The Tramp


Being a contemporary sort of fellow, I tend not to watch the films of yesteryear. ‘But’, some of you might protest, ‘you don’t watch the films of thisteryear either’. ‘Alright’, I reply, ‘you win this round. But watch your back, see….’. Here is my review of The Tramp.*

Everyone loves a short man with an undersized moustache and oversized trousers. Herein lies the explanation for the public’s unfading affection for Charlie Chaplin and MC Hammer**. Like old soldiers, little silent movie stars don’t die, they just fade away. This is outrageous. After everything that those brave old veterans have done for this country, it is shocking they can just disappear into thin air while the younger generation sit around flashing each other facetious peace signs and failing to get shot at. Do any of those young snipperflappers care that the veteran community is in the grip of a dematerialisation epidemic? No. They just smirk and urinate on poppies. How would they like it if an old soldier burst into their bedroom, urinated on their Xbox and, seemingly in defiance of the laws of physics, faded away before their very eyes? They would like it not very much. Not very much at all.

Moving on, when Charlie Chaplin mysteriously disintegrated into atoms and wind at the age of 78, he bestowed upon the earth a golden filmography. I’m here today to talk about one point on that filmograph: ‘The Tramp’.

When we watch ‘The Tramp’ we realise just how superfluous and redundant human language really is. Hundreds of pounds get spent every day on telephones and loudspeakers so that people can share their precious little words with one another. But among those words, how many really communicate something? Three at most. Maybe four.

Chaplin reminds us that all we need in order to express the subtlest emotions or the grandest of metaphysical concepts is a bowler hat and supple knees. In one scene we see him scuttling up and down a street without seeming purpose (no one scuttles up and down a street without seeming purpose like Chaplin). A fat capitalist wearing a monocle stops young Chaplin and remonstrates with him, as an imperious swan might remonstrate with an uncomprehending peasant. Chaplin crooks his left knee by 32 degrees, lifts his left eyebrow one and a half centimetres, cups his right hand, puts his left hand on his right shin and cries tearlessly. BANG! The fat capitalist is stunned, as if someone had just uploaded the complete works of Schopenhauer into his mind. Chaplin twizzles, un-cocks his snook, puts his snook in a satchel and winks at the camera. In the beginning was not the word. In the beginning was Chaplin and his expressive knees.

The remainder of the film involves Chaplin running up and down a plank and gawping at some exasperated flappers. This movie is a masterclass in economical storytelling. Forget your Tim Allens and your Bill Cosbies, Chaplin is the future of comedy.

Best wishes and a Merry Christmas,

Barry Norman

c/o John Le Baptiste

*Astute readers may have noticed that the version of this review posted earlier was titled ‘The Little Tramp’ and that I have subsequently corrected it to reflect the actual title of the film: ‘The Tramp’. I cannot abide inaccuracy or misrepresentation in any form. 

*MC stands for Michael Crawford. Mrs Hammer was a keen ‘Some Mother’s Do ’Ave ’Em’ fan.


3 Responses to “The Tramp”

  1. johnlebaptiste Says:

    Cancel that. I’ve just seen a DVD of that Michael McIntyre and he is HI-larious. Chaplin can choke on his own moustache for all I care.

    Barry Norman

  2. Banjo Fett Says:

    And why not.


  3. johnlebaptiste Says:


    Why not indeed.

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