Review: The Rounders (1914)

>> Tuesday, April 10, 2007

USA/Silent/B&W-10m./Dir: Charles Chaplin/Wr: Charles Chaplin/Cast: Charles Chaplin (Mr. Full), Fatty Arbuckle (Mr. Fuller), Phyllis Allen (Mr. Full’s wife), Minta Durfee (Mr. Fuller’s wife)

In the realm of sauced slapstick, no comedian ever surpassed the physical grace and endless invention of Charlie Chaplin. His comic inebriate act initially brought him renown on the British stage, and he carried it over onto film in many of his early one- and two-reelers. That drunkard routine is on glorious display in one of the fastest and funniest of Chaplin’s short subjects, The Rounders.

Chaplin portrays Mr. Full, a dapper drunkard in tuxedo and top hat, who arrives at his hotel home after a night of immoderate revelry. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle co-stars as his neighbor, the equally well-dressed and well-oiled Mr. Fuller. Both souses quarrel with their spouses upon returning to their rooms, and before long the two couples are duking it out with each other. While the ladies continue to squabble, the boys discover that they not only share a love of potent liquids, they also belong to the same lodge. That, of course, calls for a drink, so the boozers steal their wives’ money and head for the nearest cafĂ©. Unfortunately, they fall asleep before they have a chance to order a pick-me-up, which also allows the women time to catch up with them. Full and Fuller beat a hasty retreat and find a spot to snooze inside a leaky, stolen rowboat.

It isn’t much of a plot, but Chaplin uses every second of screen time to find new ways to display his intoxication--staggering carefully along the pattern in a rug as if walking a tightrope, getting stuck in a hunched position by stepping on the tail of his own coat, and hooking his feet over the top of his headboard after tumbling backwards onto the bed. Arbuckle lends fine support, and it’s easy to see why the baby-faced comedian was a close second to Chaplin in audience popularity at the time.

Incidentally, if you visited Disney World prior to 1998, you may have seen this one-reeler in the Main Street Cinema. It ran repeatedly with five other silent shorts until the attraction was closed to make room for a souvenir shop.

Drinks Consumed--None within the film, but Charlie and Fatty are completely shellacked at the start of the story

Intoxicating Effects
--Staggering, stumbling, bickering, brawling, passing out, public disturbance, and physical violence

Potent Quotables
--No dialogue to speak of

Video Availability--This comic gem appears within both the Slapstick Encyclopedia (Image) and The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (Mackinac Media) DVD box sets.

Similarly Sauced Cinema
--Earlier that same year, Charlie and Fatty boozed and brawled in the short Tango Tangles.

Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp
The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion
Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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