Podcast

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The First 15 Minutes Project #6: The Little Tramp

The Little Tramp in Modern Times:

  1. Titles over a shot of a clock: “Modern Times: A story of industry, of individual enterprise—humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.
  2. We see calves in a pen, then cross-dissolve into workers coming out of the subway.
  3. They march into work, clock in, then disappear into the machinery of the factory.
  4. A big guy pulls absurdly big levers to start the assembly line.
  5. Cut to President of Electro Steel company. He works on a jigsaw puzzle, then, bored, lazily checks out his employees on video screens. On a whim, he barks, “Section five, Speed her up!”
  6. Cut to our hero, the little tramp, tightening bolts as they pass down the line. He has to scratch himself and loses his place, which annoys the big guy who has to hammer the bolts after he tightens them. The tramp gets yelled at by floor manager.
  7. Then the tramp has a fly buzzing around him, so he tries to swat it and loses his place again. The floor manager comes to yell at him. The tramp argues back, which makes him lose his place again.
  8. The tramp’s wrench gets caught on a bolt and he can’t get it off in time. The line has to be stopped. The big guy gets yelled at instead of the tramp. They fight, but the line starts up again and they’re both instantly behind so they run to catch up.
  9. The boss randomly calls for even more speed.
  10. The tramp needs to use the restroom, so he hands off his job to the floor manager, but he can’t stop his repetitive motion even when he’s off the line.
  11. The tramp goes into the bathroom, but has to clock out first. He briefly lounges on the sink having a cigarette, but the wall behind him turns out to be TV screen. The boss appears and yells for him to go back to work.
  12. In the boss’s office, a salesman comes in and demonstrates a machine to eliminate the lunch hour: it shoves food into workers mouths automatically while they work.
  13. The line slows to a stop, but again the tramp can’t stop. The secretary bends over and he tightens her dress buttons. He almost sits in the big guy’s soup, but stops himself. But when he tries to hand the soup to him while his hands are still jerking, it spills it all over both of them.
  14. The boss comes along to try the automatic feeding machine on the tramp. It wildly malfunctions and almost kills him by feeding him nuts and bolts. The demonstrators care about the damage to the machine, not him. They try again. It throws a pie in his face.
  15. Later, the line speeds up again. Desperate to keep up, the tramp dives down the assembly line trying to get the bolts he missed, but he gets sucked into the machine and ground up in the gears. They run the gears in reverse to get him out.
  16. When he comes out he’s gone totally crazy, tightening everybody’s noses.
  17. Seeing the secretary’s dress buttons again, he chases her outside where he loosens a fire hydrant, then chases society woman who also has buttons on her outfit.
  18. The society woman gets a cop. The cop chases the tramp back inside...
  19. ...where he steals an oil can and attacks everybody, throwing random levers and wrecking the machinery...

This is our first hero who impresses us not by working harder or suffering in silence (though he is certainly silent), but by being more sensitive and human than the others around him. That doesn’t sound like a hard sell, but it’s very rare: Americans don’t like to see weakness. It’s not a problem at all here, since the Little Tramp is naturally sympathetic, but could this sympathy be replicated without the years of effortless charm that Chaplin had built up? We’ll look for other heroes like this…

1 comment:

Nitro1976 said...

Brilliant site, brilliant articles and analysis. I especially like this series.

I'm currently doing the first 15 mins of "Gladiator" myself. Will post it to you when I'm finished.