Plot: A tramp (Charlie Chaplin) tries to earn some change by playing the violin on the street, but his efforts are blocked when a much louder, more aggressive music group takes up in the same area. He is able to outwit the obnoxious band however, collecting their tips for himself, at least until the band leader notices and of course, a wild brawl ensues. The tramp manages to escape in the chaos, then runs into a beautiful gypsy girl that captures his attention. But when she is whipped by another gypsy, the tramp decides to take a stand. Will his actions lead to the romance he envisions or does a more tragic fate await both he and the gypsy girl?
Entertainment Value: Although Charlie Chaplin was a master of comedy, he could also bring out the heart and emotion in his material and The Vagabond is a perfect example of his skill in that department. This short from Chaplin’s Mutual Film run has some of his signature slapstick of course, but the narrative is a downbeat one and there’s more melancholy than laughs in most scenes. As always with Chaplin’s tramp however, the sense of optimism is ever present and we root for the scamp, even if the odds are always stacked against him. The shift in tone is a drastic one, especially compared with his work to this point, but we would see Chaplin refine his emotional beats over time and that is what helped him craft some of his true masterpieces. I think The Vagabond is a wonderful short and while not one of the funniest he made at Mutual Film, it is one of the best from that run of shorts.
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