Today marks the anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin comedy A Night Out (1915).
This was Chaplin’s second film for Essanay Studios and (in addition to being funny) it is significant for all sorts of reasons. For one, it represents a rare comedy team-up between Charlie and cross-eyed comedian Ben Turpin. Turpin had previously been the reigning comedian at Essanay; he left shortly after Charlie’s arrival — ships that pass in the night. Turpin would later go on to be one of Mack Sennett’s biggest stars in the 1920s. A Night Out is also notable for containing the cinematic debuts of Edna Purviance, who would come to be Chaplin’s leading lady through 1923, and Bud Jamison, Chaplin’s heavy at Essanay, and for many other comedians, including the Three Stooges, in later years (for more on him go here — it’s his birthday today).
The film is basically a reworking of The Rounders, made by Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle the previous year at Keystone. It concerns Chaplin and Turpin as a couple of drinking buddies, both far gone on a bender. To bedevil them, there’s Jamison as a burly, mean waiter (a favorite comic premise of Chaplin’s) and Leo White as his usual dandy in spats and silk top hat. Mostly it’s just endless drunken mayhem!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history don’t miss 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
To learn more about 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.