One A.M.

Director: Charles Chaplin
Screenwriters: Charles Chaplin

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


One A.M. is one of the most purely vaudevillian of Chaplin’s short films. It’s a brilliant catalogue of solo stage business shot straight on against six different stagelike, backdrop settings. The cameras eye is a theatre seat’s eye, or so it seems though actually there is very skillful editing between long and medium shots. There are only two close-ups in the entire twenty minutes, both of them unnecessary and full of that odd feeling of being out of place and arrhythmic to our contemporary eyes. The shrewdness of the stage design is wonderfully unobtrusive; somehow Chaplin and his design colleagues have come up with a little world that is both surreal and mundane—most important for the playing out of gags, plausible even when impossible(dig the clock!).

One A.M. is one of the best short films in which to see both Chaplin’s physical genius and his genius for inventing, leaving and returning to physical gags. The film contains long uninterrupted sequences which show what it must have been like to see this great clown on the stage. One notable exception is the short piece in which Chaplin does a tricky hat-toss move without risking a long take (his cinematographer was quick to pick up on the advantages of the medium).

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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