Chaplin’s burlesque of Cecil B. DeMille’s popular film version of Carmen (1915), starring the great opera diva Geraldine Farrar, was originally intended and completed as a two-reel comedy in January 1916. In Chaplin’s version, Don José becomes Darn Hosiery (Chaplin), with Edna Purviance as the seductress Carmen.
However, after Chaplin left Essanay, the company inserted discarded material and created new scenes, extending the film to four reels when it was given a general release in April 1916. The altered version of the film sent Chaplin to bed ill for two days for he invested much into the film and the original contained a maturing filmmaking style with respect to camera placement and an unusual (for Chaplin) use of the tracking shot. He later put forward an unprecedented claim of the moral rights of artists, suing Essanay on the grounds that the expanded version would damage his reputation with the public. Although Chaplin lost the court battle, he later wrote that Essanay's dishonest act "rendered a service, for thereafter I had it stipulated in every contract that there should be no mutilating, extending or interfering with my finished work."
The present version reconstructs as nearly as possible from the surviving footage, the original two-reel version as detailed by Chaplin in his lawsuit against Essanay.