Century of Slapstick #101: Charlie Chaplin in “One A.M.”
Today is the 100th anniversary of the release date of Charlie Chaplin’s 1916 comedy One A.M.
This is one of Chaplin’s most extreme examples of what critic Andre Bazin called “filmed theatre”. It’s essentially a solo vaudeville turn, with the frame as the proscenium and very little cinematic intervention between the performer and his audience. Charlie plays a drunken swell, coming home at the titular hour, trying to negotiate his oddly treacherous apartment. It’s as though traps have been set all around the house. First he has a hard time getting out of his cab. Then he enters his domicile through the window, and has a series of encounters with a goldfish bowl, rugs, stairs, a table, a hatrack, a clock, a Murphy bed, and eventually the bath tub. Only the genius of Chaplin could keep audiences in stitches for two reels with nothing himself and a room full of furniture.
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.