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Police (1916)

Charles Chaplin, a convict, is given $5.00 and released from prison after having served his term. He meets a man of the church who makes him weep for his sins and while he is weeping takes ... See full summary »

Director:

Charles Chaplin (uncredited)

Writer:

Charles Chaplin
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Charles Chaplin ... Convict 999 Alias Charlie
Edna Purviance ... The Girl
Wesley Ruggles ... The Crook
John Rand John Rand ... The Cop
Billy Armstrong ... The Miser
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Storyline

Charles Chaplin, a convict, is given $5.00 and released from prison after having served his term. He meets a man of the church who makes him weep for his sins and while he is weeping takes the $5.00 away from him. Chaplin goes to a fruit stand and samples the fruit. When he goes to pay for it he finds his $5.00 is missing. This results in a battle with the fruit dealer, but Chaplin finally escapes. He is held up by a footpad and finds it is his former cellmate. He is inveigled into joining him in robbing a house. They put a police officer out of commission with a mallet and stack up the silverware. They then start upstairs to search the upper rooms, but are met by a young woman who implores them to leave because her mother is ill and fears the shock will kill her. Chaplin's heart is touched but the footpad insists on ransacking the house. This results in a battle between the footpad and Chaplin. While they are fighting, a squad of police arrives. The footpad makes his escape, but the ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Short

Certificate:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 May 1916 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Charlie in the Police See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| | (Ontario) | (1952 dubbed)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was restored in 2014 through the Chaplin Essanay Project. See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1952 in Spain was released a dubbed version cut to 17 minutes. See more »

Connections

Featured in Pierre Richard: Le discret (2018) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Whistling past the flophouse
8 July 2006 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

This short comedy marked an impressive leap forward for Charlie Chaplin: it tells a good story in a clear and economical manner, Charlie himself is a sympathetic and even dignified figure though down-and-out, and there are elements of social commentary that don't overwhelm everything else. Oh, and 'Police' also happens to be quite funny, even laugh out loud funny at times. Nothing feels forced, for the gags all spring naturally from the situation and from Charlie's character, and we never get the sense he's straining to make us laugh, nor is there any gratuitous knockabout. Barely two years after facing a camera for the first time, Chaplin the director demonstrates real maturity as a filmmaker while Chaplin the performer is at or near his early peak.

The setting is certainly gritty. As the film opens Charlie is being released from prison after serving time for some unspecified crime, and almost immediately he's set upon by an oily fake preacher who urges him to "go straight" while quietly picking his pocket. (After learning this hard lesson Charlie is suspicious of all others who use the phrase, and no wonder.) When he arrives at a flophouse to lodge for the night, Charlie sees an obviously ill man who is allowed in free of charge by the proprietor; so he coughs, sucks in his cheeks and tries to pass himself off as consumptive, but the proprietor isn't fooled. Funny? Well, yes, it's an amusing gag, but only in the bleakest sense. Charlie is a genuine tramp here, not just an eccentric in a derby, and your enjoyment of the film may depend on your tolerance for this brand of grim, whistling-past-the-flophouse humor. Chaplin experienced dire poverty as a child, so the milieu isn't the product of idle speculation on his part: he knew all too well what hard-scrabble life was like. At any rate, repeated scrapes with cops suggest that our hero may not be out of jail for long, and when he bumps into a former cell-mate who recruits him to participate in a burglary we get the sinking feeling that Charlie is doomed.

As soon as the burglary is underway we recognize that Charlie has been a criminal out of necessity, not from any natural aptitude for crime; that is to say, he is the most inept burglar imaginable, unable to pry open windows, sure to knock furniture over with his cane, and inclined to take the least valuable items in the household. The young woman on the premises (Charlie's perennial leading lady Edna Purviance) confronts the thieves, but Charlie shows us what he's really made of when his partner attempts to get rough with her, and he immediately acts as her protector. While the ending isn't exactly a happy one, we are left with some hope for his redemption.

This was Chaplin's last official release produced for the Essanay company, although his former employers later cobbled together a short they called 'Triple Trouble' out of scraps and outtakes from various unfinished works, over his protests. Meanwhile however, after he completed this film Chaplin went to the Lone Star Studio to make some of his greatest short films for release by the Mutual company. But 'Police' can hold its own alongside the Mutual series, and ranks with Chaplin's best work from this early period. Unlike most of his Keystone comedies and some of the earlier, slapstick-y and disjointed Essanays, this film requires no special patience or tolerance to watch: it's a pleasure from beginning to end, beautifully photographed as well, and a fine introduction to its star for a newcomer to silent comedy who might wonder what Charlie Chaplin was all about.


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