Monday, February 19, 2018

A Film Johnnie (USA, 1914)

Even for those who are not fond of silents, this film is full of historic value. By showing a sort of “film inside the film”, we can have a rare insight about what it was like to go to the cinema in the 1910s. We can also have an insight on the backstage of Keystone studios, as well as its working practices. 
Furthermore, Chaplin was at the very beginning of his career in films. We can see the evolution of the Little Tramp, who was originally a rough, impolite troublemaker, at first without the pathos that would soon make Chaplin famous worldwide. 
It is also possible to make comparisons between the plot of his film and the very beginning of Chaplin cinematic career, with him trying to be accepted in his new work and having a difficult attitude with his peers at the same time. There are stories of Chaplin having refused to be directed by Mabel Normand and clashed with other directors of Keystone studios. 
The Little Tramp goes to the cinema and falls in love with the girl in the picture of the publicity material outside the cinema. Of course that the girl turned out to be Mabel Normand and the film was produced by the Keystone studios. A noteworthy observation is that, even though it was Mabel Normand`s picture outside the cinema, the character turned out being played by another actress Peggy Pearce. 
There`s a rumor that Mabel Normand did not act in this comedy because Chaplin had previously clashed with Normand while making another film and she simply refused to work with him again. And that made the studio replace Normand by Pearce. 
Chaplin enters the cinema and ends up causing chaos with other moviegoers. He was not only impolite with other people, but also very naïve in taking what he saw on screen as if it was real. His love for the Keystone Girl only grows bigger. 
After a fight at the cinema and being kicked out by the audience, the Little Tramp ends up on the doorstep of Keystone studios. The reasons for it aren`t clear. Was he looking for his sweetheart? Looking for a job? Begging for money/food? We cannot say for sure. When the “Keystone players arrive at the studio”, as one of intertitles says, modern-day audiences can see some of the biggest stars of the studio of the day, including Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who in real life played an influence on how the Little Tramp character would be built up and was already an established comedy actor when Chaplin started working at Keystone studios in 1914. 
The Little Tramp finally got to enter the studio, but he created a huge chaos. Then, there was a fire and the actors and studio crew ran to the scenery in order to get some “atmosphere” for the film. In the first years of Keystone studios (which had been founded in 1912), it was a usual that films were made on the spot of real-life events.
This short film does provide a rare and accurate insight about entertainment early XX century, both under the perspective of young Hollywood industry and of audience and how they related to films. Highly recommended for those interested to know about the evolution of cinema in a fast and practical way.

No comments:

Post a Comment