Today marks the anniversary of the Keystone comedy His Trysting Place.
Nowadays it’s marketed as a Charlie Chaplin comedy, but what it really is, is an ensemble comedy starring Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Mack Swain and Phyllis Allen. It’s a farce in the French style. A girl writes a romantic letter to her beau, addressing him in some vague endearment. She then meets Ambrose (Swain) in the park and asks him to mail it (just go with it). He puts it in the pocket of his coat, and then goes to a diner where he tangles with Charlie and in the heat of the moment the two mix their coats up. Now Charlie has the letter in his pocket. He goes home to his wife (Normand) who later looks through his coat looking for a baby bottle he is supposed to have brought home. She of course finds the incriminating letter — and the crockery starts to fly! Meanwhile Ambrose’s wife (Allen) finds the baby bottle, and concludes that Ambrose has a secret family someplace. More violence! The end is quite hilarious. The men switch their coats back. Then Ambrose’s wife finds that incriminating letter and the beatings resume.
Lots of funny gags and sequences in the film. The diner scene is quite funny, with Swain slurping his soup noisily (and a comedy motif Chaplin would revive many times) and Charlie himself gnawing a huge bone. In her fight with Chaplin, Normand breaks an ironing board over his head. And especially novel is the entire domestic scenario — Chaplin and Normand as a married couple with a baby! Oh the possibilities!
To learn more about comedy film history please check out 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 about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.