The Tramp

Charles Chaplin

T. It.: Il Vagabondo / Charlot Vagabondo; Scen.: Charles Chaplin; F.: Harry Ensign; Scgf.: E.T. Mazy; Int.: Charles Chaplin (Il Vagabondo), Edna Purviance (La Figlia Del Fattore), Fred Goodwins (Il Fattore), Lloyd Bacon (Il Fidanzato Di Edna), Paddy Mcguire (Il Bracciante), Billy Armstrong (Il Poeta), Leo White (Un Vagabondo), Ernest Van Pelt (Vagabondo); Prod.: Jesse T. Robbins Per Essanay Film Manufacturing Company; Pri. Pro.: 11 Aprile 1915; 35mm. D.: 31′ A 16 F/S.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

For a very long time, the mass of literature on Charles Chaplin has concentrated on the character he created in 1914, “the lit­tle fellow” or “the Tramp.”

Whether philosophical, psychological, or otherwise, the results were brilliant, and have informed criticism regarding his later films as well. André Bazin’s views on Monsieur Verdoux have less to do with his reflections on Orson Welles, plan-séquence, or Italian neo-realism, than with a reading of that film in regard to the “Charlot” persona. On the other hand, many Chaplin collaborators have stressed, either that he was not interested in directing or that his directing style remained, until his last works, that which he had developed in 1914. Robert Florey, his associate director on Monsieur Ver­doux, was especially – and bitterly – eloquent in this regard. One might first remark that creating an emotion, be it intellectual or emotional, comic or tragic, is the very purpose and end of mise en scène, overruling by far matters of “the modern grammar of filmmaking”. The impact of Chaplin’s films remains as strong today as it was then, and films that were not acknowledged in their time, like Monsieur Verdoux or A King in New York, have been amply vindicated. A second point is that Chap­lin’s direction is in fact extremely subtle and consistent throughout his long activity as a total filmmaker. His mastery of space and time is obvious from the first films he directed and remains unequalled until his last features. A third remark has to do with Chaplin’s influence on other filmmakers. We know how instrumental A Woman of Paris – a film in which he does not act – has been for Lubitsch and for Soviet directors, to name only those. Some careers (or callings) have been decided on seeing this film. But my interest goes to Chaplin in relation with more recent orientations in cinema. Taking the post-WWII era as a starting point, Georges Rouquier, director of the famous Farrebique, was to my knowledge the first to claim Chaplin the filmmaker, not the actor, as a major influence. Nearer to us, it might be curious to see what happened to the filmmaker when he was rewritten – or was he? – by authors as diverse as Robert Bres­son, Straub-Huillet or Jim Jarmusch.

Bernard Eisenschitz

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Courtesy of David Shepard