Among Less Seen Of Chaplins
Two Charlies in The Idle Class (1921)
A First National Chaplin given elegance by a score he composed in the 70's for first circulation of the film since Pathé handled a 20's reissue. This family-sanctioned Idle Class is by definition a two-reeler, but runs a third longer than Mutual comedies of same duration, thanks to slowed-up frame rate CC applied when he modernized it (a 32 minute present-day length). How close, or should I say far, is this from what 1921 audiences got? Chaplin negatives were worn to nubbins by heavy play, The Idle Class opening in
Variety was sympathetic, calling it "uproarious entertainment" and chiding those who'd say otherwise. It was enough, after all, that Charlie make us laugh, and not reasonable to measure his work henceforth against un-toppable standard of The Kid. Photoplay sang praises: The Idle Class for them ranked next to The Kid and Shoulder Arms, latter pair voted best of Chaplin's so-far output. CC had finished The Idle Class "in record time," said observers (David Robinson's Chaplin bio says it took five months), the pic described as "a satire on society," and/or "a travesty on the weakness of the wealthy." These descriptives, likely issued by Chaplin's shop, may well have gone on scorecards kept by those who'd dress the tramp in Red as socio-political clouds gathered. As to pleasures enabled by his own wealth, there was homecoming to
Chaplin had his million-dollar contract to make eight comedies for First National, but what's less known is the next million generated once negatives reverted to him after contractual five years FN had to distribute. Latter bled the subjects white, or so they thought, but lines formed as each made ways to Chaplin ownership and control. He'd barter the pack to United Artists, or so it was thought, UA after all being part-owned by Chaplin and distributor of his films to come. Did Charlie find himself too frugal to deal with? Pathé made the better offer: a cool million split between two packages of four at $500K each, The Idle Class among the latter group that also included The Pilgrim, Pay Day, and The Kid. The Idle Class became Chaplin's sole property on 4-18-26, according to Film Daily. Terms beyond the flat price were as follows, said Variety (9-30-25): "Chaplin will have a percentage arrangement whereby he will collect if the pictures gross above a specified amount."
The Idle Class went years unseen, other than bootleg prints. Chaplin didn't include it among his Revue of First National shorts in the late-50's, and there was no Idle Class with initial inventory turned over to Mo Rothman for reissue in the early 70's. Robinson's book reported Chaplin adding both The Kid and The Idle Class to the Rothman package as gesture of thanks for the deal having so far gone well. We got them in tandem at