Charlie Chaplin in SHANGHAIED (1915) – A plot that barely stays afloat


Shanghaied is another Chaplin/Essanay mishmash, but as these mishmashes go, it’s better than most.

The premise is that a shipowner (Charlie Ruggles) wants to destroy his ship but insists that a crew be gotten for this final voyage. So, why couldn’t he just send the ship out to sea with some dummies or something? Because then we wouldn’t have a movie, that’s why.

Unbeknownst to the shipowner (and us, until about three-quarters into the movie), his daughter (Edna Purviance) had decided to stow away on the boat, not knowing of its ultimate fate, because her daddy had said she couldn’t have Charlie as a boyfriend.

Unbeknownst to the daddy (boy, does this stuff get thick), Charlie was hired to shanghai a crew for the ship. Whenever the ship’s crew brought a potential worker around, Charlie knocked them cold with a mallet. (Chaplin’s old roommate, Stan Laurel, did an elaborated version of this routine in his later Laurel & Hardy short The Live Ghost [1934].) Unfortunately, Charlie gets knocked out for the crew as well.

If you shanghai Charlie as a shipmate, you kinda get what you deserve. At one point, Charlie gets nearly the entire crew knocked overboard, and he does his own version of a mock-semaphore to the remainder of the crew in order to get them hoisted back aboard.

Needless to say, by story’s end, the bad guys get scuttled, and Charlie gets rewarded by the shipowner – but not so rewarded that he’ll let Charlie date Edna again. Charlie does a melodramatic farewell and flings himself overboard, only to come back around the other side, give the shipowner a good arse-kick, and knock him overboard for good. The fade-out shows Charlie and Edna laughing it up at Edna’s father getting knocked into the sea. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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