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Pay Day (1922)
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Pay Day

Pay Day

By the early 1920's, Charlie Chaplin's life and career were changing dramatically. His first marriage to Mildred Harris had ended in divorce in 1920. He had left behind the companies where he'd had his early successes, and signed a million-dollar contract with First National for just eight films. And he had made his first feature-length film, The Kid (1921). Chaplin had also made an important move toward independence and control of his films when he co-founded (with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith) United Artists, a production and distribution company, in 1919.

Pay Day (1922) was Chaplin's penultimate film for First National, and his final two-reeler. He had begun the film, and then abandoned it and gone off on a triumphant European vacation. Everywhere he went, Chaplin was greeted by enthusiastic crowds, and the extent of his worldwide popularity became gratifyingly clear. It also seems to have become clear to Chaplin during that trip that it was time to change direction. He worried about returning to Pay Day, telling friends that he didn't "feel funny." But he was satisfied with the finished product. It was reportedly his favorite of his short films.

In many ways, Pay Day is a typical "Little Tramp" comedy: a henpecked working man's adventures at work, at home with his shrewish wife, and carousing with friends. (Look for Chaplin's brother, Sydney, as one of them, the lunch cart owner.) But there were signs of what was to come. It had been Chaplin's habit to write a film's scenario during production, as a film developed, and ideas popped into his head. As a result, there were breaks in filming while he wrote. This time, there was only one pause during filming for story preparation. Up until this time, it had also been Chaplin's habit to shoot in narrative continuity. Perhaps because Pay Day was more fully prepared before shooting, he shot it out of sequence, filming the second half of the story in the studio first, and the construction site scenes on location later. Pay Day also displays a more sophisticated lighting technique than previous Chaplin films.

The reviews for Pay Day were of the "great, as always" variety. "Nothing has been said about Chaplin that has not been said a dozen times already," the New York Times critic wrote. But Chaplin's films would become more and more ambitious, and that blase acceptance of his talents would soon be insufficient. After completing The Pilgrim (1923), Chaplin left First National. His first United Artists film, A Woman of Paris (1923) was a shock. Not only did Chaplin limit his appearance in the film to a cameo, but the film was a serious and highly-praised drama about a kept woman. As the New York Times critic observed, "Our old friend Charlie Chaplin, the world's screen clown, has flung aside temporarily his shapeless trousers and his tiny derby...and in a well-tailored suit, has graduated into Charles Spencer Chaplin, director par excellence." The Little Tramp would return in Chaplin's next film, which many consider his masterpiece, The Gold Rush (1925), and would continue to play an important part in his future work.

Producer/Director: Charles Chaplin
Screenplay: Charles Chaplin
Cinematography: R.H. Totheroh
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Principal Cast: Charles Chaplin (Laborer), Phyllis Allen (His Wife), Mack Swain (Foreman), Edna Purviance (Foreman's Daughter), Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's Friend and Lunch Cart Owner), Albert Austin (Workman), John Rand (Workman), Loyal Underwood (Workman), Henry Bergman (Drinking Companion), Al Ernest Garcia (Drinking Companion).
BW-22m.

by Margarita Landazuri

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