a countess from hong kong (1967)
chaplin revue (2005)
[ c h a r l i e c h a p l i n : u n i v e r s a l c l o w n ]
"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
c h a r l i e c h a p l i n f a c t s
c h a r l i e c h a p l i n : b i o g .
The Charlie Chaplin promotional film posters from around the world are a work of art in themselves. I have started adding them and the index is here. It is interesting to see how different countries picked up on certain images from the films while the Polish ones look nothing like the others or indeed have little to do with the film they are purporting to promote! Weird. I think you will love some of them and hate others.
Charlie Chaplin is the universal clown. His figure is recognized and his comedy instantly understood by hundreds of millions of people of every race, and his name and fame have endured since before World War I.
It is no small part of Chaplin's magic and mystery that he rose to his unprecedented pinnacle in popularity from origins as humple and unpromising as might be imagined. He was born on April 16, 1889, according to his own account in East Lane, Walworth, London. Some uncertainty, though has always surrounded his place of birth: no birth certificate is provided for him, and at various times publicity people attributed different locations to the event. Early in his film career, indeed, Chaplin fancifully claimed he was born in Fontainebleau , France.
Certainly however, he spent his earliest years in South London, in the Kennington district that was a favourite residential area for Victorian Vaudeville performers. Charles Chaplin senior was a music-hall ballad-singer whose portrait appears on a number of illustrated song sheets of the period. Until alcoholicism - the occupational hazard of the music halls - overtook him, he seems to have been fairly successful, and the family was probably reasonably comfortably off at the time of Chaplin's birth. Within a year or so,however, his parents separated. His father died when young Charles was 12, and Mrs Chaplin, herself a not very successful music hall singer, was left to bring up Chaplin and his older half brother Sydney alone. According to Chaplin's own biography, they suffered periods of extreme poverty. When Mrs Chaplin eventually succumbed to the strains and declined into permanent mental breakdown, the two boys spent long period in orphnages and institutions.
Chaplin's career as an entertainer seemed destined. He claimed that his first appearance before an audience was at the age of five, when he stepped on the stage at Aldershot Canteen theatre to take over from his mother whose voice suddenly failed her. At eight he joined Jacksons Eight Lancashire Lads, one of the juvenile variety troupes then popular. He later obtained favourable press notices as a child in the legitimate theatre, and played the West End and lengthy provincial tours as Billy the page boy in Sherlock Holmes.
Meanwhile, Sydney Chaplin had become a star comedian with the Karno comedy companies. Fred Karno, a former acrobat, had created what he accurately called his 'Fun Factory' in Camberwell Road, London. Here he rehearsed and equipped the several sketch companies that for many years proved the English music-hall's richest school of comedy. Sydney Chaplin persuaded Karno to engage his brother for a sketch called 'The Football Match'. Within a couple of years Charlie had become a leading comedian, and the star of companies that Karno sent on American tours during 1910-11 and 1912-13.
It was on the second of these tours that he was offered a year's contract with Mack Sennett's Keystone film company. Hesitantly, persuaded largely by the $150 a week that doubled his salary with Karno, he joined Sennett in California. Chaplin was at first uneasy in the new medium. He was disturbed by the chaos of the Sennett studios, and the Sennett slapstick comedians found his more refined style of comedy too slow. Little love was lost between Chaplin and his first director Henry Lehrman, and he resented, equally, taking direction from his young lvely and volatile co-star comedienne Mabel Normand.
His first film, Making a Living (1914) in which he was dressed as a dubious dandy, was indifferent, though well received by the trade press of the time. For his second film, a five minute improvisation shot during the event which gave it its title, Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), however, he adopted the costume that was to become world famous. According to legend, it was made up from various items borrowed from other Sennett comedians: Fatty Arbuckle's huge trousers; Charles Avery's tiny Jacket; a derby hat belongng to Arbuckle's father-in-law; Ford Sterling's boots, so oversized that they had to be worn on the wrong feet; and Mack Swain's moustache, sharply pruned. Chaplin later wrote:
Over the next 22 years the character was to be refined and elaborated: the hero of City Lights (1931) or Modern times (1936) is altogether more complex than the little Tramp of the first frantic little Sennett slapstick shorts as he scurries on one leg around corners, clutching his hat to his head while being chased by Keystone Kops or angry, bewhiskered giants. But the general lines of the character - the range of emotions from callousness to high sentiment, and of his actions of nobility to larceny , the supremely human resilience and fallibility of his nature - were fairly soon defined.
A new distribution agreement with First National Distributors enabled Chaplin to fulfil his ambition of building his own studio, where he was to work for the next 24 years. His contract called for eight films to be made in eighteen months; instead,they took five years, and included at least three masterpieces. The first,A Dogs Life (1918) sharpened the henceforth ever-present element of social satire, drawing parallels between the existence of the tramp and his faithful mongrel dog. Chaplin next defied accusations of bad taste in making comedy out of life at the front in World War I; the men who best knew life took Shoulders Arms (1918) to their hearts, and today Chaplin's comic metamorphosis of the war may give a more vivid sense of those days than a more solemn dramatic treatment. Sunnyside (1919) is an uncharacteristic and only modestly successful pastoral comedy. A Day's Pleasure (1919) is a delightful slice of humble life, the misadventures of a little man taking his Ford and family on an outing; one of the children in the film was played by Jackie Coogan, whose uncanny acting ability partly inspired Chaplin's next film, The Kid . Here, a melodrama about an unmarried mother and her abandoned child provides the motive for a rich comedy about the tramp's unwilling adoption of the foundling and the odd comic-pathetic bond that grows between them. After finishing the film, Chaplin decided to make a return to his homeland and to tour Europe. This was, perhaps, the peak of his career: few celebrities until this time had aroused the furore that attended every public appearance, or the adulation he received from the great men of the world.
Only when the First National contract was worked out was Chaplin free to make his first feature film for release by United Artists, the distribution organization he had formed in company with Douglas Fairbanks,Mary Pickford and D.W Griffith four years before. Women Of Paris (1923) was his first , long contemplated attempt at serious drama. It was intended to launch the loyal Edna Purviance as a dramatic actress, and her elegant, restrained performance merited the chance, though her subsequent career was to be shortlived. Adolphe Menjou subtly partnered her and became a star. Chaplin himself appeared only in a walk-on part.
From the thirties onwards, Chaplin greatly slowed his output, taking not less than five years on each film. By the time he had embarked on City Lights , sound pictures had arrived, and Chaplin had witnessed the downfall of other great silent comedians. He decided not to risk the voiceless character he had created or his vast international market by trying dialogue. City Lights is a silent movie with musical accompaniment. It is based on a series of comic variatons built around an ironic melodrama about a blind girl and the sad little tramp whose efforts give back the sight which enables her to see his pathetic reality. In Modern Times, which marked the last appearance of the tramp, he risked a few moments of comic gibberish, though elsewhere retained his old mimetic comic style. With this film Chaplin first attracted the hostile and persistent line of criticism that charged the comedian with exceeding his 'proper' brief and setting himself up as a philosopher. It was a criticism that inevitably attached no less to The Great Dictator (1940) a comic satire on totalitarianism. For all the anger underlying the laughter, Chaplin later said that had he known the truth about Hitler's concentration camps he would not have had the temerity to make the film.
Chaplin's last American film was a nostalgic tribute to his youth in the backstreets and variety theatres of London. Full of autobiographical references, Limelight (1952) tells of the friendship and mutual support of an old, failed, alcoholic comedian and a dancer struck with psychosomatic paralysis. Reversing the process, in Britain he made a film about America: A King in New York (1957) is a bitter and ferocious comedy about the paranoia and persecution of the McCarthy era. It is at its best where Chaplin relies upon pathos, casting his own son Michael as a Fifties parallel to The Kid, the child's mind and conscience brutalized by society as the Jackie Coogan character suffered in his body.
He was named Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1975. At 86 years of age it was rather belated.
Chaplin died in his sleep of old age on 25 December 1977, in Switzerland. He was 88 years old.
But even in death Chaplin had little peace. Such was the price of his celebrity that his remains were dug up and ransomed back to the family.
On 2 March 1978, his coffin (with him in it) was dug up and spirited away. His remains were recovered by Swiss police on 17 May 1978. Two Eastern European political refugees confessed to the crime. They described how they took Chaplin's oak coffin from the village cemetery at Corsier-sur-Vevey and buried it in a shallow hole in the cornfield near Villeneive, about 10 miles away at the eastern tip of Lake Geneva. The Chaplin family began receiving ransom demands by phone several weeks after the coffin was taken. The caller had a Slavic accent.
Although the family had received many false calls asking for exorbitant sums, this time the demand was backed up with a photograph, sent by the alleged coffin just before its reburial in the cornpatch.
Chaplin's widow, Oona, refused to consider ransom. But in order to cooperate with police, the family, through its lawyer, Jean-Felix Paschoud, bargained with the alleged grave robbers over a tapped telephone. By the time the demand had dropped from $600,000 to $250,000, the police had figured out that the ransom calls were coming from a public pay telephone.
Two earlier traps set for the alleged grave robbers did not succeed but a dragnet of 100 policemen keeping an eye on all of Lausanne's more than 200 pay public telephones proved too difficult to elude for a 24-year-old Polish auto mechanic.
Chaplin was re-buried in a vault surrounded by cement.
His widow, Oona daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill, died on 27 September 1991 at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, of pancreatic cancer.
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