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Easy Street (1917) starring Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell

Review of Charlie Chaplin’s classic silent film, ‘Easy Street’, co-starring Eric Campbell as the bully who terrorizes the slum, and Edna Purviance as the mission worker who reaches Charlie the Tramp – who, after his reformation, becomes the cop on the beat who has to stop Eric the bully

movie poster - Charlie Chaplin in Easy StreetSynopsis of Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street:

Easy Street is one of Charlie Chaplin’s best, and most enduring, short films.  It begins with Charlie as the Little Tramp (a tramp in the truest sense of the word in this film, homeless and sleeping on a park bench) wandering into a mission, where he is smitten by the lovely Edna Purviance, and becomes converted while listening to a minister’s sermon.  As proof of his repentance, he returns the collection box that he had been stealing!

A reformed Charlie becomes a policeman, and is assigned to the inner city ghetto of Easy Street. This is not the typical Hollywood glorified version, but a truly dirty, depressing, honest view. Unfortunately for Charlie, Easy Street is ruled by the iron fist of a bully, played wonderfully by Eric Campbell. Unable to defeat Eric the Tough (in a wonderful scene, after Charlie bops Eric on the head with his nightstick, Eric offers Chaplin more attempts, merely to prove how ineffective that Charlie Chaplin is against him), Charlie Chaplin perseveres (at least temporarily) by putting Eric’s head in a street light (this film takes place prior to the advent of electric street lights) and uses the gas from the street lamp to anesthetize Eric.

A hero to the people of Easy Street, Charlie Chaplin helps many poor people in the neighborhood. Eric, however, escapes jail and kidnaps Edna. Charlie conquers all (after accidentally being injected by an illegal drug by sitting on the needle), and Easy Street is transformed, as is Eric the no-longer-Tough.

Essential Charlie Chaplin, containing Easy StreetNot your typical sanitized view of the inner city, it’s a film that walks the fine line between humor and pathos, and does so hilariously. Truly one of Charlie Chaplin’s finest short films.

Trivia on Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street:

  • The lamppost used in the famous scene between Charlie Chaplin and Eric Campbell fell on Chaplin during filming, requiring his hospitalization.

I rate it 4 clowns on a 5-clown scale.