Charlie Chaplin in A NIGHT OUT (1915) – Wait for it…

NightOut

Appearances aren’t what they seem to be. If you’ve never seen A Night Out, the publicity photos and such would suggest that it’s a silly movie about two roundabouts (Chaplin and Ben Turpin) having a very drunken night out on the town. And the first half or so of the movie shows them doing just that – and that’s the most tedious part of the movie. This part of the plot comes to life only when the duo’s very assertive headwaiter (Bud Jamison, looking like an early role model for Eric Campbell) forcibly ejects first Ben and then Charlie from his restaurant for their disruptive behavior.

(There’s nothing particularly funny about the way Ben and Charlie are drunk, by the way. They start out as bosom buddies, then as soon as they start to get into a little trouble, Charlie ditches Ben as quickly as he can.)

What perks things up is when Ben and Charlie head for their hotel room. Across the hall from them alights a pretty girl (all hail the movie debut of Edna Purviance). Edna quickly enters her room. Charlie kicks Ben into their room and then knocks on Edna’s door, hoping to make a little time with her. Alas, Edna is married – and her husband is the headwaiter who threw Charlie out! As soon as the headwaiter makes his appearance, Charlie knows when he’s licked – without further ado, he packs his bags and heads for another hotel, Ben be damned!

After another long strand of plot (please don’t make me cough it up here, it’s too painful) comes the other gem of this short: Charlie and Edna end up, albeit most innocently, in Charlie’s room in their pajamas, when Bud calls for his wife! The reactions and timing here are just what the doctor ordered, and they show that, little by little, Chaplin was getting at something on his own that he couldn’t have gotten in the more frenetic Keystone atmosphere. It takes a while to get to the highlights of this short, but they’re more than worth the wait.

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