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How Silent Comedies Portrayed Social Inequality

Charles Chaplin

In nineteen fifteen, Charles Chaplin starred in "The Tramp". It was a black and white silent film. Where,his character wore a suit with ripped sleeves. Dusty, dirty and carrying only a knapsack, he portrayed his tramp as a higher classed gentleman. The movie had not only humor. The storyline touched on other emotions as well.

After saving a woman from some hobo robbers, the tramp went to the farmhouse where she lived. While there, her father offered to hire him. Scene after scene showed how the tramp fared with the farm tools. In a sense, a tramp wondered the countryside.

The movie made a social statement about the time when farm workers shared a room and meals. Although, they were paid very little. Therefore, the sun-up to sun-down working life did not suit his tramp character very well.

The movie glorified a tramp's lifestyle to a point that it seemed a much better way to live than working so hard for so little. Living a lonely existence, the tramp depended upon the kindness of others sometimes for a meal.

By the movie's ending, the tramp made the decision whether to stay laboring at the farm or to head back down the road. It was for him the most important choice of his life.

Buster Keaton

In nineteen twenty, Buster Keaton starred in a black and white silent comedy "The Saphead" as Bertie. His character was the Idle son of a Wall Street Mogul. Instead of tolling all day in a Wall Street office,Bertie preferred drinking and gambling all night.

Bertie confessed his love for his father's ward, Agnes to his sister, Rose and his valet, Henry.

Rose's husband Mark an attorney had his own plans for control of his father-in-law's mining stock. Also, Mark was involved with a mistress named Henrietta. After she died, Bertie was blamed for the love child that Mark and she produced. His father forbade Bertie from marrying Agnes and disowned him.

Bertie had to drastically change his life in order to marry Agnes. With the last of the money his father gave him. He bought a seat on the stock exchange. The movie showed the other side of the coin for Bertie. He now faced the ultimate challenge of his life. The question remained would he still get to marry Agnes with his father's approval.

Toward the movie's end, it showed what goes up must surely come down. At least, it did on Wall Street. The movie also highlighted schemes,betrayal and the threat of being wiped-out and then winning it all back again.

Harold Lloyd

Nineteen twenty-two, Harold Lloyd the bespectacled character in the silent film "Safety Last" known as The Boy. He worked as a sales clerk in a department store. Harold pulled many stunts to keep from getting into trouble with the floorwalker, Mr.Stubbs. Harold sent his girlfriend expensive gifts. He even promoted himself to general manager in order to impress her.

The movie also dealt with his working class challenges. Since tardiness was frowned upon, the movie had some face paced scenes. It showed Harold hanging onto a streetcar, hopping into automobiles, riding in the back of an ambulance so that he can make it to work on time.

Harold's famous scene, he dangled off a skyscraper above traffic in order to attract business to the department store. The movie was highly acclaimed. It also placed Harold Lloyd alongside other silent comedy actor greats. Like most of the silent comedies of that time, they mirrored the emotions of a movie goers life. Sometimes being silent speaks volumes.

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