Guide to Charlie Chaplin’s Essanay Studios Films

Another studio that shared success with Charlie Chaplin was Essanay Studios. Established in 1907 – in Chicago, the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company gained recognition for the exemplary comedy films of Charlie Chaplin. Warner Bros later on acquired it in 1920.

In 1915, during World War I, Chaplin signed a contract with Essanay Studios. After his contract with Keystone Studios expired, this was the time when he began working with Essanay, releasing a total of fifteen films – all are written, directed, and starred by Chaplin.

February 1, 1915His New Job was released. The first film released by Chaplin in Essanay Studios. The title was coined for Chaplin leaving Keystone Studios – and starting his work in Essanay. Chaplin starred the film, and plays a ‘Film Extra.’

February 15, 1915A Night Out was released. This film was the first film where Edna Purviance appeared with Chaplin. Edna was Chaplin’s leading lady for the following eight years. Also, the movie was filmed in California – which is also the first time for Chaplin, since his first film with Essanay was shot in Chicago.

March 11, 1915The Champion was released. A film starred by Chaplin,  who plays the role of a challenger – in a world championship boxing match. Edna, his leading lady, appeared as the trainer’s daughter – which he fell in love with later on.

March 18, 1915In the Park was released. It was the third film made in Essanay studios in California. Chaplin appeared as himself – the fifteen minutes film is one of Chaplin’s work, filmed in the park.

April 1, 1915A Jitney Elopement was released, starred by Chaplin – and Edna as his leading lady. Chaplin becomes a suitor of Edna – and they’re both in love with each other. However, her father is against their love – since a planned marriage was already set by Edna’s father.

April 11, 1915The Tramp was released. The Tramp was commonly known as the costume used by Chaplin in his earlier films. In this film, Chaplin featured a better version of the Tramp character. It gained Chaplin the recognition of being Tramp – which a lot of people know, until today.

April 25, 1915By the Sea was released. Chaplin appeared as a stroller – showing his little tramp character. This iconic film is the pioneer – in the classic comedy of a man slipping on a banana peel. 

June 21, 1915Work was released. A film where Chaplin plays assistant of Izzy A Wake – a painter and a paper hanger. He worked alongside Edna – who appeared as a maid in the movie.

July 12, 1915A Woman was released. Another film made in Majestic Studios, Los Angeles. Chaplin appeared as a gentleman, then disguising himself as a girl – the third film where Chaplin appeared as a female character. The film was banned in Great Britain, without any definite reason – which was lifted in 1916. 

August 9, 1915The Bank was released, considered as one of the films – where Chaplin expressed his best efforts, during his Essanay period. The film is like a sequel to Chaplin’s earlier film, The New Janitor – where he also appeared as a janitor in a bank. Edna was also a part of the film – She plays the secretary, Chaplin’s leading lady.

October 4, 1915Shanghaied was released. Chaplin plays the Tramp, where he is set on a ship. Based on the title, it is the act of kidnapping people – to serve as sailors. In the film, it is shown that Chaplin subdues three men – shanghaiing them to become new sailors of the ship.

November 20, 1915A Night in the Show was released. It was a unique film where Chaplin played two roles – Mr. Pest and Mr. Rowdy. The film was based on a play, Mumming Birds. 

December 18, 1915A Burlesque on Carmen was released – originally named Carmen until Essanay retitled the film in 1916. This film was believed tampered by Essanay in 1916 – adding and removing scenes, which makes the film least known. A historian – Ted Okuda, considered the original movie as the best film released by Chaplin in the Essanay period – while the latter version was the worst. In the film, Chaplin appeared as Darn Hosiery – an officer in charge, whom Carmen is trying to convince.

May 27, 1916Police was released. Chaplin plays convict 999 – where he was released from prison. Trying to adapt the lifestyle outside the prison, he failed – then broke into a house with another thief. 

August 11, 1918Triple Double was released. The film was considered as an unofficial Chaplin film – although most scenes were directed by Chaplin. In the film, Chaplin appeared as a janitor – working for Colonel Nutt. This film was the most controversial film of Chaplin during his Essanay period. It was filmed in 1916; however, it was released in 1918. The film shows different clips from Chaplin’s earlier film, Police – and from an unfinished film, Life. A description of the film said that it was a compilation of old clips – and adding new clips, made by the director, Leo White. The issue was considered until now as unresolved. Without having any legal rights over his Essanay films – Chaplin couldn’t stop the release of this final film, which was considered the worst.

Chaplin’s contract with Essanay ended at the beginning of 1916 – after more than a year of working with them. Despite the struggles of Chaplin with Essanay, he still advanced with his career – and went to Mutual Film Corporation