The Property Man (1914)

Still: The Property Man

The National Archive restoration of The Property Man is taken from six sources, all positives. Four of these are tinted prints held by the National Archive and one is a French print from Centre National de la Cinematographie. The French print is nominally of The Knockout but includes shots from The Property Man and The Masquerader. It contained longer scenes of Chaplin's fight with the old stagehand behind the curtain.

The greater part of the new negative for this two-reeler, derives from an excellent print held by the Nederlands Filmmuseum. The print, probably from the early twenties, contains titles in Dutch. However, the wording, position, and number of titles seem to correspond to the WHP reissue, The Roustabout (one of the copies held by the National Archive).

What is interesting about three of the copies used in the restoration (and the fourth that we didn't use) is that they clearly derive from the same duplicate negative. This is indicated by the same physical marks and negative splices being copied into the prints. Generally, therefore, these copies follow the same continuity but differ in terms of image quality and damage. Each print was made from the negative at a different time and this results in differences of shot length where the negative had been progressively damaged.

In at least one case, these copies all repeat the same 'mistake'. During the strongman's act, there is a cut, back to the audience, who are aghast as he prepares to bend an iron rod behind his head. The copies from this common negative were missing this shot of the audience and so part of a subsequent shot of Chaplin and the actors arguing in the wings has been substituted.

The text of the intertitles has been taken from the WHP reissue, The Roustabout. We know from the paper print of Dough and Dynamite at the Library of Congress that Keystone inserted into their two-reelers a notice that read, in their distinctive font:

"Part two of this feature will begin in one minute"

This would have been used in situations where there was only one projector and no changeover. Since projection of the new print will be shown as a double reel, this title has been recreated for the negative but is not usually included in the new prints.

The improvement in The Property Man is significant, not only in the quality of the image (which will always be uneven because of the number of sources) but also in the continuity. The inclusion of audience reaction shots in three-way interaction between the on stage action, the audience and the back stage in the final scenes, work well to reconstruct the comedy's climax.

Print sources

  • 4 x tinted positives (bfi National Archive)
  • 1 B/W and tinted positive (CNC)
  • 1 B/W positive (Netherlands Film Archive)

Original Running time 1858ft /566m Running time of restored print 1508ft - this is the footage of the new print, including our reconstructed titles.