Archive for Joan Marsh

The Sunday Intertitle: Kid Kaiser

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2021 by dcairns

THE BOND is sometimes not even counted as a proper Chaplin film and I’d only ever seen a few seconds of it. I didn’t realise it was such a substantial piece. True, it’s basically an advertisement — selling war bonds. Chaplin was somewhat obligated to make it as he was receiving a lot of criticism for not being in uniform and dying in a ditch, which is apparently what we want from our geniuses.

Some evidence suggests that the film was not his top priority — he made it in just a week, shutting down production on A DOG’S LIFE SHOULDER ARMS when he was reminded he was supposed to be doing this. The sets are, uniquely for Chaplin, simple white line drawings on a black background. If he was providing this thing free for the war effort, he’d be damned if he’d spend a lot of money on it.

But THE BOND is really good! The sets — presumably by Charles D. Hall, drawing (literally) on his Karno stage experience, are striking and delightful. It would have been interesting to see CC experiment more in this mode, maybe for one of his numerous dream sequences. Some critics have admitted the cheapness of Chaplin’s sets and argued that this was a shrewd choice, as Chaplin didn’t want to the backgrounds to upstage him. I, on the other hand, deny that the sets are cheap, except in the very early films — but these graphic jobs could be used to justify the argument.

The film has a simple, effective structure: we’re taken through a variety of bonds: the bond of friendship, the bond of love, the bond of marriage, leading up to the liberty bond. What’s striking is the film’s cynical attitude to the first three types of bond. Albert Austin as the friend bores Charlie with a supposedly funny story, then hits him up for a loan. Like a lot of rich people, and especially those who have been poor, Charlie was known to be somewhat tightfisted, and probably he’d been plagued by hand-out seekers once his success was known. As the embodiment of love, Edna flirts outrageously, showing an ankle the saucy minx, so that what we’re seeing is clearly pure, or impure, lust. Marriage is shown as another grift, a means of parting the poor groom from his money. This is all fascinating since Chaplin, on the rebound from Edna, was to marry Mildred Harris in October 1918. David Robinson pretty much implies that teenage actress Mildred was on the make, hoping to advance her acting career and profit financially from a union with the insanely famous comic.

The film does not satirically undercut the bonds it’s supposed to be selling… that would be going too far. But the scathing depiction of other bonds does rather make one wonder.

As he would again in SHOULDER ARMS, Syd Chaplin plays the Kaiser, advancing lecherously upon Lady Liberty (Edna again), as he would upon Molly Wright necessitating his flight from the UK some years later. It’s a little uncomfortable to see him being so much himself. This of course is Liberty’s second appearance in a Chaplin film, after the notably astringent depiction in THE IMMIGRANT.

Walloping Syd/Kaiser Bill with a very large mallet, the only bit I’d seen before, is good, cartoonish fun, and the fact that he takes so long to fall down, legs getting more rubbery, manner more crosseyed and dazed with each Whack-a-mole smack, is extremely amusing to me. Syd was a talented performer, curse him.

The creepy lunar Cupid is played by four-year-old Joan Marsh, later a platinum bombshell in pre-codes. Albert Austin doubles up as Brummie Uncle Sam.