Today, February 2nd, is a day of tremendous importance to film history fans.
Wait, let’s edit that–it’s a day of importance to film fans in general. And who among us isn’t a fan of film?
On this very day one hundred years ago a film was released by the Keystone Film Company. It was called Making a Living, and it contained the very first film appearance of Charles Spencer Chaplin.
Charlie. Charlie Chaplin–in an age where a movie from five years ago is considered old, everyone has at least heard his name. In this film, running about twelve minutes long, he’s not the Little Tramp yet. A few days later movie goers in 1914 would get to see that derby-and-tiny-mustache image that nearly everyone is familiar with. But here Chaplin sports a long, light-colored coat, a drooping mustache, a top hat and a monocle. He plays a villain, with gleeful villian-ish mannerisms. He schemes, he flirts, he gets into fights, he laughs into the camera, he pratfalls. He runs out into a real public streets, with real traffic and passers-by. Real people watch him, politely curious. Some of them laugh, amused by the goings-on of those crazy movie folk. By the end of 1914 that same actor running down the public street would be the most famous face on earth, and people across the globe would laugh at his antics.
He would refine film comedy, be lauded as a genius while still young, and spawn countless imitators. He would create art; art that touched his audience’s hearts along with making them laugh.
And we haven’t stopped laughing yet, Charlie. Your name is synonymous not only with comedy, but with film. And today, one hundred years later, we take a moment to remember you, your films, your gifts, your massive popularity that appealed to young and old, highbrow and lowbrow.
And we acknowledge, as Lewis Jacobs once wrote: “To think of Charlie Chaplin is to think of movies.”