18 May 2001 | Anonymous_Maxine
Excellent short comedy by Charlie Chaplin. Definitely one of the very best.
Easy Street is one of the first films that really solidified Chaplin's intentions to continue to represent the poorer people of society. In this film, Chaplin's common rich vs. poor theme is especially prevalent in the way that the predicament of the poor is presented, and especially given the fact that, at this point in his career, Chaplin was earning roughly $10,000 a week.
Although this is one of Chaplin's best short films, it is strange that in the church near the beginning of the film, he turns the hymn book upside down as though he can't read, but then he is soon able to read the help wanted sign at the police station. At any rate, after he leaves the church, having found Jesus, he finds the streets seething with comical violence. He sees that the police are looking to hire, and his hesitant entrance into the police station is one of the funniest parts of the entire film.
Clearly, it's amusing enough to see the tramp in a policeman's uniform, but the way that he and the bully that seems to have claimed ownership of Easy Street interact is also some classic comedy. The irony in this film is that Charlie is trying to get this huge guy under control so that he will stop terrorizing the people, but then when he does, in fact, defeat him, the people are afraid of HIM. As is almost always the case when Charlie performs some heroism in his films (usually inadvertently), he acts like it was no big deal when people arrive (see the scene in The Gold Rush when Jack gets knocked out by a falling clock, and Charlie thought that he had done it).
The part that most clearly represents Charlie's sympathy for the poor in this film is the scene when he catches the woman stealing from the sleeping street vendor. At first, it seems that he is going to turn her in, but he is so heartbroken that he runs to the street vendor (who is still asleep), and steals more food for the woman, and then encourages her to hurry off before the vendor wakes up and realizes what has happened.
This rich vs. poor theme is one of the many that traverses a good majority of Chaplin's career, but there are many other things that can be seen in his later films, like the love interest element of The Bank that can be seen in a very similar form later in City Lights. In this film, there is a short sequence where Charlie sits on a hypodermic needle that had been used by a man to shoot up with (something like that wouldn't be quite as funny if it was done today), and his reaction to the small dose of the drug is almost exactly the same as that in Modern Times, when he pours cocaine onto his food, thinking it's salt.
Easy Street is an entertaining and heartwarming story in many ways, and the ending leaves the feeling that something has really been accomplished in the film. As Charlie calmly walks the sidewalks in his policeman's uniform, everyone on the street is orderly and well dressed, and even the bully tips his hat to Charlie as he walks by. Unfortunately, very few people watch Chaplin's films anymore, but even if only a few are watched, this should definitely be one of them.