Charlie Chaplin & Buster Keaton Go Toe to Toe (Almost) in a Hilarious Boxing Scene Mash Up from Their Classic Silent Films

Coke or Pep­si?

Box­ers or briefs?

Char­lie Chap­lin or Buster Keaton?

A dif­fi­cult choice that usu­al­ly boils down to per­son­al taste…

In the case of the two silent screen greats, they evinced dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, but both were pos­sessed of phys­i­cal grace, a tremen­dous work eth­ic, and the abil­i­ty to make audi­ences root for the lit­tle guy.

Their endur­ing influ­ence on phys­i­cal com­e­dy is evi­dent in the box­ing scene mash up above, which pulls from Keaton’s star turn in 1926’s Bat­tling But­ler and Chaplin’s wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed City Lights from 1931.

Even cut up and spliced back togeth­er in alter­nat­ing shots, it’s a mas­ter class on build­ing antic­i­pa­tion, defy­ing expec­ta­tions, and the humor of rep­e­ti­tion.

Both films’ plots hinge on a mild fel­low going to extra­or­di­nary lengths to prove him­self wor­thy of the girl he loves.

Chap­lin, besot­ted with a blind flower-sell­er, is drawn into the ring by the prospect of prize mon­ey, which he would use to cov­er her unpaid rent.

His oppo­nent is played by Hank Mann, the brains behind the Key­stone Cops peri­od who went on to work with Jer­ry Lewis.

The pas de trois between the ref and the two box­ers rep­re­sents the pin­na­cle of Chaplin’s long affin­i­ty for the sport, fol­low­ing 1914’s Key­stone short, The Knock­out and 1915’s The Cham­pi­on.

Bat­tling But­ler is built on a case of delib­er­ate­ly mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty, after Keaton’s mil­que­toast rich boy impress­es his work­ing class sweetheart’s fam­i­ly by allow­ing them to think he is a famous box­er whose name he inci­den­tal­ly shares.

The fight scenes were filmed in LA’s brand new Olympic Audi­to­ri­um, aka the Punch Palace, which went on to serve as a loca­tion for the more recent box­ing clas­sics Rocky (1976) and Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby (2004).

The edi­tor who thought to score this mashup to Mari­achi Internacional’s cov­er of Zor­ba El Griego is cer­tain­ly a con­tender in their own right, but read­ers, what we real­ly want to know is in this cham­pi­onship round between Chap­lin and Keaton, who would you declare the win­ner?

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Dis­cov­er the Cin­e­mat­ic & Comedic Genius of Char­lie Chap­lin with 60+ Free Movies Online

What Would the World of Char­lie Chap­lin Look Like in Col­or?: Watch a Col­or­ful­ly Restored Ver­sion of A Night at the Show (1915)

A Super­cut of Buster Keaton’s Most Amaz­ing Stunts

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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