Charlie Chaplin stars as Prisoner 999 just released from doing his time, in the half-hour comedy Police (1916). Looking forlorn outside the prison gate, Charlie is waylaid by a smarmy preacher (Billy Armstrong) taking advantage of his misery.
Soonafter encountering a drunkard (James T. Kelley), Charlie has to fight the urge to steal the man's pocket watch, but his inclination really is to become an honest man if it's possible.
At a fruit stand he samples wares, putting bitten apples back until the vendor kicks him. He's about to pay for the fruit when he realizes the few dollars he had from prison labor are gone. Retracing his steps, he also discovers that the drunk has been rolled for his watch.
The smarmy preacher is the actual thief, but spotting a police officer, Charlie sneaks away knowing who'll be blamed. When the next preacher (Fred Goodwins) accosts Charlie in the street, he may or may not be an honest man of god, but Charlie's had enough & slugs the guy in the chops, & ends up again fleeing from a cop.
At a flophouse with smelly dirty tramps, Charlie hasn't a dime for a bed, so is booted down the stairs & back into the street. He soon finds himself mugged at gunpoint but the mugger turns out to be his old cell mate (Wesley Ruggles), who wants to let him in on a criminal plot. They set out to break into a house, not realizing a polceman is on their trail.
When caught, Charlie bonks the cop on the head with a hammer, then he & his fellow criminal begin looking for stuff worth taking from the house, with lame pratfalls like Charlie getting his foot stepped on & knocking over a table & falling ass-first into a clothes basket.
The young lady of the house (Edna Purviance) hears their rucus & comes downstairs in her nightgown, then calls the police just before she's detected. Without telling them the police are on the way, she prepares the thieves a meal, during which Charlie's cellmate seems to get increasingly dangerous, but Charlie is slowly being won over by her kindness.
Nevertheless, he loads up on some stuff & joins his friend in preparing to leave. He shakes the young lady's hand as they're about to go. But Charlie's cellmate wants to investigate the upstairs, where an ailing mother could become frightened to death.
Charlie has to protect the woman from his friend's physical abuse, then gets in a fight to keep him from bothering the old lady upstairs.
The police meanwhile are taking their bloody time, except the one whom Charlie previously bonked on the head. He comes too, checks out what's happening in the house, sees a fight with one of the thieves armed with a gun, then goes back out on the stps & lays down pretending to still be unconscious.
The cops arrive & Charlie's pal starts opening fire with his pistol. Charlie paces around distraught & is nearly arrested, except that the young woman says, "He's my husband." So he gets cocky, lighting a cigarette & showing the cops to the door.
In the wake of this misadventure, Charlie promises to tow the straight & narrow & sets off again into the world, now the goodhearted Little Tramp we all know & love.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl