Charlie Chaplin in THE NEW JANITOR (1914) – Charlie cleans up

 

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(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)

Quickie plot summary: Charlie has just been fired from the title role (!) when he manages to thwart a bank robbery.

Charlie is the janitor at a bank, and some of the business leading up to his firing is amusing, but far too much time is spent on the “straight” story of one of the bank executives trying to embezzle funds from the bank’s safe.

The pay-off, however, is terrific: Charlie, having stooped down to help a fainted bank secretary, nevertheless holds a gun between his legs to keep the bank exec at bay. The ending, too, is interesting: A policeman, having heard gunshots, rushes to the scene and impulsively takes Charlie away, assuming from his grubby demeanor that he is the bank robber. This finale is played strictly for laughs, yet it seems to look forward to Chaplin’s later, more thoughtful shorts such as Police. A flawed but intriguing short.

Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle in THE ROUNDERS (1914) – A potent combination

Rounders

Film history tells us that because of his assertive ways, Chaplin bumped heads with a lot of veterans during his first months at the Keystone Studios. It would appear that Roscoe Arbuckle was not one of them. Here and elsewhere, he and Chaplin are a delight together.

Here, they play drunks coming in separately from a night on the town. As it happens, they have rooms across the hall from each other, and both have wives waiting to nag them about their drinking. When the nagging gets out of hand, soon the wives are fighting each other instead of the husbands, while the husbands discover they go to the same lodge and find that as good as an excuse as any to continue their nightly binge together.

After seeing how well Chaplin and Arbuckle work together here, it’s a pity that Keystone’s keystone, Mack Sennett, didn’t try to pair them again. The movie’s only debit: It’s a one-reeler. Just when it starts to get really interesting, it ends.

Charlie Chaplin’s RECREATION (1914) – Charlie the catalyst

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In the park, a woman leaves her husband (Boyfriend? Brother? Who knows?), a sailor, asleep on a bench. She finds another bench to sit at, when Charlie happens upon the scene and tries to appropriate the woman for himself. Then the sailor awakens and sees what’s going on. Hmm, this can’t end well.

This should play out like typical Keystone “Beat each other up in a park” hokum, and yet, once a couple of well-meaning cops get dragged into the fracas, things get funnier than expected. Charlie has a way of getting the best of acquaintances to turn on each other as they never have before. And the woman doesn’t really know with whom she should swear her allegiance – she just knows she doesn’t want it with Charlie. It makes for a brisk, funny seven minutes.