Charles Chaplin had a long history of projects and early successes long before his more recognizable feature movies of the 20s and 30s. By 1916, Charles Chaplin had become the most famous entertainer in the world. His enormously successful comedies for Keystone (1914) and Essanay (1915), brought him an offer that at the time, was the largest salary ever extended to a motion picture star- $670,000 for a year's work for Mutual Film Corporation.
During this time with Mutual, Charlie produced 12 two-reel comedy shorts, that for many fans and film historians, were Chaplin's greatest achievements as a comedian for the incredible diversity of situations, the demonstrated physical prowess and the originality of the slapstick comedy. Charlie's Mutual Specials have become one of his best works, a favorite of many and a must see for those who have watched his feature films and need more of Chaplin's medicine!
The Floorwalker (1916)
Chaplin's first work for Mutual. The Floorwalker is a great achievement for the originality of the slapstick comedy. This short shows the mishaps of the new floorwalker at his new work and a very special scene with a running staircase! Although the plot is very simplistic, it's still more elaborated than his previous works, and Chaplin's antics are simply hilarious!
The Fireman (1916)
Chaplin's The Fireman was not as well received as his other Mutual works. This was partly because of the lack of some of his previous dynamism, whereas in this movie he starts to show a falling to routine. The Fireman is not without its laughs, though! In a similar fashion to The Floorwalker, the movie entertains despite the fact that it is not the best of his Mutual releases.
The Vagabond (1916)
Lesser in comedy, larger on character development, The Vagabond was an important step in Chaplin's career. Having learned with The Fireman, Chaplin has more liberties with the plot of the Vagabond. The movie deals with romance and love triangles that foreshadow some of his future feature movies, while delivering the comedy elements we so much adore.
One A.M. (1916)
Being one of my favorites, One A.M. is a gag-fest about the mishaps of a drunken man who simply cannot find his way to bed! The drunk gentleman is probably Chaplin's most hilarious character after The Little Tramp. The creativity of One A.M. is astounding, it's just too bad that Charlie didn't experiment more with this type of scenario.
The Count (1916)
Chaplin's largest production at the time, The Count shows the antics of a Charlie impersonating a wealthy man. The Count is notable for its large settings, with its highlight being the slippery dance floor scene and the eccentric dancing from Chaplin!
The Pawnshop (1916)
The Pawnbroker is a movie that shows that natural talent that Chaplin has of making the most simplistic of actions look like a complex and important procedure of careful examination, followed by the demanding job of the act itself and completed with extraordinary results! The clock pawnbroking scene in this movie is especially amusing!
Behind the Screen (1916)
A good example of Chaplin's knockabout comedy, Behind the Screen tells of the entertaining strike of an unhappy crew, and the desperate young actress who sees the opportunity to disguise herself as a boy to be hired as a stagehand. Behind the Screen is filled with hilarious physical comedy and misunderstandings that can only lead to confusion and chaos!
The Rink (1916)
The Rink is my absolute favorite Chaplin short film and one of the most exhilarating silent comedies I have ever watched! The Rink follows the mishaps of a waiter and his unorthodox methods, and how he spends his lunch breaks ice skating! Charlie was actually a very prominent skater and the skating scenes are actually all done by himself!
Easy Street (1917)
Easy Street is the start of what can be considered one of Chaplin's greatest years in his career. 1917 saw his last 4 Mutual films which are some of his most popular and highly regarded comedy shorts. Not only is the movie a comic spectacle with formidable choreographies, but also an underlying of many of Society's main concerns. Easy Street is also an invocation of Charlie's birthplace in South London.
The Cure (1917)
Set in a health spa, The Cure is one of the most hilarious of the 12 Mutual shorts and is another one of my personal top three favorites! It is unreal the skillful dancing abilities of Charles Chaplin and how he showcases such coordination and ingenuity! The cure is particularly funny thanks to those skills which are masterfully executed in one of the many memorable scenes of the film! Charlie really proved to be a man of many talents throughout the course of his works!
The Immigrant (1917)
Ironical and satirical, The Immigrant was Charlie's favorite from his time at Mutual, and still ranks as one of his best comedies today. As illustrative to immigration and critical to society as it may be, The Immigrant never ceases to amaze with how many different situations it can make you laugh. There is also a full-fledged romance in the film, a first for Charlie at the time, and another element that made it a foreshadow to Charlie's future works. The charm of The Immigrant lies in its mixture of realism, undertones and typical comedy à la Chaplin.
The Adventurer (1917)
The last of a hectic and extraordinary year for Chaplin, The Adventurer is another one that became famous among his many short films. It is a movie that shows Chaplin's habit of making people laugh by getting his characters into trouble, while making them desperately serious in an attempt to appear as a normal as a normal little gentleman can be! The Adventurer ends Charlie Chaplin's relationship with the Mutual Film Corporation, and does it in a good note. A formidable time for Chaplin that cemented his fame and opened him new doors.
And that's it, the 12 gems that Charlie made when working for Mutual Film Corporation. A great time for Charles Chaplin that is often overlooked by casual watchers who become fans. There's no skipping these comedy shorts if you follow Charlie Chaplin, they show the steady evolution of a legend as well as being the prequel to the bulk of his work. If not as good as the features, these shorts are at least very good and definitely worth a look!
My Top 10 Charles Chaplin Movies inspired me to write and show more of Charles Chaplin, so please feel free to take a look and do tell me what you think!