Charlie at the Show
Was Charlie Chaplin at Sydney’s 1916 Royal Easter Show? Yes, but not the real Charlie Chaplin. Just one of thousands of impersonators, as Chaplin’s worldwide fame grew.
Ern Vockler was a recognised and talented Charlie Chaplin impersonator on the comedy stages of Australian theatrical circuits. He provided a welcome distraction on cinema screens from the patriotic fervour of the newsreels and recruiting films.
Ern Vockler’s earliest appearance as the ‘Charles Chaplin of Vaudeville’ was at Goulburn, NSW, during August 1915.
Charlie at the Show shows the Little Tramp chasing a pickpocket through the crowds of Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. Vockler displays Chaplin’s well-loved expressions and gestures as he responds to a series of odd situations. In one comic encounter, he overcomes his characteristic bashfulness towards women as he tries to rub off the Tattooed Lady’s tattoos.
The film captures the crowds’ delight at Charlie’s antics, as well as their fascination with the process of making moving pictures. The film’s première in Sydney was cleverly advertised to exploit their desire to see themselves on screen. “Were you with Charlie at the Show?” asked Waddington’s advertisement. “Come to the Glaciarium and see. Over 3,000 visitors were snapped in various parts of this latest and mirth-provoking comedy.”
Along with Charlie at the Show, producer John Gavin had three other films in distribution at the same time, including the war-related The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell.