30 Days, 30 Classics – Day 10: Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. (1916)
Posted on October 12, 2012
In One A.M. Charlie Chaplin plays a drunk playboy who returns home from a night out and tries to make his way up to bed. Somewhat experimental, One A.M. is the only film in which Charlie Chaplin stars alone (apart from the short appearance of a taxi driver at the very beginning of the film).
One A.M. is missing the magical dynamic of Chaplin interacting with other performers but is a showcase of his physical comedy. As he enters his house through the window, dipping his feet in the fishbowl collects the key, exits via the window and lets himself back in through the door, we watch the tipsy character try to mask his drunkenness. This quote from Chaplin in 1918 explains why audiences found this character so funny (taken from CharlieChaplin.com, a really great site for interested fans):
‘Even funnier than the man who has been made ridiculous…is the man who, having had something funny happen to him, refuses to admit that anything out of the way has happened, and attempts to maintain his dignity. Perhaps the best example is the intoxicated man who, though his tongue and walk will give him away, attempts in a dignified manner to convince you that he is quite sober.
He is much funnier than the man who, wildly hilarious, is frankly drunk and doesn’t care a whoop who knows it. Intoxicated characters on the stage are almost always “slightly tipsy” with an attempt at dignity because theatrical managers have learned that this attempt at dignity is funny’.
There are lots of classic physical comedy gags in One A.M. – Chaplin sitting down on something that isn’t there, tripping down stairs, slipping on rugs. It’s impossible not to laugh when Chaplin falls flat on his face or gets his foot stuck inside a stuffed cat. Though the more imaginative scenarios are perhaps the funniest, including a giant clock pendulum that swings back and forth across his bedroom door making for some hilarious mishaps. Chaplin’s ability to hold audience interest while performing solo for twenty-plus minutes is as remarkable as his smooth trick falls.
One A.M. is an unusual Chaplin film that is packed with laughs and a neat ending. I’d love to see what happens when his character wakes up – an early version of The Hangover perhaps?