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Directors: John Coleman Terry & Hugh Shields
Release Date: June 1916
Stars: Charlie Chaplin
Rating:

Charlie's White Elephant © Pat SullivanBy 1916 Charlie Chaplin had only been working in the movies for two years, but he was already famous enough to have songs written about him and to have animated cartoons featuring his tramp character.

‘Charlie’s White Elephant’ is a prime example of Pat Sullivan’s those Charlie Chaplin cartoons, which numbered ca. twelve in total. The short features Charlie and ‘Fatty’ both courting a girl who orders them to find a white elephant first. Charlie finds a normal elephant and paints it white, but neither he nor Fatty gets the girl.

‘Charlie’s White Elephant’ is credited to Paul Terry’s older brother John Coleman Terry. According to Donald Crafton (in his excellent book ‘Before Mickey’) ‘Charlie’s White Elephant’ was animated by Otto Messmer, the later animator of Felix the Cat, but in the comments below this post David Gerstein assures us he had nothing to do with this particular short, although he did animate some Charlie Chaplin cartoons later on. Thank you, David, for the clarification!

In any case the animator captures Chaplin’s body language very well. But most of the cartoon is filled with remarkably stiff animation, based on only a handful of drawings and many cycles. Moreover, there’s some odd staging with a lot of action taking place in the distance. The end result is more interesting for its historical value than as an entertainment piece.

Watch ‘Charlie’s White Elephant’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Charlie’s White Elephant’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Chaplin at Keystone’ and ‘Chaplin – The Essanay and Mutual Comedies’

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