Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance are just as cute as bugs in this energetic send-up of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1915 version of Carmen. Purviance is particularly charming as the infamous (and goofy) seductress.
Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance and company have a grand time in this behind-the-scenes spoof of slapstick comedy. There’s a mad bit of business with a trap door, a gang of arsonists try to blow up the studio and we get a rarity of rarities: a real pie fight!
Charlie Chaplin is the star but Edna Purviance is the real show-stopper in Burlesque on Carmen, a darling little spoof they made together at the Essanay studio. After Chaplin departed for greener pastures, the Essanay folks padded out the short with all sorts of nonsense (Chaplin sued) and it was only available in this bloated format for years.
Did you have have the feeling you were being… watched? Charlie Chaplin certainly does and he means to do something about it.
The ladies of silent comedy do not get nearly enough respect. When it comes to the funny stuff, it’s still very much a stag affair. Things are slowly changing. Marion Davies and Mabel Normand are enjoying revivals and Colleen Moore finally seems poised for a comeback. Since we seem to be in the mood, let’s throw some laurels to Edna Purviance, Charlie Chaplin’s best leading lady. Purviance wasn’t just “the girl” in his comedies. She got in on the funny stuff too and nowhere was it more apparent than in Chaplin’s wicked Burlesque on Carmen.
Above is Purviance doing her stuff. Below is Geraldine Farrar in the 1915 Cecil B. DeMille-directed original.
Availability: You can get both Carmen and Burlesque on Carmen packaged together a double feature from Image, which also includes DeMille’s other 1915 hit, The Cheat. Unfortunately, this disc is out-of-print. There is a standalone disc of Carmen, which is supposed to be very good quality but I have not seen it for myself. Burlesque on Carmen is available in a volume of the Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies series, also out-of-print.
I should also note that some versions of Burlesque are longer than others. This is one case where you need to seek out the shorter version. Essanay took the film from Chaplin and padded it out with rejected footage and completely new characters in order to release it as a short feature. Chaplin was horrified. I detail these shenanigans in my review.
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance play a pair of immigrants fresh off the boat who are trying to make a go of it in the United States. Their obstacles: Snotty waiters, thieving fellow passengers and a very large plate of beans. A delicate balance of humor, emotion and social commentary. One of Chaplin’s finest short films and one of his personal favorites.
Continue reading “The Immigrant (1917) A Silent Film Review”
What was meant to be a light-hearted spoof turned into a protracted legal battle between Charlie Chaplin and the Essanay motion picture studio. However, the behind-the-scenes drama of Burlesque on Carmen does not take away from the fact that it is still extremely funny.
Continue reading “Burlesque on Carmen (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Charlie Chaplin was already wildly popular when he made this short for Essanay. Adapted from one of his pre-Hollywood comedy acts, this short has Chaplin play two disruptive and rowdy theater-goers: Mr. Pest, a drunken crumb from the upper crust, and Mr. Rowdy, an equally sloshed rough on the balcony. Between the two of them, they manage to disrupt and outshine the performers on the stage.
Continue reading “A Night in the Show (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Carmen may be best known as an opera but it made a successful silent debut for opera diva Geraldine Farrar. An early hit for Cecil B. DeMille, Carmen is a lively, sensual and surprisingly earthy adaptation of a familiar story. Farrar and Wallace Reid ignite the screen and have a grand time in the process.