Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance

Scheda didattica



The Tramp roams the city’s slums and steals food from two poor men. Chased by a policeman, he stumbles across a dogfight and manages to save a puppy, which he decides to take with him. In the meantime, in a bar a young songstress is enjoying some success. The Tramp enters, hiding the puppy in his pants. He makes friends with the girl but the bar owner throws him out when the puppy starts barking. He also fires the girl, and the three wander here and there, hungry and homeless. Time passes and finally the Tramp finds a job. He turns to farming and lives happily ever after with the girl, whom he has married, and with the little dog, which has had puppies.



The Tramp is a skillful mason and amazingly able in catching the bricks tossed to him by his fellow workers. During lunch break, thanks to a hoist and the inattention of the other workers, he manages to eat without worrying too much where the meal has come from. At the end of the day he is finally paid, but not enough, according to his calculations. He argues with the foreman but in the end is cheated even by his surly wife, who steals a banknote from him. After celebrating payday in a bar, he has just managed to go to sleep when the alarm goes off: it’s 5:30 and time again for work.

the filmmaker


Charles Spencer Chaplin, known as Charlie, was born in London on April 16th, 1889. His father was a singer and his mother, Hannah, a vaudeville actress. In his autobiography he wrote that the secret of his art came from his mother, the first to teach him pantomime. She also taught him to dance and sing and together they watched passers-by from their window, doing funny imitations of them. In little Charlie’s eyes, life was a show. Money was scarce, his father had abandoned the family when Charlie and his brother Sidney were very young, and Charlie began his theater career at age 10, with a troupe of child actors, the “Eight Lancashire Lads”. He spent his teens between street and orphanage, and then worked in various vaudeville and circus shows until he joined Fred Karno’s theater company. Here he learned the “tricks of the trade”: how to portray the absurd with the utmost seriousness (who could ever forget the shoe eaten so elegantly in The Gold Rush?), how to intersperse comic turns with sentimental moments, a song or a sad character (leading to the alternation of comic with pathetic in his films).

In 1912 Chaplin toured with the Karno troupe and arrived in the United States. It was the golden age of silent films, of comic endings, of slapstick. Noticed by producer Mack Sennett, he was given a contract with Keystone studios.

From two traditions, the American of slapstick and the English of Victorian, Dickensian melodrama with its heartrending stories of penniless, sick girls, of abandoned children and abuse by the powerful, Charlie Chaplin created his most famous character, the proud, ragged Tramp.

“The undersized derby represents a striving for dignity. The mustache is an expression of vanity. The tightly buttoned jacket, cane, and conduct of the tramp show a desire to appear gallant, bold, nonchalant…

He tries to face the world courageously, to bluff his way ahead, and he knows this. He knows it so well that he manages to laugh at himself, and even feel a bit sorry for himself”.

Charlie Chaplin gave this description, perfect physically and psychologically, of the Little Tramp who on February 7th, 1914, made his first appearance on the screen, firmly intent on remaining there forever.

Since then 100 years have passed and Charlie Chaplin is as famous a film icon as ever.

The history of cinema wouldn’t be the same without Chaplin. All his greatness lies in acting, in his prodigious talent for mime, in his extraordinary ability to nonchalantly change key from comic to tragic, from absurdity to melancholy.


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