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Charlie Chaplin





First National, 1922.  Directed by Charlie Chaplin.  Camera:  R.H. Totheroh.  With Charlie Chaplin, Phyllis Allen, Henry Bergman, Sydney Chaplin, Allan Garcia, Edna Purviance, John Rand, Mack Swain, Loyal Underwood.

Charlie plays a laborer.  When he comes to work late, he gives the foreman a white lily to make up for his tardiness, and then starts his job of shoveling dirt.  He does this so slowly that the foreman sends him to work in the bricklaying section instead.  There he works too fast; his co-workers cannot keep up with him.  Charlie flirts unsuccessfully with the foreman's daughter when she brings her father his lunch.

It is pay day and Charlie tells his foreman that he believes he has been underpaid.  By the time their argument is over, Charlie has only succeeded in making the foreman believe that he has been overpaid.  Charlie tries to hide some of his pay from his wife.  She finds it, but he manages to get some money out of her purse, and goes to a saloon, which he later leaves in the company of some friends.   They begin singing in an alley.   Water is thrown on the group, but Charlie protects himself from the shower with an umbrella and goes right on singing.

Charlie gets on the back of a streetcar to get home, but is pushed up front by others until eventually he is back on the street.  He at long last reaches his home and undresses just as the alarm clock goes off. His wife wakes up, and he pretends that he has just awakened and is getting dressed.  His wife is not deceived.  Charlie jumps into the bathtub to hide, unaware that it is filled with water.  His wife, armed with a rolling pin, finds him, and the poor man loses another battle.

What was said about Pay Day:

The New York Times
new Chaplin comedy, of course, is an event in the motion picture world, and all that the reviewer has to do is announce it.  The rest may as well be silent so far as he is concerned, because nothing can be said about Chaplin that has not been said a dozen times already, and most people are not interested in what is said about him, anyhow.  They just go to see him and laugh-and some—of them understand.

It may not be entirely futile to report, however, that this new Chaplin comedy is one of his best.  It is not to be ranked with The Kid, which was a longer and more penetratingly serious venture, and it has not the significance, perhaps, of Shoulder Arms, but it has enough pure fun, and sufficient satire, too, for anyone.  With or without reference to anything else, it is something else; it is something to relish for its own sake.

Underlying the picture's surface buffoonery is that refreshing treatment of the commonplace by which Chaplin has so often exposed the irony of life.  He shows the gods grinning at human earnestness, yet he does not join them in mocking it.  He is part of humanity, but has the feelings and the aspirations of ordinary men; he is sympathetically one of the crowd.  But he sees the fatuity of it all, too, and so is one above the crowd.

If we ever get to the point where Charlie Chaplin fails to make us laugh, we are going right out and order a nice, large, beautifully engraved tombstone.  There will be nothing left in life for us.  We would blame ourselves, not Charlie.  Pay Day made even the ushers laugh in the theatre where we saw it.  Ushers see a picture more times than anybody else, excepting the policemen.  It had been running almost all week when we saw the ushers laugh.  We can never hope to offer a critique as poignant as this.  And Charles Spencer's epitaph could not be more glorious than "He made even ushers chuckle."

The Films of Charlie Chaplin,
by Gerald McDonald, Michael
Conway and Mark Ricci
Bonanza Books, New York 1965

Additional photo courtesy of Gary