Charlie Chaplin in “Police”


Charlie Chaplin’s comedy Police (1916), released on May 27.

Police was Chaplin’s last short for Essanay Studios. Rather spitefully, after he left the studio, they later incorporated some of the unused footage from the film in the comedy Triple Trouble.

In Police, Charlie is a burglar just getting out of prison. The meat of the story happens when his character falls in love with Edna Purviance when he and his cohort (Wesley Ruggles) are robbing her house! Edna proves herself a rare angel. She feeds the men a meal (granted it’s to stall them until the titular police arrive). She also courageously tries to stop them from climbing the staircase because she is afraid they will upset her sick, old mother who is sleeping on the second floor. Later, after Charlie takes her side and turns against his own partner, Edna rewards him by shielding him from the police and sending him away with a little grub stake. This time when he walks down the road alone, it is with a spring in his step. We get the feeling that his jubilation is not because of the cash, but because he has just met the first person who’s ever been nice to him.

For more on comedy film history, including Charlie Chaplin’s Police please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc

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