The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) stars in the half-hour comedy The Champion (1915), one of Chaplin's finer early efforts. Charlie & his dog Spike are sharing a meal in the street, but Spike won't eat his portion until Charlie spices it for him just right.
Wandering the streets together, Charlie sees a sign outside a boxing club: "Sparing Partners Wanted Who Can Take A Punch." He goes inside & sits beside a punch-drunk crazy boxer who twitches, jerks, & punches at random, hitting Charlie several times unintentionally.
To test for the job, a boxer slugs Charlie in the face a few times until he's staggering about hoping he'll get the job. There are several men looking for the work. One by one the other men, though looking tougher on the surface, prove they can't take a punch. Charlie's the only one who didn't drop like a sack of sand.
So he gets a second test & is so happy that he dances around with joy & swings his arms delightedly & accidentally knocks the boxer down. The club's best boxer is thereafter scared anytime Charlie approaches & runs out of the club never to return.
Chaos reigns as the trainer tries to figure out what kind of natural born boxer scrawny Charlie might be. What he doesn't know is that while out walking with his bulldog, he'd found a lucky horseshoe, & is keeping it in his boxing glove.
He's immediately signed up for a match for a match with prize money. He spends the day training & drinking beer with ample opportunity for physical humor, & show-off stunts for the trainer's daughter (Edna Purviance).
A fight-fixing gambler (Leo White) playing the "curses foiled again" type of villain tangles with Charlie in the gym, but Charlie won't accept a bribe & gets the better of the crook time & again.
Before going in the ring that night he shakes hands with his dog & sets off hoping to win the prize money against a hulking opponent (Bud Jamison), the mustachioed villain sitting front row ringside. There's plenty of fancy comic footwork that would've amused a young Mohammed Ali, but the poor tramp can't quite keep out of the way & takes quite a thrashing.
Still & all, he can take a punch all righty, & keeps popping right back up for more. The comedy mix-ups include knocking the referee (Carl Stockdale) unconscious, embracing one another in a fox trot, & Charlie's bulldog finally getting enough of seeing his master abused & jumping in the ring to attach himself to the big boxer's boxer shorts.
The tramp's character was not fully established by 1915 & in some of the early shorts, he's kind of a bully & a stinker. But The Champion has him pretty much the tramp as he's best remembered, a victim of society but one who refuses to stay down. Apart from cheating with the horseshoe he's pretty much a good guy at heart.
There are also some nice cameos of early greats tucked in the corners of the film. Cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin will be spotted in the stands as a peanut seller. G. M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson is the over-excited fight fan. A sad note is that that bold & funny bulldog Spike was run over shortly after this film, or he would surely have been with the Tramp in more films.
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