William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

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Richard M Roberts
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William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Feb 22, 2016 7:46 am

You know, reading Chris Seguin's recent article on Laurel and Hardy's Shark Jumping (and Randy Skretvedt's adamant defense of same) reminded me of one of Bill Everson's program notes on Chaplin's THE KID, where he goes after it and most of the First Nationals. You can read it here:

http://www.nyu.edu/projects/wke/notes/h ... 581029.pdf

Just figured this would fit in with our "jumping the shark" week for comedians.


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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Ian Elliot » Mon Feb 22, 2016 11:49 pm

One wonders where that print of RECREATION is now...

Reading Bill Everson's notes for THE PILGRIM, screened for the Huff Society earlier that year in a dodgy, hard-to-watch print, I feel extremely privileged to have a decent rendering of this film and so much else available at the push of a button:

"Like most bootlegged Chaplin prints, this one is in pretty groggy shape. Obviously the 35mm print from which it was duped had not only been run four times a day every day since 1923, but was also beginning to fade! In addition, it was a print with foreign subtitles. (These have now been replaced with English titles which may not necessarily correspond exactly with the originals). Parts of it are somewhat choppy, and we estimate that a total of about half-a-reel is missing. The film starts abruptly, and one section is full of jump cuts. Followers of the rarer Chaplin films have, unfortunately, accustomed themselves to this type of print. Nevertheless, it is a good deal better than nothing at all, and we're extremely fortunate to be able to see it again today."

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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Feb 23, 2016 12:53 am

Ian Elliot wrote:One wonders where that print of RECREATION is now...



That "two-thirds" print is most likely the material Paul Killiam found and preserved that he used in his CLOWN PRINCES OF HOLLYWOOD compilation. I have a 16mm print of that material, and it is indeed beautiful, but the first third of the film and the last ending bit is missing.


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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Gary Johnson » Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:47 pm

Being the pioneer that he was, Everson's opinions (which he admits to) seemed to be centered on the quality of prints that he happened to come into contact with back in the 40's and 50's. Since new discoveries and better prints would continue to appear until his death in the mid 90's, he must have continually updated his earlier opinions throughout his life as new material became known. I only bring this up because I was surprised by his disdain over THE KID. Does anyone know if that ever change?

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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Feb 23, 2016 7:25 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:Being the pioneer that he was, Everson's opinions (which he admits to) seemed to be centered on the quality of prints that he happened to come into contact with back in the 40's and 50's. Since new discoveries and better prints would continue to appear until his death in the mid 90's, he must have continually updated his earlier opinions throughout his life as new material became known. I only bring this up because I was surprised by his disdain over THE KID. Does anyone know if that ever change?



Well, Bill was a collector, back when film collecting really counted , so he does like to go on about his prints in his notes, but what is really interesting is how little comedy he seemed to actually LIKE in those days, no matter the quality of the print. He doesn't seem to like ANY of the Harry Langdon or Charley Chase shorts, and is always talking dismissively about them in these notes. I'm sure Bill would be horrified to see these words paraded out for all to see in one place now, in terms of where his opinions actually went and how much he borrowed out of these notes for later books, but I've always enjoyed reading them, and frankly it is refreshing to read opinion sans the lip-service reverence one gets from many of the Big Three's acolytes today. I've always thought a lot of the Chaplin First Nationals were indeed lazy work, especially SUNNYSIDE, A DAYS PLEASURE, THE IDLE CLASS and PAY DAY, apart from the first one, which seems more an experiment failed, the others all smack of contract filling, Chaplin trying to bang out some shorts to fulfill a contract he is dying to get out of. However, I've always thought THE KID to be one of Chaplin's most coherent features, one where he really had something personal to say, so I did find it interesting that Everson was so nasty to it. No idea if that opinion changed over time, does he talk about it in AMERICAN SILENT FILM ?


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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Gary Johnson » Wed Feb 24, 2016 12:44 am

Well, the First Nationals are definitely not the Mutuals, but that's what I like about them. Chaplin is at a crossroad in these films. He had made some of the finest 2 reel shorts ever at Mutual and now he was trying to figure out how to fit his style of comedy into a longer form. Only two of First Nationals will clock in at 2 reels. The rest will run 3 reels or more. The tone would vary from film to film as he no longer seemed interested in continuing the same fast paced, gag upon gagging that was done in THE PAWNSHOP. The one constant of all these films is Chaplin's desire at creating longer set pieces that would be small highlights all their own - the employment line in A DOGS LIFE, stuck in the tar in A DAYS PLEASURE, arising from bed in SUNNYSIDE, laying bricks in PAY DAY, the unruly child in THE PILGRIM, the masquerade ball in THE IDLE CLASS.
This would set the form for all of Chaplin's subsequent features.

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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Elliot L. Hearst » Sun Mar 06, 2016 11:01 am

Richard M Roberts wrote:
Gary Johnson wrote:Being the pioneer that he was, Everson's opinions (which he admits to) seemed to be centered on the quality of prints that he happened to come into contact with back in the 40's and 50's. Since new discoveries and better prints would continue to appear until his death in the mid 90's, he must have continually updated his earlier opinions throughout his life as new material became known. I only bring this up because I was surprised by his disdain over THE KID. Does anyone know if that ever change?



Well, Bill was a collector, back when film collecting really counted , so he does like to go on about his prints in his notes, but what is really interesting is how little comedy he seemed to actually LIKE in those days, no matter the quality of the print. He doesn't seem to like ANY of the Harry Langdon or Charley Chase shorts, and is always talking dismissively about them in these notes. I'm sure Bill would be horrified to see these words paraded out for all to see in one place now, in terms of where his opinions actually went and how much he borrowed out of these notes for later books, but I've always enjoyed reading them, and frankly it is refreshing to read opinion sans the lip-service reverence one gets from many of the Big Three's acolytes today. I've always thought a lot of the Chaplin First Nationals were indeed lazy work, especially SUNNYSIDE, A DAYS PLEASURE, THE IDLE CLASS and PAY DAY, apart from the first one, which seems more an experiment failed, the others all smack of contract filling, Chaplin trying to bang out some shorts to fulfill a contract he is dying to get out of. However, I've always thought THE KID to be one of Chaplin's most coherent features, one where he really had something personal to say, so I did find it interesting that Everson was so nasty to it. No idea if that opinion changed over time, does he talk about it in AMERICAN SILENT FILM ?


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Aside from a few very brief mentions that amount to nothing, the only other thing he says about THE KID is this, on page 268, in a parenthetical phrase when referring to Harold Lloyd's two features of 1922:

"(Chaplin had made The Kid a year earlier, but then had retreated to shorts again, indirectly implying that for him to make features was a mistake, or at least premature.)

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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Mar 06, 2016 11:06 am

Elliot L. Hearst wrote:
Aside from a few very brief mentions that amount to nothing, the only other thing he says about THE KID is this, on page 268, in a parenthetical phrase when referring to Harold Lloyd's two features of 1922:

"(Chaplin had made The Kid a year earlier, but then had retreated to shorts again, indirectly implying that for him to make features was a mistake, or at least premature.)


Well, that is indeed silly as well, considering what THE KID grossed, but I think it is obvious that Chaplin was determined to finish and get out of the First National contract as quickly (at least quickly as Chaplin's increasingly slow-pokey methods were becoming) and cheaply as possible.


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Re: William K. Everson discusses Chaplin jumping the shark

Postby Gary Johnson » Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:51 am

Chaplin's idea of finishing his contract 'as quickly as possible' is akin to the Worlds response to rising ocean currents.

We best go invest in knee-high hip boots as they discuss it some more......


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