Charlie Chaplin's last two reeler recalls earlier comedies such as the Essanay Work, with Chaplin casting himself as a worker rather than a Tramp, but the film shows great advances in film technique. Chaplin is a construction worker, who arrives late for work, bringing a flower as peace offering for his boss, Mack Swain. As a ditch digger, Chaplin leaves something to be desired, but as a brick catcher, he's amazing, due to a very clever reverse action scene.
Lunchtime brings Swain's daughter, Edna Purviance with his lunch and Chaplin seems smitten. He has no lunch, but is lucky enough to partake of some of his co-workers' food due to a very active work elevator, which they all seem to use as a sideboard.
It's pay day and Chaplin argues about his wages, despite being overpaid. His battleaxe wife Phyllis Allen (in their first re-teaming since the Keystone days) shows up at the end of the workday to collect his wages, some of which he's able to retain despite her efforts.
That night, Chaplin and his co-workers go drinking and are quite looped at the end of the evening - bellicose but songful. In a rare night time photography scene, Chaplin tries to catch the last streetcar home but is pushed out one end when huge Henry Bergman pushes his way on at the other. In his drunkenness Chaplin boards a hot dog cart, thinking it's another streetcar, holding onto a suspended salami as a hand strap.
Arriving home at daybreak, Chaplin has just started undressing for bed when the alarm clock rings, waking the wife. Pretending to leave for work, he tries to settle down to sleep in the bathtub, but is caught and sent out to work by his nagging mate.
Payday began life as Come Seven, a story about two rich plumbers. Production was interrupted by Chaplin's trip to Europe after only eight scenes were photographed. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi