Today is the anniversary of the release date Charlie Chaplin’s last two-reel short, Pay Day (1922).
Pay Day resembles another late Chaplin short A Day’s Pleasure (1919) in placing his Little Fellow in a fairly everyday situation. In this one he is not a tramp, but a working stiff with a Mrs. at home. He works hard all day at a construction site and then drinks up all his pay, having several One A.M. style drunken adventures on his way home. It’s the kind of setting more associated with some of his contemporaries, but Chaplin livens it up with many fresh, original gags.
The most memorable perhaps is the way the Little Fellow is able to catch and lay thrown bricks with impossible speed, a segment that was staged and filmed in reverse. Another favorite section has him filching an entire lunch quite innocently. His co-workers keep putting their food down on the construction site’s elevator, which keeps delivering it to where Charlie is sitting, almost as though he were psychically pushing the buttons himself.
The cast includes Mack Swain (in a role that most certainly have been Eric Campbell’s a few years before), another old Keystone cohort Phyllis Allen as his wife, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, and Al Ernest Garcia. NOTE WELL: In my first paragraph, I was careful to specify that this was Chaplin’s last two-reel short. After this came The Pilgrim (1923), which at 43 minutes or so, is somewhere between a short and a feature, and is considered by some as his last short overall, properly speaking, coming in at three or four reels.
For more on comedy film history, including Charlie Chaplin classics like “Pay Day” see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube