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His Prehistoric Past

Big prehistoric past
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The finding of the so-called “Piltdown Man” in 1912 (the supposed remains of a hitherto unknown early human later revealed to be a paleontological hoax) and other prehistoric discoveries of the period created an enormous interest in human ancestry with the general public. Man’s Genesis (1912), a one-reel drama directed by D.W. Griffith for Biograph, is an example of this and soon it became fodder for comic films. Chaplin structured His Prehistoric Past, his last two-reel comedy for Keystone, with the dream-fantasy device of the Karno sketch Jimmy the Fearless. The Tramp falls asleep on a park bench and dreams he is a caveman. Chaplin recalled in his autobiography: In His Prehistoric Past, I started with one gag, which was my first entrance. I appeared dressed as a prehistoric man wearing a bearskin, and, as I scanned the landscape, I began pulling the hair from the bearskin to fill my pipe. This was enough of an idea to stimulate a prehistoric story, introducing love, rivalry, combat and chase. This was the method by which we all worked at Keystone. The Tramp’s exploits are brought to an abrupt end by a policeman (played by Sydney Chaplin, Chaplin’s elder half brother) who forcibly orders him off the park bench and sends him on his way. Chaplin revisited dream sequences—with rude awakenings—in The Bank (1915), Shoulder Arms (1918), Sunnyside (1919), The Kid (1921), The Idle Class (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), Modern Times (1936), and Limelight (1952). Finished and shipped: October 31, 1914 Released: December 7, 1914 Scenario: Charles Chaplin Producer: Mack Sennett Director: Charles Chaplin Length: Two reels
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