The Little Tramp comes to America in Charles Chaplin's two-reeler Mutual film The Immigrant (1917), an early, astute combination of social satire and straight comedy. Casting a critical eye on Lady Liberty rhetoric about welcoming the huddled masses, Chaplin pointedly contrasts symbols of American freedom with the reality suffered by the Tramp and his fellow poverty-stricken arrivals, as they are roped in like cattle and treated roughly by immigration authorities. At the same time, Chaplin mines humor out of the Tramp's refusal to be brought low, whether he's fishing amid seasick travelers, negotiating the perilously rocking boat, fending off an arrogant waiter, or finding love with Edna Purviance. Chaplin's technical restraint let his mime and sly visual compositions speak for themselves. Chaplin was already a star from his work for Mack Sennett and a seasoned director from his Essanay shorts, but his twelve shorts for Mutual turned him into an international superstar; The Immigrant and Easy Street (1916) presaged the social commentary of such later Chaplin features as The Kid (1921) and The Gold Rush (1925).
by Lucia Bozzola review