Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Film Johnnie (1914)

This is the first of the Keystone comedies that uses the studio itself as a backdrop for the comedy. This one fails to take full advantage of the possibilities provided by turning Chaplin loose on the Keystone lot, and feels like a dry run for better things to come. After falling madly in love with the Keystone Girl (Virginia Kirtley) that he sees on the screen in a nickelodeon, Chaplin shows up at the Keystone studio, where he wanders around the set wreaking havoc, firing a six-shooter at the actors and crew. Interesting mostly for its glimpses behind the scenes of the studio, this still feels like a rushed effort that demonstrates little characteristic Chaplin humor. It does, however, contain perhaps the most extreme and exaggerated comic mugging that he ever performed on film. It’s also fun to watch his brief interaction with an out-of-costume Fatty Arbuckle and Ford Sterling as he hangs out in front of the studio, asking for handouts. Chaplin would return to this same basic idea several times in later films, including one at Keystone, with more success.

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