The Pilgrim (1923)

Chaplin The PilgrimAfter escaping from prison, the Pilgrim (Charlie Chaplin) steals a minister’s outfit to replace his prison uniform and goes to the train station. Picking a destination at random, he heads out toward Devil’s Gulch, Texas. It just so happens that a church in Devil’s Gulch is awaiting the arrival of a new minister, so when the Pilgrim gets off the train, he is greeted by a sheriff waiting to escort him to his new parish, forcing him to keep up the minister rouse.

Parishioner Mrs. Brown has invited the church’s new minister to come live with her and her daughter (Edna Purviance). The Pilgrim and the daughter are attracted to each other, but some of the visitors to the Brown household are not quite as pleasant, including a couple with an obnoxious child and the Pilgrim’s former cell mate. Knowing his former cell mate plans to steal Mrs. Brown’s mortgage payment, he does everything he can to stop him. When his cellmate gets away with the money anyway, the Pilgrim goes after him and gets the money back. But while he was away, the sheriff shows up at the Brown residence and tells them who their new boarder really is.

Even though I’m a huge Chaplin fan, I admit that I have a tendency to stick to his major features and tend to overlook the shorter ones he did before becoming an independent artist. The Pilgrim reminded me of how wrong I am for doing that. The Pilgrim has a lot of really great comedy bits, particularly the scenes involving the disastrous afternoon visit with the poorly behaved child and the hat cake. The Pilgrim is also the last film Chaplin starred in with one of his greatest leading ladies, Edna Purviance, who I’ve always been quite fond of. If anything, The Pilgrim made me want to revisit more of Chaplin’s shorter films because they often have much of the brilliance and fun of the features but in a shorter time frame.

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