April 1, 1915 [A Jitney Elopement]

Hundreds of motorcars—everyone is calling them “Jitneys,” after their five-cent fare—are barreling along and across the streets of Atlantic City, carrying (and startling) anything that, well, moves. The trolley lines are already complaining, but the packed and endangered Jitney passengers don’t seem to mind—if they do, their cries of squeezed discomfort and ballistic panic are drowned by the clatter and screech of their conveyance. If it weren’t all exactly true, it would be a Keystone Komedy—or an Essanay, Chaplin’s current home.

But of course it is all true, in the Chicago high jinks of A Jitney Elopement. Chaplin rescues from “Count Chloride de Lime” his all-but-paid-for fiancée (after feigning defeat—a typical Chaplin moment, as he daintily raises his derriere in the air to be kicked), and with the somehow relieved girl (Edna Purviance, solid, even unbreakable—a literal object of love, as must be any Chaplin romantic interest, impervious to the pains of various yanks and spills) off they go in their auto, darting along thankfully empty streets—until joined by the inevitable police force, their own rattletrap an extension of their flailing bodies, shouldering and shoving off the street and into the drink. And once more bricks pile up atop enemies’ heads, and Chaplin gets his requisite kiss—demurely hidden from the audience, our presence realized at the last moment—the grinning reward for his serpentine ability to conquer.

As I flew along in my Atlantic City Jitney, an April Fool returning from the cinema, I could not discern my own hat-clutching trial from Chaplin’s. The world and the motion picture again change places—although I'll admit my little excursion contained more actual centrifugal force than Charlie’s.


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