Sunnyside (1919)    1 Stars

“Charlie Chaplin In His Third Million Dollar Comedy”

Sunnyside (1919)

Director: Charles Chaplin

Cast: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Olive Ann Alcorn

Synopsis: A hotel maintenance man has the uncanny ability to create chaos wherever he ventures.





Chaplin himself admitted that Sunnyside was one of his worst films, coming at a time when he was struggling with writer’s block and a messy divorce from Mildred Harris, so it’s not unreasonable for those who review the movie to agree with him. Actually, if forced to choose, I’d suggest that A Day’s Pleasure is far worse than this movie. Sunnyside is a strangely uneven affair, but it at least gives the impression that Chaplin was genuinely trying to make something of value, while he was clearly just going through the motions when he made A Day’s Pleasure.

The Little Tramp is transplanted to the countryside, where he works for a sadistic hotel manager who disregards the plaque proclaiming ‘Love thy Neighbour’ in his bedroom to deliver a record-breaking number of kicks to his employee’s rear. The tramp is resigned to his treatment, even assuming the position to receive a number of the kicks, which together with his repeated use of ‘etc, etc, etc’ in the intertitles is perhaps indicative of a creative mind deeply unhappy with the system within which he was working. Sunnyside is void of romantic interest in its first half, but belatedly arrives in the form of comely neighbour Edna Purviance. Edna loves Charlie, but he believes he has a rival in a city slicker (Albert Austin) who stays at the hotel after being involved in a car accident.

Sunnyside isn’t a disaster of a movie, by any means — in his prime, Chaplin was probably incapable of such a thing — but for every piece of laugh-out-loud piece of comedy to which we’re treated, we have to sit through a couple of misfires and one so-so routine. It must have been tempting for those in the business to believe Chaplin was finally losing his touch, especially as Sunnyside was followed by A Day’s Pleasure. Of course, history shows that The Kid was on the horizon, and that Chaplin was about to enter perhaps the most creative phase of his lengthy career.

(Reviewed 6th September 2014)