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The Fireman

Big fireman 51 9
Year :
1916
Cast :
Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Lloyd Bacon, Eric Campbell, Leo White, Albert Austin, John Rand, James T. Kelly, Frank J. Coleman
Production :
Mutual
Description :
In Chaplin’s second effort for Mutual, he portrays an inept firefighter at Fire Station 23. Charlie, still asleep, mistakes a drill bell for a fire alarm and single-handedly drives out the horse-drawn fire engine. When he discovers his error, he simply backs up the engine into the fire station, with horses galloping backward (an early instance of camera tricks—cameramen Foster and Totheroh skillfully cranked the cameras in reverse and Chaplin staged the action backward). The Fireman was filmed partly at an actual fire station, and two condemned houses were burned to provide authenticity. Despite its high production values, the two-reel comedy was no more sophisticated than Chaplin’s earlier films; the firefighters in the film are reminiscent of the antics of the Keystone Cops or a musical comedy chorus. The Fireman, like The Floorwalker, shares the knockabout comedy of the Essanay films. Chaplin had produced a film carefully tailored to what he felt was public expectation. He then received a letter from an admirer who had seen The Fireman at a large Midwestern cinema and conveyed his disappointment. It was perhaps one of the most important letters he received in his career: *"I have noticed in your last picture a lack of spontaneity. Although the picture was unfailingly as a laugh-getter, the laughter was not so round as at some of your earlier work. I am afraid you are becoming a slave to your public, whereas in most of your pictures the audiences were a slave to you. The public, Charlie, likes to be slaves."* It was a great lesson to Chaplin. For the rest of his career, he trusted and adhered to his own ideas and likes rather than attempting to speculate on the perceived preferences of the public.
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