I sit about ten feet from the screen when I play for Chaplin’s “The Immigrant” at the Museum of the Moving Image at their education programs. Watching this film in a sharp 35mm print several times every year, I’d started thinking about the shot of the rocking boat in the film’s opening. Not the one with Henry Bergman in drag sliding back and forth below deck, the shot taken on deck.
“Unknown Chaplin” and David Robinson’s book both state that this was shot with the camera on a pivot, so it could swing back and forth and create the illusion that the boat is rocking wildly.
So, then if the boat isn’t really rocking, how is it that Charlie slides back and forth. Sitting where I do I can tell you he’s not on a wire. I’ve looked. A few weeks ago I took the clip and slowed it down and then, using the rotation and positioning features in Final Cut, straightened the shot out.
Take a look at what I discovered.
Happy birthday, Charlie.
silent film historian & accompanist