Film: 2337

Feature Comedy | 1910 | Silent + Sound | B/W


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Part 2 of a silent Charlie Chaplin comedy starring Chaplin as a bumbling fireman who falls in love with the young lady promised to his fire chief as part of an insurance scam.

A respectable man, whose house is burning down, with a goatee, top hat and coat tails, rushes to the direct emergency phone for the fire service - a simple box attached to a wooden telephone pole on the road - in a panic, wringing his hands.

Inside the fire station, Charlie Chaplin as the fireman, in only a shirt, tie and trousers, plays draughts with one of his colleagues in uniform, in front of the fire engine - a large boiler-like tank with wheels, meters and taps - when the fire alarm, a large bell on the wall in a corner, starts to ring; Chaplin looks at it in annoyance and with a nod of sanction from his colleague, gets up and stuffs a piece of cloth between the hammer and the gong to stop the hammer making anymore noise; he then returns to his seat, puffing unhurriedly on his pipe, to resume the game.

The front porch of a house, thick smoke billowing from inside.

Chaplin and his colleague at the draughts board; Chaplin's look of complacency turns to one of surprise, then annoyance as his opponent captures all his pieces in one move, scooping them into his hand with a triumphant laugh and patting Chaplin on the shoulder remorselessly.

The man whose house is burning is in a flap next to the telephone box, throwing his hands in the air, clapping them furiously as if trying to induce an answer from the phone box.

In the fire station, Chaplin's opponent picks up the draughts board and leaves with a few taunting remarks and nasty cackle; Chaplin, rather peeved, sticks his pipe on the end of his nose at his departing colleague's back.

The man in front of the phone box throws open the door to the box, and yanks out a table telephone, its receiver attached to the speaker and body of the telephone by a long cord, and gabbles into it.

Chaplin, at the fire station, hears the phone ring below the big bell on the wall, and saunters over to pick it up. He picks up the whole device with one hand, turns around, and finds he's put his pipe next to his ear where the receiver should be, sticks his pipe in the corner of his mouth and puts the speaker to his ear, and the receiver to his mouth, realises his mistake and finally gets it right - all with supreme calmness.

The man at the phone box is frantic, yelling into thin air as he waves both receiver and speaker around wildly. Chaplin calmly takes the receiver from his ear, puts a finger in his other ear, twists it, then repositions the receiver and speaks into the phone with an air of consummate patience. The man at the phone box talks frantically into the speaker; realises the receiver is not by his ear, and puts both speaker and receiver to his ears. Chaplin on the other end shrugs and probably says something unhelpful, listens, scratches his head with the mouth of his pipe. He starts to walk across the room holding the phone, pauses as he gets tangled up in the cords. The man shoves the phone back into the box in exasperation, runs off through a field.

Chaplin crosses the room to replace the phone, touches the stand on which it was placed and is twice knocked back comically by what appears to be an electric shock (?) which sends his arm into spasms.

The porch of the burning house, with even thicker smoke billowing out, nearly completely obscured.

The man whose house is burning hurtles toward a brick building, the fire station, his hand holding his top hat down. In the fire station, Chaplin sits perched on the back step of the fire engine, reading; the man runs in along the side of the fire engine, throws his arms in the air and runs back down its side to the other end; an inadvertent game of hide-and-seek ensues as Chaplin walks down the other side of the engine to look for him: they go back and forth, the house owner still tearing up and down, his hands in the air; finally they meet in front of the engine, where the desperate incoherent man tries to galvanise Chaplin into action, slamming the side of the engine and sending a jet of water from the nozzle of the hose straight into Chaplin's face, before resuming his arm-throwing routine along the side of the engine; Chaplin, wet and suddenly decisive, grabs a small fire axe from the side of the engine and raises it, preparing to hit the man the next time he scurries to the front; he accidentally hits himself in the foot and hops around in pain and growing irritation as the other man continues.

The front of the house, enveloped in smoke, flames licking at it inside.

The man has finally come to a halt in the fire station in front of the engine, and gestures dramatically next to Chaplin, telling him what's wrong; he throws his arms round him, wipes his nose and eyes on his tie - which Chaplin is not pleased about - and finally sinks onto the step of the engine, a pathetic figure; Chaplin, irritated, hits him squarely on the foot with the axe and sits down next to him. Close-up of Chaplin and the man, who can be seen saying repeatedly, wild-eyed and panting: 'Help - fire - help - fire - fire - fire' etc.; Chaplin starts repeating it calmly at first, then more urgently as he realises what he's saying and starts panicking too.

The front of the burning house, still more smoke.

Chaplin and the man are on their feet in the fire station, the latter having descended into more hysterics and wild gestures; Chaplin puts on his jacket and hat with relative composure, hands the desperate man a book.

Intertitle: 'Amuse yourself, I'll get the captain.'

Chaplin trots off as the man sits down with the book. Chaplin walks down the road, kicking a strange routine as he makes a sharp left turn.

The interior of the father's house [In the story he plans to collect insurance from burning his house down and instructs the fire chief to ignore the blaze, in return for the hand of his daughter]. The captain of the brigade, a large imposing moustachioed man in uniform, prepares to leave as the father and daughter see him off at the door. The father speaks.

Intertitle: 'Pay no attention to the fire alarm.'

The captain leaves, with the daughter, in a long skirt and blouse, on his arm. They emerge from the front door of the house onto steps lined with potted plants. The father, looking shifty, runs off into the house. He emerges from the back door, runs down some steps to where barrels, boxes and refuse lie, holding a suitcase.

On the front steps, the captain prepares to take his leave; he and the daughter whirl round several times in dramatic pre-departure poses and take hands romantically.

The first house continues to burn.

The captain kisses the hand of the daughter, who is smiling girlishly: Chaplin arrives at the foot of the steps and salutes; receiving no reply he turns and prods the captain's backside till he responds, jumping round; Chaplin salutes again, but the captain tells him off furiously and waves him away, turning back to the daughter, whom he now kisses; Chaplin persists by the side.

Intertitle: 'Excuse me captain, there is a fire.'

The captain ignores him, continues to embrace and kiss his lady love dramatically, while Chaplin, either impudent or love-lorn, hugs a potted plant and starts kissing it; he stops when the captain turns around fearsomely, and restates the fact that there is a fire; the foreman starts and swings into 'professional' mode, saluting and kissing the girl goodbye; he beckons to Chaplin hastily, but Chaplin has sneaked on to the steps to steal a kiss behind his back, and gets hauled off by the ear.

The daughter returns to the house, gathers her coat and hat, walks up the stairs.

The first house continues burning.

Chaplin and the captain return to the station; the latter pauses dramatically on the road to 'reach' for the girl and Chaplin urges him along.

Inside the station, the owner of the burning house is engrossed calmly in the book, and continues flicking the pages nonchalantly as Chaplin shows him to the captain; remembering the fire, a look of alarm shoots up his face and he drops the book and starts hollering and scampering to and fro; the captain immediately starts blowing his whistle, and gives Chaplin a sharp kick in the backside to get him moving; Chaplin accidentally sprays the captain with water from the nozzle, then hits him, wet and floundering, with the axe; the captain slumps, dazed on the back step of the fire engine.

Upstairs, four firemen lying on their beds spring awake and hover over the hole which the fireman's pole in the centre of the room goes through, their hands over their ears; they scramble out of bed for a closer listen, then scramble off-screen in their white nightgowns, reappearing seconds later in full uniform, and slide down the pole one by one.

The firemen land downstairs, some tripping over the legs of the still dazed captain, who slumps on the step as the men wheel the fire engine out. The engine, with the captain still on the back step, his legs dragging on the ground, is wheeled out backwards and onto the street.

The first house, still burning.

Chaplin jumps into the driver's seat of the fire engine, now hooked up to a horse-drawn wagon (#23). The owner of the house jumps on the back of the engine, still with the captain slumped at the back, as it speeds off. The horse-drawn engine speeds down some dirt roads, probably in a more rural area, with various people and items tumbling off en route. The engine turns a corner, comes to a bumpy halt: firemen in uniform are seated on two-tiered benches behind the driver, and another one hangs on behind the tank. Two figures, presumably the captain and the owner of the house, rush down the road after them, having been thrown off earlier.

The burning house, now enveloped in black smoke and flames. The firemen, all bearing axes, rush off the engine into a neat formation, and stand at attention, hefting their axes, saluting and breaking into an on-the-spot jog, much to the owner's despair, as Chaplin sits on the driver's seat clapping; at the captain's signal, they dash off to fight the blaze.

The firemen reach the burning house and turn back, calling to Chaplin. Chaplin gets off the carriage, carrying the nozzle, aims it - nothing comes out. The firemen, dancing in panic before the burning house, shout instructions. Chaplin salutes, turns smartly on his heel, and picks up the hosepipe, saluting numerous times, and attaches it to the nozzle. He rotates his arm repeatedly, the nozzle poised in the wrong direction, waiting for the water. The firemen shout frantically. A strong jet of water from the hose. The firemen tumble under the force of the water but the house behind them remains untouched. The captain runs to Chaplin, kicks him in the backside and tries to wrest the hose from him, ending up wet; Chaplin drops the hose and water spurts everywhere. The captain just about manages to hang on to it.

The father at the back of his house, finishes tipping kerosene/gasoline over the pile of refuse; smoke starts to emerge as he hurries up the stairs. In her bedroom upstairs, the daughter paces, sits at her dressing table, looking upset. Downstairs, by the staircase, her father leaves hurriedly, stopping to note:
Intertitle: 'Good, nobody home.'
He walks out of his house in his top hat and coat, passing a couple nonchalantly on the pavement outside. Thick smoke rises from the burning pile of refuse. The father watches as smoke is emitted round the front of the house as well. Camera pans up the front of the house to the open window of his daughter's room as smoke rises. Inside, the girl is in distress, rushing to the window as thick smoke fills her room. She appears at the window, through billowing smoke, crying for help. Below, her father looks up and throws his hands in the air, dropping his hat. He clutches his head and bemoans his foolishness, reaching up helplessly to his daughter. He throws a potted plant through the glass pane of the front door but is kept back by the smoke billowing out. The girl continues crying for help from the window above.

The father dashes to a box attached to a telephone pole, to activate the fire alarm, then he hits on an idea and runs off down a neatly kept garden path.

At the first house, the firemen continue to fight the blaze, with plenty of tumbling and confusion as they heft the large hose. The father hurries down the road leading to the house, stopping to ask a Negro worker on the road with a hoe for directions, then running through the field.

Smoke continues billowing out of the daughter's upstairs window.

The father rushes up to Chaplin, who is standing around aimlessly in front of the fire engine, kicking his legs; he frantically tells Chaplin what has happened.
Intertitle: 'Save my daughter.'
The two men waste no time in clambering onto the fire engine, Chaplin at the helm. The other firemen see this and turn their backs on the burning house; the men cluster confusedly behind the captain, who points to the distance.

The backs of the fire engine being driven down the road at high speed, items like hats tumbling off it as it takes a corner. The firemen panic and chase after the runaway engine, completely forgetting the blaze behind them.

The Negro worker on the dirt road steps back as the engine hurtles past him. The man whose house is on fire, having been left on his own with an uncontrollable jet of water from the hose, tumbles over. The other firemen tear through the field and onto the road in hot pursuit; the captain falls straight into an open hole by the side of the road.

The fire engine speeds along a dusty road, past fields and rows of houses, as it turns a corner, the cart with the tank on it becomes unhinged and crashes. A frontal view of Chaplin, now down to a shirt and tie, urging the horse on with all his strength, down a road of traffic, while the father gestures nervously behind him, trying to keep his balance as the carriage swerves wildly.

The front of the second burning house. The horse-drawn carriage gallops down a well-kept row of houses and green spaces. It comes to a halt. Chaplin at the reins bucks to a halt, and grins, looking pleased with himself; he turns around and finds to his alarm that the engine is gone. He alights hurriedly; the father gets on one knee on the pavement and throws his arms upwards in dramatic supplication, begging Chaplin to save his daughter; Chaplin takes his head and kisses his forehead, then charges towards the house.

He approaches the front door several times, turning back in fear each time as he sees the smoke. Finally, he clambers up the front of the building using ledges and windowsills - the camera follows him as he reaches the top and the girl's window; the girl swoons and collapses inside as he scrambles up the last ledge and dives in through the window.

Chaplin lands on the floor, next to the unconscious girl; he picks her up and climbs out the window amid smoke. The camera follows him down the front of the building, this time with the girl on his back, her arms around his neck.

The other firemen reach the father, standing next to the cart and horses, who gestures and points upwards; the firemen dash off to help. Chaplin makes his way down to the ground floor and safety; the men catch the girl and stand her, now conscious, on her feet; Chaplin, on the steps, appears to fall over in a faint. Close-up of the 'unconscious' Chaplin through the smoke on the steps. The men notice Chaplin and carry him to the pavement; the girl, distraught, falls to her knees by his side, and starts instructing the men around her.

Intertitle: 'Get him water.'

All the firemen and her father walk off, leaving the two alone. Chaplin sits bolt upright, stands up, takes the girl's hand. The film ends here.


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