Today is the anniversary of a major benchmark; the release of Charlie Chaplin’s first movie Making a Living.
Chaplin had been starring in vaudeville with Fred Karno’s Speechless Comedians when scouted by agents working for Mack Sennett’s Keystone the previous year. In Making a Living, Chaplin hasn’t yet discovered his “Little Tramp” character. Films in which he doesn’t play the Little Fellow are surprisingly plentiful, but for those less acquainted it may come as something a revelation to see him as a fancy dude in kid gloves and a top hat, with an entirely different sort of mustache. Trying hard to fit in with the Keystone house style, Chaplin plays a nasty character who gets a job as a reporter. Much destruction and encounters with the Keystone Kops ensue. Also in this historic film are Charles Inslee as the editor, Henry Lehrman (who also directed), Edgar Kennedy, Billy Gilbert, Chester Conklin, Minta Durfee and Alice Davenport.
We’ll be screening Making a Living and Chaplin’s next two films at our special event at the Brooklyn Lyceum on February 15. For full details go here. For those who can’t wait or live far away:
For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.