The Sunday Intertitle: Rinky-Dink

Impressively, Chaplin’s THE RINK has only, I think, two intertitles in its first reel. Perhaps not so impressive when you consider how slight the plot is. Chaplin is an incompetent waiter, then he gets into a rollerskating rink and trips up Eric Campbell. A bunch of times.

How bad a waiter is Charlie? Bad enough to serve up a live cat for lunch. I think that gives you an idea.

At the midway point there’s a sudden flurry of text flung at us as Chaplin needs to motivate a rematch, getting the antagonists invited to Edna Purviance’s “skating party” (?) so it can all kick off again. A slender pretext for a great action finish.

Chaplin is a bolshy underling at the restaurant where he works, not only careless and accident-prone but malicious and aggressive — very much the Keystone Charlie. Once he comes into contact with Edna, he’s a kind of knight in armour, even if he is indulging in identity theft to woo her. It is, as Keystone would have put it, a “farce comedy,” so you have to expect a bit of imposture along with the ruckus.

This is the movie that provoked W.C. Fields to compare C.C. to a ballet dancer, which I never took as a knock, or the result of envy, or contempt. It just seems an apt analysis. As skilled and graceful a physical performer as Fields could hardly fail to be impressed by Chaplin’s movements, even if what he did with them wasn’t up Fields’ street. I can see the Great McGonigle being more taken with Chaplin the scoundrel than with anyone having the temerity to cast himself as a hero.

The knockabout in the rink is pretty spectacular, though meanie that I am I laughed most this time at the pantomimic distress of the female onlookers as Chaplin repeatedly falls on a prone fat lady, who’s played by regular trouper Henry Bergson in drag. Funny enough the first time, the hysteria escalates with every pratfall ~

It’s not that I always laugh at people in torment — I’m not God — but there’s something ticklesome about the realistic weeping and wailing as a reaction to the stylised pratfalling. It’s as incongruous as vomiting in response to an aria.

3 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Rinky-Dink”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    Harold Lloyd’s one-reel take, 1919:

    The “glasses” character is not quite there. He looks like a nice young man who’d get invited to a party, but he’s still full of brash Keystone-style assaults. No plays for sympathy and few for likability; he could just as well have been Lonesome Luke.

    While “The Rink” showcases skill, Lloyd and company are all stumblebums on wheels. The closest thing to grace is a throwaway at the end, when Bebe Daniels efficiently glides into frame and into Harold’s arms. You almost regret the fadeout gag.

    Also, there’s a nice little pedestrian chase (the heavy follows Harold out of a party for no other purpose than to kick him).

    I have nostalgic affection for this one. Back when Lloyd (and then his estate) kept his best work mostly bottled up, this was one of the few “glasses” films available in 8mm.

  2. Thanks, glad I saw that! Most of Lloyd’s mild-mannered roles show him becoming an aggressive (but still NICE) go-getter in the final reel, so it makes sense that there was this rough, pushy character first…

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