The Fireman (1916 film)

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The Fireman
'The Fireman'.jpg
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Edward Brewer (technical director)
Produced by Henry P. Caulfield
Written by Charles Chaplin (scenario)
Vincent Bryan (scenario)
Maverick Terrell (scenario)
Starring Charles Chaplin
Edna Purviance
Lloyd Bacon
Eric Campbell
Cinematography William C. Foster
Roland Totheroh
Edited by Charles Chaplin
Distributed by Mutual Film Corporation
Release date
  • June 12, 1916 (1916-06-12)
Running time
32 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
The Fireman

The Fireman is the second film Charlie Chaplin distributed by the Mutual Film Corporation in 1916. Released on June 12, it starred Chaplin as the fireman and Edna Purviance as the daughter to Lloyd Bacon.


A beautiful girl's father (Bacon) arranges with the local fire chief (Campbell) to have his house burn down so he can collect the insurance money. In exchange for the chief's complicity in the arson, the father will permit the fire chief to marry his daughter.

However, a real fire breaks out elsewhere in the town. The firemen ignore an inhabitant of the burning building as he tries to alert them to the fire, first by activating the fire alarm, then by phoning the fire station, and then by going to the fire station in person. Eventually, a fireman (Chaplin), alerts the fire chief and the company extinguishes the fire.

Meanwhile, the father deliberately sets a fire in the basement of his own house without realizing his daughter is still inside the house on the upper floor. Upon knowing his daughter is in mortal danger from the fire, he rushes to find the fire chief to cancel the arrangement not to extinguish his house fire. The fireman (Chaplin), who is also in love with the daughter, abandons the first house fire to rush to the second one. He heroically scales the outside of the building to save her.


A critic for the New York Dramatic Mirror wrote, "The Fireman is the second of the Chaplin Mutual comedies, presenting that well-known hero in a whirl of fun and laughter that compares favorably with the best work he has yet done on the screen."

A reviewer from the Chicago Tribune was more critical in his appraisal of The Fireman. He wrote, "There is more of soup-spilling and Keystone kicking than is necessary for successful slapsticking, but there is also a certain novelty of situation and a jolly humor in its expression that moves to much mirth. Charles Chaplin is a true comedian who doesn't need to resort to the conflict of the physical to make fun. He has a sufficiently mobile expression to do that."

Production background[edit]

The film shows some early morning street scenes in the surrounding Los Angeles area.

The film makes use of reversing the film several times for comic effect: sliding up the fireman's pole, reversing the horses, hurrying back to station (in reverse) when he forgets the crew etc. The huge water tank in the station also comically has a second function as the coffee machine. A lot of the kicking in the film is clearly unfaked and fairly violent.

scene from film with Edna Purviance


Sound version[edit]

In 1932, Amedee Van Beuren of Van Beuren Studios, purchased Chaplin's Mutual comedies for $10,000 each, added music by Gene Rodemich and Winston Sharples and sound effects, and re-released them through RKO Radio Pictures. Chaplin had no legal recourse to stop the RKO release.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-12. Retrieved 2014-01-12. 

External links[edit]