Synopsis by Phil Posner
Charlie Chaplin's third film in his Mutual period is his first minor masterpiece. It combines comedy and drama in the style that Chaplin had developed in his earlier Essanay film The Tramp and anticipates later dramatic comedies such as The Kid and City Lights. Charlie plays an itinerant violinist whose famous feet we first see emerging from the swinging doors of a saloon. He takes up his position outside the back door and begins his concert, but at this moment a street band begins playing outside the front door. When Charlie enters the saloon to pass the hat, the patrons, believing he's part of the band, contribute generously. When the real band leader enters to pass his hat, a fight and chase begin from which Charlie eventually escapes. The audience is now introduced to "The Mother," an obviously upper-class woman who interrupts her embroidering and looks longingly at a photograph of her long-lost child. Charlie, having forsaken the city, wanders down a country road where he comes upon a gypsy encampment where a beautiful drudge (Edna Purviance), under the control of the brutal Gypsy Chief (Eric Campbell) is washing clothes. Charlie plays a concert for his audience of one, the fast tempo causing the girl to scrub her laundry at a lightning pace and his soulful playing evoking her strong emotions. The concert is interrupted by the Chief, who pushes Charlie into a water basin and beats the girl severely for shirking her duties. Seeing this brutality, Charlie puts aside his cane and violin in favor of a stout club and rescues the girl in an exciting scene in which they dramatically escape in one of the wagons. Later, encamped by the side of a road, Charlie prepares breakfast while the girl goes for water. She meets a handsome artist (Lloyd Bacon), who, noticing a shamrock shaped birthmark on her arm, asks her to pose for him. After he finishes his sketch, she invites him to breakfast. During the meal, it's obvious from her face that she's infatuated with him, and Charlie is aware that he's losing her. When the artist leaves, the girl gazes longingly after him as Charlie watches her apprehensively. Some time later, the painting is exhibited in a posh gallery and the Mother, in attendance, almost collapses as she recognizes her daughter by her birthmark. Meanwhile Charlie tries to cheer up the despondent girl by promising that he'll learn to draw too. Suddenly a limousine pulls up and mother and daughter are reunited. Charlie gallantly refuses a cash reward and wishes the artist luck just before they drive off. Alone, Charlie tries to cheer himself but succumbs to his emotions. In the limousine the girl realizes her true feelings and makes the driver return to Charlie, whom she excitedly hauls off to the limousine and to a presumed life of luxury. This was not the ending originally planned for the film, in which Chaplin was going to have the Tramp attempt a drowning suicide, only to be rescued by a homely farm girl, and seeing her, jumping back in again. Fortunately, he opted for the happier, more optimistic ending.
survivor, damsel-in-distress, poverty, rescue