Starting at 5pm PT tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 17, TCM is featuring a masterclass in silent comedy, with films from the three geniuses of the form, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, including the films that represent perhaps the purest examples of the work of each.
First up is The Kid (1921), one of Chaplin’s masterpieces. In The Kid, Chaplin is a tramp who raises The Kid (Jackie Coogan) as his own, and then fights to keep him. This is followed at 6pm by The Pilgrim (1923). These two are the last films Chaplin made for First National, before moving to the studio he co-founded, United Artists.
The Chaplin films are followed by a pair of Buster Keaton films – One Week (1920) at 8:15pm and then at 8:45pm another masterpiece, Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928). Keaton is the weedy son of a tough steamboat captain, who falls in love with the daughter of his father’s rival. In the end, of course, Keaton saves his dad’s boat and the day – and wins the girl.
This exceptional night of films from one of the key moments in the history of cinema finishes with a movie by the least known of these comic geniuses, Harold Lloyd – probably his greatest, Safety Last! (1923). Lloyd plays a young man from a small town who goes to the big city and works to earn the money to marry his sweetheart, and endures a series of comic misadventures with his job at a department store.
I know you can get these movies on video or from NetFlix (and you can probably watch them on the interweb) – or even TiVo them to watch whenever, but it still seems so special to me to be able to watch The Kid, Steamboat Bill Jr. and Safety Last! – three of the greatest comedy films of all time – all in one evening. A moment.
Footnote: Lloyd’s work was a major influence on one of the greatest physical comedians of recent years, Jackie Chan, and Chan has paid homage to Lloyd in a number of his films and in particular to Safety Last in one of his best films, Project A.
- Charlie Chaplin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- BFI | Features | Charlie Chaplin
- Buster Keaton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Harold Lloyd – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The Films of Buster Keaton :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies
- Safety Last :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies
- City Lights :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies
- The Great Dictator :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies
- Steamboat Bill, Jr. [Ultimate 2-Disc Edition] – Amazon.com
- The Kid (2 Disc Special Edition) – Amazon.com
- The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 1 – Amazon.com
- Jackie Chan’s Project A – Amazon.com