Century of Slapstick #97: Chaplin’s “The Floorwalker”
Today is the 100th anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin comedy The Floorwalker (1916).
The Floorwalker was the first of Chaplin’s Mutual comedies and he upped his game considerably for his new studio.
Set in a department store, The Floorwalker’s comedy centerpiece is a very fast moving escalator. The crux of the plot is that the store’s floorwalker (Lloyd Bacon) who is a dead ringer for Chaplin’s Little Fellow, seems to be embroiled in some kind of embezzling scheme with store manager Eric Campbell. Chaplin comes in as a customer who makes hell for store clerk Albert Austin. He’s clearly not going to buy anything, but is touching everything, testing everything. Sits in a water fountain. Shaves himself, dries off with a dress. Spritzes himself with perfume. Has trouble on the escalator. Austin tries to throw him out. Finally, Charlie switches places with the lookalike floorwalker, and helps detectives nab the crooks.
The film contains much classic comedy material, including Chaplin’s own version of the famous mirror routine (already done in movies by Max Linder, Kri-Kri and others, and later to be done by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup). This film is also our first taste of the great Eric Campbell, Chaplin’s best heavy. Campbell’s own genius allows Chaplin to choreograph his wittiest fight to date, which literally turns into a dance at one point. Only Campbell can lift Chaplin off the ground and shake him by the scruff of the neck like a ragdoll. Other funny gags: Chaplin rolling to and fro on a ladder-on-rollers in the shoe department. And Chaplin pointing a fan at a customer’s smelly butt! This must be why some mothers complained by his rudeness in 1916…
It’s on youtube – -check it out!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy 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
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.