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Chaplin in San Francisco: A Treat for Our Patrons

January 31, 2011

Generic Chaplin Comedy Slide (c. 1916-23)
Generic Chaplin Comedy Slide (c. 1916-23)

In April 1916, Charles Chaplin signed an unprecedented contract with the Mutual Film Company. Calling for him to produce a dozen two-reel comedies at a salary ten times what he had received from his former employer, the agreement made Chaplin the highest paid entertainer in the world.

And he was worth every penny.

Today Chaplin's Mutual period is recognized as one most the inspired creative outbursts in film history.  Chaplin produced his the films at the rate of nearly one per month and each film stands unique and distinct from the others.  Throughout the entire series Chaplin never repeated a characterization or a setting.  The comedy is uniquely Chaplin, and is as clever, funny, and fresh as when the films were originally released almost 100 years ago.

On Saturday February 12, Bay Area audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy three of these mini-masterpieces at Castro Theatre as part of the 6th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event.

Accompanied on the piano by festival favorite Donald Sosin, the program features three of my personal favorites:  The PawnshopThe Rink, and The Adventurer.

The Pawnshop (1916)
The Pawnshop (1916)

The New York Dramatic Mirror described The Pawnshop (released October 2, 1916) as "a succession of highly ludicrous scenes" with "one comedy climax after another," concluding that "Chaplin himself has never been funnier or indulged in more of his typical Chaplinisms." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Rink (1916)
The Rink (1916)

The Rink (released December 4, 1916) was the eighth of the Mutual comedies.  Chaplin's virtuosity on roller skates astonished moviegoers at the time and 100 years later it's still a delightful treat.  The film is one of my personal all-time favorites.  As a teenager I owned a Super 8 print from Blackhawk Films and must have watched it a thousand times.

The Adventurer (1917)
The Adventurer (1917)

The Adventurer (released October 23, 1917) begins with a chase, ends with a chase, and maintains a fairly frenetic pace throughout.  As coincidence would have it, I also owned The Adventurer on Super 8.  If memory serves me right I paid $12.99 for it back in 1972 or '73, which in my economy of the time would have equated to mowing the lawn approximately 4.3 times.  Like Chaplin's contract with Mutual, it was worth every penny.