The Pawnshop

Film Review by Dean Duncan Aug 17, 2015

Chaplin is essaying the archetypal Harlequin character again, but now he’s placed him in a solid, coherent narrative structure. He’s got it all down, and everything is in place, and it’s perfect. The Pawnshop features an  unremitting parade of great jokes, all wonderfully executed. The ample fighting and the dancing are especially outstanding. The fact that the Tramp is actually working here makes for an interesting variation or elaboration. As before, as nearly always both character and actor adapt themselves instantly and effortlessly to every situation. This adaptability—except for the episode of the old actor, in which Charlie’s character is actually bested—turns always on the principle that his current desire is the centre and cause of everything. Makes you think. He’s a Child. He’s modern labour? He’s an illustration of social Darwinism. As far as intent goes, Chaplin was probably still, at this point, just making funny movies. But there are sure a lot of possibilities. The amorality! The virtuosity!! Ends with one of his very best dance flourishes, which is saying something!