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Charles Chaplin made an excursion outside his usual Tramp character for A Day's Pleasure (1919), a comedy short about a middle class family man who encounters one difficulty after another while attempting to make a simple excursion by car and boat with his wife and kids. The movie was something of a departure for Chaplin, forgoing his usual touches of social commentary and satire in favor of a gag-heavy comedy (including several seasickness jokes, notably one involving a black musician who turns white from feeling ill).
Although a hit on its release, A Day's Pleasure was really just a quickie cranked out to fulfill a business obligation. In 1918 Chaplin had contracted with First National Exhibitors Circuit to distribute his independently produced films. After completing three short pictures under this contract (not counting a documentary short he produced on behalf of the war effort), Chaplin went into production on a lengthier and more ambitious project, The Kid (1921), starring a brilliant child actor he had under contract, Jackie Coogan. But First National company officers were leaning on him for some product to supply theaters. Not wanting to be pressured into a completion date for The Kid, Chaplin decided to put it on hold in October 1919 to produce this two-reeler with some of the same cast, including Coogan, Edna Purviance and Tom Wilson.
The bulk of A Day's Pleasure was shot in seven days on an excursion steamer in Los Angeles' San Pedro harbor. While editing the footage, Chaplin added material about the difficulties of operating a Model T Ford left over from an abandoned picture called "Charlie's Picnic," also about a family outing. On October 19, he delivered the completed short comedy to First National and returned to the far more personal and challenging The Kid. That picture took him nine more months to complete, much to First National's dismay, leaving Chaplin no release in 1920, the only year since 1914 that did not see one of his productions on screen.
The movie features Chaplin's almost exclusive leading lady of the period, Edna Purviance. Put under contract to Chaplin in 1915, she remained on his payroll until her death in 1958, although apart from uncredited bits in his films Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952), she stopped acting in the late 1920s. Chaplin had hoped to pay her back for all her years of work by making her a major star with A Woman of Paris (1923). The film, the first one he directed in which he did not play a major part, was a box office failure. She made only two more films after that (L'Education de Prince (1927), A Woman of the Sea, 1926) - neither directed by Chaplin - until her non-speaking parts in the later Chaplin films.
Jackie Coogan was one of the biggest child stars of the silent era. He made only the above-mentioned two movies with Chaplin, and although his fame declined as he aged, he continued to work throughout the next decades, achieving new fame in the 1960s as Uncle Fester on the TV comedy series The Addams Family.
Producer/Director: Charles Chaplin
Screenplay: Charles Chaplin
Cinematography: Roland Totheroh
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Original Music: Charles Chaplin (composed for 1971 re-release)
Cast: Charles Chaplin (Father), Edna Purviance (Mother), Jackie Coogan (Smallest Boy).
by Rob Nixon