Charlie’s Brother Syd

Gussle’s Wayward Path
R: Charles Avery,  Syd Chaplin. D: Syd Chaplin, Phyllis Allen, Wesley Ruggles, Billie Brockwell. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1915

“Syd enjoyed some discernible success with his Gussle character at Mack Sennett’s Keystone studios, where he secured a comfortable niche among the bulging eyes, blatant gestures, and wild pratfalls that were the slapstick norm for the production company.  While his brother constantly fought for greater creative control throughout his 36-film tenure at Keystone in 1914, Syd was initially more interested in exploring the intricacies of comedy. (…) While the Gussle character has the same comically unrefined approach as many of the Keystone stalwarts, by the time of A Submarine Pirate, Syd had modified his approach to settle more comfortably within the changing mode of comedy that had been initiated by brother Charlie.  By this time, Charlie was making his transitional comedies at the Essanay studios, reinventing slapstick as one that stems from a central character that has some depth and substance.”
James L. Neibaur
Senses of Cinema

A Submarine Pirate
R: Charles Avery, Syd Chaplin. B: Mack Sennett. D: Syd Chaplin, Phyllis Allen, Glen Cavender. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1915

“This short comedy stars Charlie Chaplin’s brother, Sydney Chaplin, whom Charlie had managed to get a job at Keystone before he left for Essanay. Syd only worked for Mack Sennett for a short while before going on to become Charlie’s manager, so this movie is one of the few insights we have into his talents. Like Charlie, he had learned his stuff doing broad comedy on the British vaudeville circuit, and he seems comfortable with slapstick. (…) The cook in the kitchen is a young Harold Lloyd, but he doesn’t really show off his future talents in this piece. Syd realizes that the guests have something cooking with a submarine, and figures out how to eavesdrop on their discussion and steal the papers the ‘inventor’ was giving the other man to make him commander of the submarine. (…)
At the time of release, submarine warfare was no joking matter in the US, as Germany had moved to ‘unrestricted warfare’ in the Atlantic and sank the RMS ‘Lusitania’ in May, 1915 (the movie came out in November), killing more than 100 American passengers. Syd’s character, therefore, is hardly sympathetic, and there may have been some satisfaction in seeing him get his comeuppance at the hands of a navy vessel. To be sure, all the violence in this movie is cartoonish slapstick, and no one is shown in danger of actually drowning or being blown up, but there may be an element of propaganda to it nonetheless.”
Century Film Project

“What gave Sydney Chaplin a real break was his contract with Fred Karno’s Speechless Comedians in July 1906, one of the most famous and successful entertainment troupes in England. Sydney was so successful with Karno that he became the leading comedian. Two years later, he recommended Charlie Chaplin and helped him land a job with Karno, which eventually led Charlie to the United States. Later, when Charlie Chaplin was to leave Keystone in 1915, he suggested Sydney as his replacement. Sydney Chaplin made a dozen comedies there and found success with a character he called ‘Gussle’. With Charlie Chaplin’s rise to stardom, Sydney was soon handling the majority of Charlie’s business affairs, negotiating most of his big contracts and appearing in a few films during the First National era, including A Dog’s Life, Pay Day, The Pilgrim and the famous Shoulder Arms. In his later films, Sydney Chaplin enjoyed wide popularity for his comedy performances in Charley’s Aunt (1925) and The Better ‘Ole (1927).”
Charlie Chaplin