at the left. His black silhouette contrasts starkly with the white marble facade of the building he walks along. He stops to pick up something and then moves on with great aplomb. We watch him go into a building. The camera keeps its distance from him as it captures him from the front inside the bank, emphasizing the comic effect of his two rounds about the revolving door (“The small figure of the Tramp in the distance was funnier than he would have been in a close-up” used to say Chaplin). He proceeds confidently, avoiding the backside of a janitor fiddling under a table; he goes down the steps of a grand stairwell to a gigantic vault door that looks like it came out of a H.G. Wells’ novel. With great solemnity, he enters each combination one by one, takes off his jacket and removes the precious contents: a bucket, a rag and a janitor’s uniform. The surprise effect is hilarious. With harmonious sequences, fluid narration, organized according to the three classic sections, and a marked dramatic element (this is a comedy without a happy ending), The Bank won over the last bastion of Chaplinskeptic critics who unanimously recognized being in the presence of a comic genius. Watching The Bank it seems that Chaplin did not just perform the gags but ‘became’ the gag itself, creating a comic effect with the discrepancy between his facial expression and the action of the rest of his body. For example, the solemnity with which he does his work as a janitor and the contrast with his total inability to control the ‘tools of his trade’ (especially the broom). The rivalry between Chaplin and John Rand – which anticipates a similar relationship in The Pawnshop (while the gag of paper being moved from one room to another is reminiscent of ‘the snow plow operation’ in The Gold Rush) –, Chaplin’s mature performance in rendering romantic disappointment and the narrative ploy of the dream that momentarily remedies the inevitability of defeat (social, romantic, etc.) all make The Bank one of the most enjoyable titles of the series.
Restoration supported by Susan and Richard Meyer