ONE A.M. (1916) – Chaplin’s “I AM” statement

OneAM

Consciously or not (probably not), the superb One A.M. expands upon the conceit of the much earlier Keystone short Mabel’s Married Life, wherein a drunken Charlie thought a boxing dummy was real and thus imbued it with life. In One A.M., Charlie does the same thing with a two-story house.

Besides Chaplin, the only other actor to appear in One A.M. is an uncredited Albert Austin as a cab driver who patiently awaits payment after driving the inebriated Charlie home. Chaplin gets things off to a fine start, with the first two minutes of the film devoted to Charlie doing battle with a door of the taxi car. From there, it only gets more delightful, as Charlie breaks into his house, finds the house key, then breaks back out of the house so that he can unlock it properly.

After that, Charlie wants only to go to bed, but his home’s inanimate objects suddenly defy him in his task. A couple of stuffed-animal rugs scare Charlie as though they were zoo escapees, and a potential nightcap keeps getting thwarted because the alcohol is at the other end of a constantly spinning table, which Charlie feels he must oblige by chasing around rather than patiently waiting for the liquor to come his way.

The best part of the movie is when Charlie finally makes it to bed – only it’a a Murphy bed that pulls every possible angle it can to keep Charlie from finally reclining on it. After a while, you give up trying to figure out how the bed does seemingly impossible moves, and you decide instead that the bed has become one of Chaplin’s finest supporting characters.

Chaplin handily proves in One A.M. that he can hold his own, all by himself.

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