HIS NEW JOB (Charles Chaplin, 1915, USA, 31m, BW)
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Jess Robbins
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charles Chaplin
Charles J. Stine
Arthur W. Bates
Edited by Bret Hampton
Distributed by Essanay Studios
February 1, 1915
Country United States
His New Job is a 1915 American short silent comedy film written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. Gloria Swanson appears as an uncredited extra. The title is an inside reference to this being Chaplin's first film after leaving Keystone Studios for Essanay Studios. It was also the only film Chaplin shot at Essanay's Chicago studio. He found the facilities and climate (His New Job was shot in mid-winter) not to his liking, and Chaplin soon relocated back to California.
When one of the actors on a movie set doesn't show up, Charlie gets his chance to be on camera and replaces the actor. While waiting, he plays in a dice game and gets on many people's nerves. When he finally gets to act, he ruins his scene, accidentally destroys the set, and tears the skirt of the star of the movie.
Charles Chaplin - Film Extra
Ben Turpin - Film Extra, in Afternoon
Charlotte Mineau - Film Extra
Leo White - Actor, Hussar Officer
Robert Bolder - Studio President
Charles J. Stine - Director
Arthur W. Bates - Carpenter
Jess Robbins - Cameraman
Gloria Swanson - Extra, Stenographer (uncredited)
With production companies such as the Selig Polyscope Company or Essanay Studios situated there, the Windy City attracted many film stars, amongst them Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin. The latter did, in fact, direct and star in fourteen silent films for Essanay. But while thirteen of those were shot in and around the company’s remote studio in Niles, California, His New Job was made solely on Chicago soil.
The 1915 short certainly is one of the lesser known Chaplin movies. Performing his usual character, the little Tramp, we see him audition for a role in a historical romantic movie, causing – as usual – chaos everywhere he goes. Basically, the film is about the Tramp upsetting the studio boss, the secretary, the movie director, the leading stars and extras as well as the carpenter who’s responsible for building the set design – and all this within the span of 30 minutes.
In this movie, Charlie shows up for “open auditions at Lodestone studios,” looking for extra work. He flirts with an aspiring actress, feuds with the (male) production assistant organizing the interviews, and knocks out fellow-extra-wannabe Ben Turpin several times. He manages to get hired, in spite of some amusing confusion with the studio head’s hearing aid, and goes over to the set, spoiling a shot.
To get rid of him, the director sends him over to work with the carpenter, leading to the usual physical comedy with board and mallets, etc. Then the director fires one of the uniformed actors and tells Charlie to get a costume. He can’t find one, so he borrows one from the absent star’s dressing room. Then he proceeds to foul up several scenes, bending his sword out of shape, nearly knocking over the set, and tearing the female star’s dress. Finally, the star shows up and find him in his costume, leading to a Keystone-style confrontation with him, the carpenter, the director, Ben Turpin, and Charlie. Guess who wins?
As we might expect, this first effort in an unfamiliar studio is lighter than the better work Charlie would go on to during 1915, but it already shows some improvements. Charlie’s character is still quick to violence and mayhem, but he’s already developing that playful shrug that would become his sympathetic gesture. The gags are better developed and there’s a bit more running humor involved. Still, it’s not much above “The Masquerader” or “A Film Johnnie,” and lacks some of the hooks that make those films so memorable (like cross-dressing and seeing the inner workings of Keystone studios).
There are some interesting tracking shots, mostly used to take the audience “into” the scenes Charlie is ostensibly shooting from behind the camera, and one tracking-backward shot to follow him and the female lead as they walk up-set. There are no real close-ups, and we don’t even get a good look at Turpin’s trademark crossed-eyes. The editing is pretty standard for the time as well, with just a bit of cross-cutting to get characters into the same scene together. Apparently, Gloria Swanson auditioned for the film (she would have been just fifteen at the time), but Charlie wasn’t impressed, so she was relegated to playing a typist in the background.
For his first movie at Essanay studios, Charlie Chaplin decided to lampoon Keystone Studios and have a bit of an in-joke for his fans with the title. He was already being paid better, given more creative freedom, and working in a longer format, but apparently the cold weather of Chicago in January didn’t agree with him, and he soon relocated back to California to resume working there.
Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin
born April 16, 1889, London, Eng.
died Dec. 25, 1977, Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switz.
British comedian, producer, writer, director, and composer who is widely regarded as the greatest comic artist of the screen and one of the most important figures in motion-picture history.
Named after his father, a British music hall entertainer, Chaplin spent his early childhood with his mother, the singer Hannah Hall. He made his own stage debut at age five, filling in when his mother lost her voice in mid-song. The mentally unstable Hall was later confined to an asylum, whereupon Charlie and his half-brother Sydney were sent to a series of bleak workhouses and residential schools. Using his mother's show-business contacts, Charlie became a professional entertainer in 1897 when he joined the Eight Lancashire Lads, a clog-dancing act. His subsequent stage credits included a small role in William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes and a stint with the vaudeville act Casey's Court Circus. In 1908 he joined the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, quickly rising to star status as The Drunk in the ensemble sketch A Night in an English Music Hall.
While touring America with the Karno company in 1913, Chaplin was signed to appear in Mack Sennett's Keystone comedy films. Though his first Keystone one-reeler, Making a Living (1914), was not the failure that historians have claimed, Chaplin's initial screen character, a mercenary dandy, did not show him to best advantage. Ordered by Sennett to come up with a more workable screen image, Chaplin improvised an outfit consisting of a too-small coat, too-large pants, floppy shoes, and a battered derby. As a finishing touch, he pasted on a postage-stamp mustache and adopted a cane as an all-purpose prop. It was in his second Keystone film, Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), that Chaplin's immortal screen alter ego, “the Little Tramp,” was born.
In truth, Chaplin did not always portray a tramp; in many of his films his character was employed as a waiter, store clerk, stagehand, fireman, and the like. His character might be better described as the quintessential misfit: shunned by polite society, unlucky in love, jack-of-all-trades but master of none. He was also a survivor, forever leaving past sorrows behind, jauntily shuffling off to new adventures. The Tramp's appeal was universal: audiences loved his cheekiness, his deflation of pomposity, his casual savagery, his unexpected gallantry, and his resilience in the face of adversity. Some historians have traced the Tramp's origins to Chaplin's Dickensian childhood, while others have suggested that the character had its roots in the motto of Chaplin's mentor, Fred Karno: “Keep it wistful, gentlemen, keep it wistful.” Whatever the case, within months after his movie debut, Chaplin was the screen's biggest star.
His 35 Keystone comedies can be regarded as the Tramp's gestation period, during which a caricature became a character. The films improved steadily once Chaplin became his own director. In 1915 he left Sennett to accept a $1,250-weekly contract at Essanay Studios. It was there that he began to inject elements of pathos in his comedy, notably in such shorts as The Tramp (1915) and Burlesque on Carmen (1916). He moved on to an even more lucrative job ($670,000 per year) at the Mutual Company Film Corporation. There, during an 18-month period, he made the 12 two-reelers that many regard as his finest films, among them such gems as One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond (1916), and Easy Street (1917).
While working for First National Pictures (1918–19), Chaplin made the three-reel Shoulder Arms (1918), the four-reel The Pilgrim (1923), and his first starring feature, The Kid (1921). Some have suggested that the increased dramatic content of these films is symptomatic of Chaplin's efforts to justify the praise lavished upon him by the critical intelligentsia. A painstaking perfectionist, he began spending more and more time on the preparation and production of each film. From 1923 through 1929 he issued only three features: A Woman of Paris (1923), which he directed but did not star in; The Gold Rush (1925), widely regarded as his masterpiece; and The Circus (1928), an underrated film that may rank as his funniest. All three were released by United Artists, the company cofounded in 1919 by Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith.
As the Little Tramp, Chaplin had mastered the subtle art of pantomime, and the advent of sound gave him cause for alarm. After much hesitation, he released his 1931 feature City Lights as a silent, despite the ubiquity of talkies after 1928; his gamble paid off, and the film was a success. His next film, Modern Times (1936), was a hybrid, essentially a silent with music, sound effects, and brief passages of dialogue. In this film Chaplin gave his Little Tramp a voice, as he performed a gibberish song; perhaps significantly, it was the character's farewell to the screen. Chaplin's first full talkie was The Great Dictator (1940), a devastating lampoon of Adolf Hitler that proved to be the comedian's most profitable film.
Throughout his career, Chaplin's offscreen activities had stirred up controversy. In 1918 he married 16-year-old Mildred Harris, and in 1924 he wed another teenager, Lita Grey; both marriages ended in divorce. His third marriage, to actress Paulette Goddard, was clouded by rumours that their union, which lasted until 1942, had never been legalized; and in 1943 he was the target of a paternity suit. When he began lobbying for a Second Front in Russia during World War II, his detractors alleged that he was a communist sympathizer. His 1947 film Monsieur Verdoux, which argued that an individual murderer was an “amateur” compared with the warmongers of the world, further provoked his enemies.
En route to the London premiere of his last American film, Limelight (1952), Chaplin learned that he would be denied a reentry visa to the United States. The embittered filmmaker moved to Switzerland with his fourth wife, Oona (daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill), and their children; his next film, made in England, was A King in New York (1957), in which an exiled monarch watches helplessly as his world crumbles. In 1964 Chaplin published My Autobiography, and two years later he directed his last film, the much-maligned A Countess from Hong Kong. Eventually the animosity between Chaplin and the U.S. government subsided, and in 1972 he returned to Hollywood to accept a special Academy Award. It was a bittersweet homecoming. Chaplin had come to deplore the United States, but he was visibly and deeply moved by the 12-minute standing ovation he received at the Oscar ceremonies. As Alistair Cooke described the events,
He was very old and trembly and groping through the thickening fog of memory for a few simple sentences. A senile, harmless doll, he was now—as the song says—“easy to love,” absolutely safe to admire.
Chaplin made one of his final public appearances in 1975, when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Several months after his death, his body was briefly kidnapped from a Swiss cemetery by a pair of bungling thieves—a macabre coda that Chaplin might have concocted for one of his own two-reelers.
Theodore Huff, Charlie Chaplin (1951, reprinted 1972), is a scrupulously researched basic study of Chaplin with emphasis on the films themselves. David Robinson, Charlie Chaplin: Comic Genius (1996), is a major biographical and critical study of the filmmaker, written with access to Chaplin's personal archives. An objective and unsentimental psychological study is Joyce Milton, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin (1996, reissued 1998). Kenneth S. Lynn, Charlie Chaplin and His Times (1997), examines Chaplin's life and art in the context of his times and dispels many long-standing myths about the comic. Glenn Mitchell, The Chaplin Encyclopedia (1997), is an A-to-Z compendium of Chaplin-related information. Alan Schroeder, Charlie Chaplin: The Beauty of Silence (1997), is a biographical study with emphasis on Chaplin's behind-the-scenes approach to filmmaking. Ruth Turk, Charlie Chaplin: Genius of the Silent Screen (2000), explores the influence, or lack thereof, of Chaplin's private life on his work.
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