20 August 2008

Sunnyside/A Day's Pleasure (1919)

d. Charles Chaplin / USA / 34 mins. & 18 mins., respectively

Charles Chaplin's two shorts from 1919 – Sunnyside and A Day's Pleasure – are individual, separate films but are best considered together as examples of the creative rut Chaplin had come to occupy. He'd directed more than 50 films (mostly shorts) in five years, and while there was typically one good gag in each, they weren't all great by any means. By 1919 he'd put a few jewels on his crown – One A.M. (1916) and The Immigrant (1917) with Mutual Films, A Dog's Life (1918) and Shoulder Arms (1918) with First National – but there was also a great deal of fool's gold.

Sunnyside is perhaps his least entertaining of his shorts. Its bizarrely disjointed plot finds the unnamed Chaplin character working a farm as a handy man. He's in love with a young woman but soon finds his affection challenged by a visitor from the city. Most of the humor in the short is stale; its one good gag occurs early on, with the farm's boss trying to force the Tramp out of bed and begin his daily chores. A Day's Pleasure, for its part, suffers the same fate (including a retread of the boat humor of The Immigrant), except its inspired moment of humor comes at the end when the unnamed Chaplin character (married with children) faces off against two irate police officers stuck in a puddle of tar. They're disappointments in an overall splendid career, and two years later Chaplin bounced back with what is considered his first masterpiece, The Kid (1921).


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