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CHAPLIN REVUE, THE(director/writer: Charlie Chaplin; editors: Paul Davies/Derek Parsons; music: Charlie Chaplin; cast: Charlie Chaplin (Convict/Reverend Pim), Edna Purviance (Miss Brown), Sydney Chaplin (a house guest), Henry Bergman (Sheriff), Chuck Reisner (Crook), Mack Swain (Deacon); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charlie Chaplin; Warner Home Video; 1959-UK-silent)
“This most gentle spoof on religion upset some Americans upon its 1923 release.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Chaplin Revue contains three short silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin (“Limelight”/”The Gold Rush”/”The Great Dictator”): A Dog’s Life (1918), Shoulder Arms (1918) and The Pilgrim (1923). I previously reviewed the first two, and so will only review the latter one here. Chaplin selected these shorts himself and offers a brief commentary on them.

The Pilgrim (1923), a four-reeler about 44 minutes long, was the last silent short Chaplin made for First National. Charlie is an escaped convict who swipes a Protestant reverend’s outfit and wears it when he catches the train to Texas to ensure his escape. The pious local deacon (Mack Swain) in the rural Texas town mistakes the convict for the Reverend Pim, someone he never met who was hired to become the new minister and to perform a wedding service for Miss Brown (Edna Purviance). The false Reverend delivers an hilarious impromptu service whereby he pantomimes the David and Goliath story. The Reverend is then invited to stay in the home of the Browns, but finds his former cellmate (Charles Reisner, Chaplin’s assistant director) poses as a real estate agent to steal the Brown’s mortgage money they are giving their daughter for a wedding gift. The convict risks capture by the suspicious sheriff (Henry Bergman) to retrieve the bride’s money.

This most gentle spoof on religion upset some Americans upon its 1923 release, as they weren’t in the mood for a satire of the church. But since it was harmless fun, Chaplin got away with it and only met resistance from groups such as the Evangelical Ministers’ Association of Atlanta who wanted it banned, The Pennsylvania Board of Censors that cut the so-called offensive scenes and in South Carolina where the Ku Klux Klan claimed it was against Protestantism.

It also includes a catchy song, “Bound for Texas,” sung by Matt Monro.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”