The four shorts on The Chaplin Essanay Comedies Vol. 2 show the early evolution of Chaplin's style and his development of the Tramp persona. "A Jitney Elopement" is straight slapstick, an often inspired but otherwise familiar tale of mistaken identity and romantic entanglements ending in a Keystone-like car chase. "The Tramp," however, features Chaplin's most fully formed story to date and injects an element of pathos that will become central to his later films. The Tramp saves a girl from three ruffians and is rewarded with a job from her father (he proceeds to wreak havoc on their family farm), but stays only because he's fallen in love. By contrast "By the Sea" feels thrown together, and it likely was as Chaplin and company shot the loosely connected series of beachside gags in one day. "Work" finds Chaplin back in form: a force of pure chaos as a paperhanger's assistant who turns a cozy home into a glue-spattered disaster area. You can see Chaplin's story sense improve with "The Tramp" and "Work" while his persona becomes less aggressive and more hapless, oblivious to the destruction he's causing all around. As in the first volume, some of the elements are rough and choppy, the result of age and poor storage over the years. Producer David Shepard's restoration work has saved what might have been unsalvageable sequences, offering the best look at some of Chaplin's least seen work. --Sean Axmaker
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