Author Topic: Charlie Chaplin  (Read 1051 times)

Charlie Chaplin
« on: April 30, 2021, 10:43:39 PM »
I am a pleb guys.

I have never watched a Chaplin film so am planning to sort that in next few weeks.

What is everyone's opinion regarding his work and their own favs of him?

A concern I have and it is maybe mild,,,some have said the older they get the less amusing they find his work,,,essentially he is someone you should watch young when less jaded etc.

I am leaning towards City Lights to start .

kalowski

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2021, 10:58:06 PM »
Is it City Lights that has the delightful roller skate scene, or is that Modern Times? He was brilliant, but Buster Keaton is the governor.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2021, 07:42:55 AM »
That's Modern Times - in my opinion a better place to start. More comedy and less schmaltz than City Lights. You could also start with a couple of shorts, like The Rink or The Immigrant.

Of the three great silent comedians, I think Chaplin is probably the least funny, but his films have a certain grace and sincerity about them which lifts them above all but the very best of Keaton and Lloyd's work. There's just something so endearingly human about the Little Tramp.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2021, 08:48:15 AM »
I really like Modern Times. Think I’ve watched a few others but that one stood out.

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2021, 05:18:42 PM »
Have never been over enthusiastic about Chaplin, but having recently watched Italian classic Bicycle Thieves, I feel like I appreciate his film making a lot more. De Sicca's film is dripping with Chaplin reverence in the best possible way.

Loved the start of Modern Times but once it moved out of that initial set piece, I just found the Tramp Character so annoying and irritating. Mind you, Paulette Goddard was magnificent.



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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2021, 05:28:41 PM »
Captain Blackadder enters thread and makes amusingly sarcastic quip.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2021, 08:29:38 PM »

A concern I have and it is maybe mild,,,some have said the older they get the less amusing they find his work,,,essentially he is someone you should watch young when less jaded etc.


That's interesting as I've not heard that theory before but it rings a bit true with me. I loved Chaplin films when I was a kid and they were on TV on Sunday mornings in the 80s(along with Laurel and Hardy films too), but as I've got older I've not revisited them much. I don't think I'd ever not like them but I don't know how much is personal nostalgia having enjoyed them as a child and a more general nostalgia for the silent era. If I'd never seen anything like that at all right now I'm not sure I'd be able to totally appreciate it as much.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2021, 09:46:13 PM »
I watched Modern Times for the first time a few years ago smack in the middle of Cameron and Osbourne's austerity drive. The section where the Tramp is determined to stay in prison in order to escape the privations of life outside incarceration remains depressingly relevant.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2021, 11:15:31 PM »
I don't think his films necessarily get "less amusing" but as I got older I began to feel a greater connection with the emotion and pathos that underpins his work, particularly his depictions of loss and suffering.

Quote from: Charlie Chaplin
At the end of our street was a slaughterhouse, and sheep would pass our house on their way to be butchered. I remember one escaped and ran down the street, to the amusement of onlookers. Some tried to grab it and others tripped over themselves. I giggled with delight at its lambent capering and panic, it seemed so comic. But when it was caught and carried back into the slaughterhouse, the reality of the tragedy came over me and I ran indoors, screaming and weeping to Mother, “They’re going to kill it! They’re going to kill it!” That stark, spring afternoon and that comedy chase stayed with me for days; and I wonder if that episode did not establish the premise of my future films – the combination of the tragic and the comic.

I'd recommend watching The Gold Rush which masterfully teeters back and forth between clever situation-based gags and the bleak 'optimism' of desperate gold prospectors. Chaplin himself declared that it was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered.

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2021, 10:42:02 AM »


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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2021, 03:10:36 PM »
A little known fact is that Charlie Chaplin invented the mobile phone:



To make this vaguely less annoying, I really love The Great Dictator and was blown away by it when I saw it for the first time a few years back. But I was less impressed by Modern Times, some of it's superb but some of it's a bit bland, and I'd say the same applies to Monsieur Verdoux which has a fantastic beginning, a rather nothing-y following forty minutes, and then a great last hour, but though a very different character to The Little Tramp Chaplin can't resist humanising him and not making him a complete sociopath.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2021, 04:23:23 PM »
Just remembered when I worked in a call centre about 20 years ago and we had to dress up as a film character or star on one of the interminable 'fun days' that were supposed to be team-building but were actually just embarrassing. I went as Chaplin because I like him and it's an easy look to create (waited until I got to work to do the 'tache though, just in case...) and made a quip to my boss that I shouldn't have to be on the phones because Chaplin was in silent films so he didn't talk*. He absolutely roared with laughter and told everyone in the office my not particularly amusing joke, to the point where some of them actually started to think I really had done it on purpose to try and get out of taking calls all day, which was pretty ridiculous and said a lot about what they thought of me. Great as it was working with people who thought I was the kind of idiot who'd cook up an absurd plan like that to get out of doing work and then unsurprisingly had it backfire, I didn't stay there very long.




*Yes I know he did in The Great Dictator (and others?).

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2021, 04:32:26 PM »
*Yes I know he did in The Great Dictator (and others?).

If you mean, did he do other talking pictures as well as The Great Dictator, then, yes, he did, several of them. Limelight and A King In New York, both from the 1950s, among them. The latter has Sid James in the cast...

He also has the tramp sing a song audibly in Modern Times, and later re-released his 1925 silent film The Gold Rush in the 1940s in a new version where he'd recorded and added a narration track.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2021, 08:45:16 PM »
City Lights and Modern Times are both technically sound films without dialogue, despite the latter coming out 7 years after everybody else had moved on to full talkies. Seems like it took him a while to work up the nerve to speak.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2021, 08:38:02 AM »
City Lights and Modern Times are both technically sound films without dialogue, despite the latter coming out 7 years after everybody else had moved on to full talkies. Seems like it took him a while to work up the nerve to speak.

There's a bit in Chaplin (the 1992 biopic) where he gives a whole speech about how the magic of the little tramp would be lost if you heard him speak, and likens it to a ballet dancer having a silly camp voice, but I've no idea if the actual Chaplin thought that or if it was something the film's writers came up with. It was based on his autobiography, which I did read about 20 years ago, but I can't remember if there's anything about turning to 'talkies' in there as it was ages ago.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2021, 08:51:55 AM »
A little known fact is that Charlie Chaplin invented the mobile phone:




...and colour photography.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2021, 11:27:12 AM »
Charlie 'Chub'-lin more like.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2021, 11:43:45 AM »
I like him. The films have a CaB-friendly lefty bent, especially Modern Times, and there's less chance of stumbling onto a racist scene like you get with some of the other silent comedians. It's clear that he aspired to more than just slapstick bits, and took the comedy genre very seriously. Bit of a nonce in real life though.

There's a bit in Chaplin (the 1992 biopic) where he gives a whole speech about how the magic of the little tramp would be lost if you heard him speak

That sounds true. It's the Mr Bean effect: no dialogue makes it more universal. That's why he sings a nonsense song in Modern Times. It sounds like several European languages, and none of them exactly, so it plays just as well in any country. That's was essentially the death of the Little Tramp. I know he sort of brought him back for The Great Dictator, but it's not quite the same character. He was the quintessential silent character, and it just couldn't continue in talkies.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #18 on: May 04, 2021, 03:12:23 PM »
I really like that Chaplin's first ever Little Tramp short was basically a low-key, plotless mockumentary. A delightfully inauspicious start for one of the greatest icons of cinema.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj53jLEBHOs

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2021, 03:25:51 PM »
I really like that Chaplin's first ever Little Tramp short was basically a low-key, plotless mockumentary. A delightfully inauspicious start for one of the greatest icons of cinema.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj53jLEBHOs

Although it’s believed that this was the second outing for the character;  the first being Mabel's Strange Predicament which was released just after Kid Auto Races at Venice.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2021, 07:54:20 PM »
Why does the Tramp look so shifty in that? He's got the tache and hat etc, but there's something darker about him. I can't put my finger on it.

He looks a wrong 'un instead of the more familiar loveable tramp.

kalowski

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2021, 09:08:03 PM »
Didn't Chaplin borrow the little tramp image from George Formby Senior? They worked together in music hall, I think.

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #22 on: May 04, 2021, 11:06:44 PM »
Didn't Chaplin borrow the little tramp image from George Formby Senior? They worked together in music hall, I think.

Nope and nope. Elements of the Tramp costume can be seen in music hall, though.

There has been some attempt to suggest that Chaplin lifted the character from Billy Ritchie (with another go very recently) - both worked from Fred Karno and Chaplin tool over one or two roles that Ritchie played. However, it's argued (e.g. by David Robinson) that Ritchie was persuaded to make films that whilst not a Chaplin rip-off, was rather reminiscent of the Tramp. Ritchie publicly declared that he was the originator of the costume, giving the year that he started performing - however, Robinson comments that in order for this to be accurate, Ritchie would have been eight years old, so there is some doubt about the veracity of the statement. Ritchie made the statement when there were a huge raft of Chapin imitators, so may have been attempting to distinguish.

Although the characters look kinda similar, they behave and move very differently - Ritchie's was throughly unpleasant.

However, a much more important question is whether an ostrich attack really did cause Ritchie's death.

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2021, 11:09:28 PM »
…A concern I have and it is maybe mild,,,some have said the older they get the less amusing they find his work,,,essentially he is someone you should watch young when less jaded etc.…

I suspect that might be partly because of the Tramp character.

As a child, I really liked the character but as I got older, didn’t care for him and in a scene like this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDYduG0PO7g - I totally lose any sense of humour that I have and want to shout ‘He is literally stealing food from a baby, why is everyone laughing?’

Listening to others, my impression is that it’s a persona that a fair few struggle with, whereas the characters played by other stars are more to their liking.

That said, I find a lot of Chaplin’s work more than amusing and as an adult can appreciate it on a technical level, not possible when young. I think it was at this year’s Slapstick festival that I saw The Floorwalker and there were so many lovely bits of business, particularly with the escalators. That and all the other films at Mutual are of a high standard and am particularly fond of Easy Street - so frenetic and love the ‘Popeye’ moment when the tables are turned.

Going back to why some may have difficulty with Chaplin as an adult, also suspect that modern audiences can find the sentimental elements on the mawkish side. David Robinson in his Chaplin biography (which is really worth picking up) comments about Chaplin editing out some scenes for a 1970s reissue of The Kid, as he felt they were too sentimental for the times - and argues (and would say he’s spot on) that this was a big mistake.


City Lights and Modern Times are both technically sound films without dialogue, despite the latter coming out 7 years after everybody else had moved on to full talkies. Seems like it took him a while to work up the nerve to speak.

To be fair, Chaplin did seriously consider making Modern Times a talkie and a lot of time and effort was spent on making it so, such as considerable dialogue being written. A few scenes with speech were recorded, but Chaplin was so unhappy with the results that he changed his mind about it being a talkie. Also significant silent films were made throughout the 1930s, particularly outside of America.

Chaplin started work on City Light , three years (I think) before it came out and feel an argument could be made that it was quite impressive that he incorporated sound into it. One of the challenges of making talkies was how crude the recording was, which is evident in so many films - The Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts is a good example , where  audio quality is uneven and, here and there, muffled.  Those challenges created new technical limitations, so can see why someone like Chaplin, who had been honing his craft for so long, didn’t want to be constrained by a new ‘gimmick’.

Going from memory when I read Burgess Meredith’s autobiography, he mentions about how basic the recording of dialogue was when he started in Hollywood (mid-1930s)  and the learning needed for competent acting.  I’ve seen a lot of films from the last half of the decade, especially from smaller studios where the audio quality is poor. Although sound was unstoppable , its infancy is arguably longer than many would suppose.

I like him. The films have a CaB-friendly lefty bent, especially Modern Times, and there's less chance of stumbling onto a racist scene like you get with some of the other silent comedians...

How much less of a chance? 147%? 2.5%? 32.8%?

And which comedians did you have in mind? Max Linder? Charley Chase? Clara Bow? Mabel Normand? Larry Semon? Lupino Lane?

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2021, 06:04:34 AM »
I think Modern Times is my favourite, though I also love City Lights and The Great Dictator.

However if you are just after a sneak peek then perhaps try one of his short(er) films, such as Easy Street, A Dog's Life, The Immigrant or The Champion.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2021, 08:46:19 AM »

An tSaoi

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #26 on: May 05, 2021, 10:58:09 AM »
How much less of a chance? 147%? 2.5%? 32.8%?
And which comedians did you have in mind? Max Linder? Charley Chase? Clara Bow? Mabel Normand? Larry Semon? Lupino Lane?

I don't understand the snark.

I'll be watching a silent comedy, and thinking "Hey this is still funny", and then I'll get to a scene that just wouldn't fly anymore. I remember seeing a few dodgy bits in Harold Lloyd films. I think Keaton had a bit of blackface on occasion. I remember him getting soot on his face and the police chase him, but they nab a passing black man instead. Not the worst, mind. I haven't had that feeling with the Chaplin films I've seen.

This being CaB, you're going to link to a scene of Chaplin doing a minstrel act or something like that and that'll be me telt.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 11:10:31 AM by An tSaoi »

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #27 on: May 05, 2021, 11:21:16 AM »
I don't understand the snark.

I'll be watching a silent comedy, and thinking "Hey this is still funny", and then I'll get to a scene that just wouldn't fly anymore. I remember seeing a few dodgy bits in Harold Lloyd films. I think Keaton had a bit of blackface on occasion. I remember him getting soot on his face and the police chase him, but they nab a passing black man instead. Not the worst, mind. I haven't had that feeling with the Chaplin films I've seen.

This being CaB, you're going to link to a scene of Chaplin doing a minstrel act or something like that and that'll be me telt.

Absolutely adore Keaton, but there would be the odd quick 'gag' now and then that would get a laugh out of the racial prejudice in society at the time.
Think some of the worst in Harold Lloyd films that I recall were more negatively stereotyping Asian-Americans more than African-Americans, though I could be missing something. Not as big a fan of Chaplin but nothing stands out to me.

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Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #28 on: May 05, 2021, 12:00:45 PM »
Harold Lloyd was definitely a proper racist in real life. I know everyone was back then, but he lived in a Whites Only gated community.

Granted, any rich film star would end up living in an all-white neighbourhood anyway, but Lloyd was very staunch on the matter. I don't think they even let Jews in.

Re: Charlie Chaplin
« Reply #29 on: May 05, 2021, 12:20:21 PM »
i vote city lights, that's my favourite. i didn't find modern times that funny? i also enjoyed the circus a lot but my absolute faves are all his mutual/essanay shorts which are probably on youtube

the one that really sticks in my mind is a short called 1am where he comes home drunk and tries to go to bed

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