The Pawnshop [Charlie Chaplin]

The Pawnshop (1916) starring Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Henry Bergman, John Rand, Albert Austin

Charlie Chaplin is an assistant in the pawnshop. A tardy, lazy, assistant who’s constantly starting a fight with his co-worker. And is in love with the pawn broker’s lovely daughter …

Review

Edna Purviance with Charlie Chaplin and her inedible doughnuts in The Pawnshop - lobby card
Edna Purviance with Charlie Chaplin and her inedible doughnuts in The Pawnshop

In short, The Pawnshop is a hilarious, fast-paced silent Charlie Chaplin comedy. It’s amazing just how much slapstick comedy is crammed into twenty minutes of film.

The plot is really just an excuse for a series of fights and jokes – all of which are laugh out loud funny. In my opinion, the funniest part — and the most famous — is Charlie methodically destroying a would-be customer’s clock, to “examine” it. It’s absolutely hilarious, especially when the innards of the clock start moving on their own!

Comedy moments

After beating up John Rand, Charlie Chaplin lies on the floor pretending to be hurt, to get sympathy from Edna Purviance in
After beating up John Rand, Charlie Chaplin lies on the floor pretending to be hurt, to get sympathy from Edna Purviance in The Pawnshop
  • Charlie destroys his feather duster with an office fan
  • Consequently turning a fight with John Rand into a dance
  • Outside to clean, catching & dragging John with a ladder.
  • After that, Charlie punching John while he’s trapped by the ladder … until a police officer walks by
  • Then Charlie accidentally swats John & Henry Bergman with the ladder like a plank – classic clown comedy
  • Swaying back & forth on the top of the ladder, cleaning the outside sign
  • Recurring joke of Charlie checking his watch to make sure it’s still working
  • After beating the stuffings out of John, Charlie lying on the floor pretending to be hurt — to get sympathy from Edna Purviance
  • As a result, Charlie gets to eat one of Edna’s inedible, hard as stone, doughnuts.
  • But, that leads to Charlie’s washing dishes through an old-time washing machine.
  • Then a dough fight is interrupted.
  • Charlie waiting on a melodramatic customer while eating … and getting fleeced by him.
  • Next, the funniest part of the movie. During Charlie “examination” of a clock that’s been bought in to be pawned … and destroying it!
  • While Charlie’s fighting with John & Henry Bergman, the villain Eric Campbell sneaks into the vault …
  • However, caught in the act, Eric pulls a gun on the staff … only to be knocked out from behind by Charlie who was hiding in a trunk!

Cast of characters

  • Charlie Chaplin: Pawnshop assistant. He’s late (pointing to the calendar to prove that he arrived on the right day), lazy, provoking fights, and destroying property in a flurry of comedy. He works for:
  • Henry Bergman: Pawnbroker, who actually fires Charlie for all the damage midway through the picture. But after Charlie grovels & pleads, he re-hires him. He’s the father of:
  • Edna Purviance: His daughter, who Charlie has a crush on. She’s pretty, kind … and has cooked doughnuts that are as hard as a rock!
  • John Rand: Pawnshop assistant, and Charlie’s nemesis for the film. He’s just trying to get his work done …
  • Albert Austin: Client with clock. Who simply observes are Charlie slowly destroys his clock in a crescendo of slapstick.
  • Wesley Ruggles: Client with ring who plays a sob story to Charlie … only for Charlie to realize he’s been taken advantage of! Very funny.
  • Eric Campbell: Supposedly a customer who’s come to look at the pawnshop’s diamonds, but he’s actually a thief.
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