Plot: A down on his luck man (Charlie Chaplin) is in need of a break, as he has to find some food and shelter, but is flat broke. When he notices a sign looking for sparring partners, he knows this is not exactly in his wheelhouse, but hunger wins out and he agrees to step into the squared circle. As he prepares to mix it up, he watches as a few others head to the ring and come back quite different, as they’ve been pummeled and left battered. He knows he needs some kind of help if he wants to avoid the same fate, so he turns to a lucky horseshoe…which he puts in one of his boxing gloves. This approach works like a charm and he scores a quick knockout, but when he is matched against the champion, will his plan backfire?
Entertainment Value: This classic Essanay short from Charlie Chaplin has a lot packed into the short duration, with a story driven narrative, a little romance, some boxing scenes, and of course, consistent humor throughout. I couldn’t help but think of City Lights as I watched The Champion, as the boxing here seems to be a precursor to the masterful scenes in that picture. The pace here is a touch slower than Chaplin’s frenetic slapstick shorts, but still moves at a nice clip and with a number of locales and small stories, it never feels dull or drawn out. The more deliberate pace is used to build some genuine emotion and character in the scenes, which Chaplin was always adept at, even early on. I think the boxing scenes are the highlight, but I had fun with the short overall, even if I wouldn’t put it next to Chaplin’s best. Fans of Chaplin, silent comedy, and classic cinema in general should appreciate The Champion.