Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Rounders (1914)

Rounders1914shot

Today is Charlie Chaplin’s 125th birthday, so I thought I’d take a break from the Edison shorts I’ve been reviewing and talk about another of his classic comedy reels from 1914. This one also stars Fatty Arbuckle, who was a major slapstick star at Keystone even before Chaplin arrived on the scene. I’m hoping to review some more of his work in the coming weeks. Here, the two of them portray standard comedy drunks. Doing drunks on Vaudeville stages is how Chaplin got his start, in fact. We tend to think of him as a lovable victim of society, but as a drunk he could be aggressive and foolish as well. Here, he and Fatty arrive home and fight with their wives, eventually linking up to go out in search of more booze (with money Fatty steals out of his wife’s purse), eventually causing chaos at a posh restaurant when they stagger in. Fair warning: the doorman at the bar is a white man in black-face, which is a reminder that what was acceptable humor in 1914 may not be OK 100 years later. The entire cast consists of some very talented pratfall artists, and you’ll be surprised at the stunts being pulled off by minor players. The movie includes several locations: a hotel where the couples live, the restaurant, and a quite recognizable park used in many Chaplin films, making this one of the more complex shoots he worked on at Keystone.

Director: Charles Chaplin

Starring: Charles Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle, Phyllis Allen, Minta Durfee

Run Time: 13 Min

You can watch it for free: here (this is a good-quality print with no music or intertitles). Or here (inferior print that is 3 minutes shorter, but has music and intertitles).

Cripple Creek Bar Room Scene (1899)

Cripple Creek

This is another one of those movies sometimes called “the first Western,” and I guess it has a reasonable claim, although it’s so short that it’s a little hard to think of it as really definable in terms of genre. It seems to be intended more for comedic effect than to make any deep statements about the frontier, although it does suggest something about the code of conduct in a “lawless” area. It shows a barroom in which a group of men are playing cards, and an obviously already-inebriated man comes in for a drink. After taking his drink, he knocks a stove-pipe hat off the head of an unconscious man, who wakes up and becomes annoyed. The newcomer is ejected by the bartender, a large woman, with some help from the card players. She then goes behind the bar and sets up drinks for the house. It’s interesting to note that she is obviously able to handle herself and not at all threatened by the drunk’s behavior. There are no guns on display, nor any apparent indication that their use would be likely. The card-players and the bartender seem to represent a kind of community standard for acceptable behavior, while the passed-out drunk is tolerated, and the aggressive drunk brings on social reprisal.

Director: James H. White

Run Time: 48 seconds

You Can Watch It for Free: Here.