The Rink (1916)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Slapstick  |   Release Date - Dec 4, 1916 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 20 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Wheeler Winston Dixon

The Rink is not so much a fully developed short, but rather a series of sight gags in a restaurant and a skating rink with Charles Chaplin at the height of his considerable powers as a physical comedian. His grace and skill in the film are undeniable; the plot, such as it is, is negligible. Edna Purviance is back as the object of Chaplin's affections; Eric Campbell plays the aptly named Mr. Stout, who has designs on Purviance's character; and Lloyd Bacon and Charlotte Mineau show up in bit parts. Chaplin's skill in assembling these brief shorts was by this time legendary (as was his salary). As the writer, director, and star of the film, Chaplin was clearly chafing at the bit, and wanted to move on to bigger and better things. But for the moment, one is more than content to watch Chaplin trip through the film with a display of confidence unmatched by any of his comic peers of the era. Chaplin's Tramp character, whether appearing as himself or, as in this film, briefly impersonating a social "swell," Sir Cecil Seltzer, belonged to the public, and was the ideal comic silent film personage. One of the reasons that Chaplin resisted the coming of sound so intensely was because he knew that the moment The Tramp spoke, much of the magic of the character would immediately vanish. Indeed, he managed to successfully keep The Tramp a silent character though several sound films, including City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936), before finally capitulating to the new demands of the medium and giving a voice to the character in The Great Dictator (1940). Thus, some 17 years after sound was generally introduced, The Tramp character spoke onscreen for the first time; but just as Chaplin predicted, much of the magic was lost. Here, we can see Chaplin at his finest, as a phantasmal figure of the silent era, alternately moving and comic, using the language of his facial and body movements to create a unique and immediately identifiable character, one which the public embraced wholeheartedly. Chaplin's later work, significantly, would not be so universally embraced.