Tuesday, June 27, 2017

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2016) by Year - 0157 - CURE, THE (Charles Chaplin, 1917, USA, 31m, BW)



(Charles Chaplin, 1917, USA, 31m, BW)


CURE, THE (Charles Chaplin, 1917, USA, 31m, BW)

Cast: Eric Campbell, John Rand, Charles Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Edna Purviance, Albert Austin
Director: Charles Chaplin
Writer: Charles Chaplin, Maverick Terrell, Vincent Bryan
Rating: NR
Running Time: 31 min.


Charlie Chaplin as The Inebriate
Edna Purviance as The Girl
Eric Campbell as The Man with the Gout
Henry Bergman as Masseur
John Rand as Sanitarium Attendant
James T. Kelley as Sanitarium Attendant
Albert Austin as Sanitarium Attendant
Frank J. Coleman as Head of Sanitarium


Chaplin plays a drunkard who checks into a health spa to dry out, but brings along a big suitcase full of alcohol. Along the way he aggravates a large man suffering from gout, evades him and encounters a beautiful young woman who encourages him to stop drinking. However, when the hotel owner learns his employees are getting drunk off Charlie's liquor, he calls an employee and orders him to have the liquor thrown out the window.

The drunk employee hurls the bottles through the window, straight into the spa's health waters. The well becomes spurious with alcohol, sending the spa's inhabitants into a dancing stupor. Chaplin, encouraged by his new love to get sober, drinks from the spurious spa, gets drunk and offends her. She leaves him in anger and walks away. Charlie walks back to the door unsteadily, when he bumps into the large man, tripping him off his wheel chair and landing him into the alcoholic well. The next morning there are plenty of hangovers, but Chaplin turns sober, walks out and finds the lady. Realizing what had happened, she forgives him. They walk ahead, just then he accidentally steps into the liquor-laden well.


This slapstick short continues Charlie Chaplin’s series with Mutual, following the release of “Easy Street” in January. Chaplin was taking longer to work on his films than he ever had before – this wasn’t released until mid-April – but the result was still very profitable for his studio. In terms of laughs, The Cure is barely a step down from Easy Street. Charlie is a rich dude trying to dry out in a fashionable spa. The “massage/wrestling” sequence, featuring Charlie wiggling his fanny in a bathing suit, must have had audiences roaring.

Charlie Chaplin had been doing rich drunks since his early days on dance-hall stages, and this movie incorporates ideas from his old act with Fred Karno’s comedy company. He had already made an entire movie, “One A.M.,” simply around his “drunken” pratfalls and encounters with inanimate objects. If this movie had simply tried to ride that same theme, it would have been somewhat disappointing, but Charlie added the whole concept of the health spa, which gave him the chance to mock the rich on several levels, and to interact with a whole host of other characters, instead of just doing his drunk bit. Even the sequence with the revolving door, which is basically just a variation on themes from “One A.M.,” exceeds that and goes in unexpected directions, ending before he runs out of new ideas. The various “tableaux” of Charlie in his bathing suit are also a parody of a style of performance that was common in music halls.

The Cure features many familiar routines from Chaplin, but his pace and timing mean they never grow stale. Throughout the movie he repeatedly struggles to negotiate the revolving door which provides entrance to the sanatorium, either unable to exit it so that he revolves endlessly before spinning across the sanatorium floor and up its wide staircase, or becoming trapped when somebody else enters the door from the other side. One of those who finds himself imprisoned on the other side of the doors is the bear-like, bewhiskered figure of Eric Campbell, who plays a fellow patient suffering from gout. For some reason, this necessitates his foot being encased in a plaster cast — so it’s not difficult to imagine which part of Campbell’s anatomy repeatedly gets jammed between the door and the wall.

Campbell isn’t Chaplin’s only nemesis in The Cure, however. There’s also a beefy masseur (Henry Bergman — The Gold Rush, Modern Times) who puts his patients through the kind of rigorous pummelling that has Chaplin backing away in terror. There’s also the world’s oldest bellboy, who helps himself to Chaplin’s stash of hidden booze. Apparently, Chaplin originally wrote The Cure with himself playing a bellboy but radically altered the script, and it’s entirely possible that the vestiges of Chaplin’s original role are to be found in this aged bellboy, who spends a fair amount of screen time as inebriated as Chaplin. The comic drunk was Chaplin’s speciality as a music hall artist in Britain, and there’s no denying that with his floppy body and stumbling gait he nails the movements of a comical drunk in a way that none of his peers could equal. As you’d expect from a 20-minute short from this era, The Cure is played out at a frantic pace with sight gags and slapstick pratfalls following one another in quick succession. 


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