Why I love Charlie Chaplin, and has it only been two months?

March 20, 2009

Yup, that's right-- today is my two month blogging anniversary! It's such a habit now, I can't even imagine what I was doing before I started it! Every day I have ideas swirling through my mind-- who will I paint tonight? Once I settle on someone, I start figuring out my post. Why do I like this actor? Which of their movies is my favorite? Can I even narrow it down to one? All of this has become part of my daily routine, and I really have no clue how I spent my days two months ago. It must have been awfully boring.

To celebrate my two month anniversary, I painted someone who isn't just one of my favorite actors, directors, composers and writers but one of my all-time favorite people. Period. Of course from the title of my post and from the aforementioned job description, I can't be speaking of anyone other than the brilliant Charlie Chaplin.

Oh, Charlie Chaplin. Where to begin? People who know me personally are by now aware of my infinite admiration for Charlie Chaplin. I'm known to go off on hour-long tangents just marveling at his genius. I think he was just as brilliant as one of his close friends, Albert Einstein-- he just used his genius for making movies instead of figuring out the theory of relativity.

Rather than slide into one of my little (well, big) raves about Charlie Chaplin and his incredible mind, I will simply explain why two of his films are counted among my absolute favorites.

First, The Pilgrim. This was a short comedy that Chaplin made about an escaped convict who disguises himself as a priest in a small town. I actually don't know how to explain why this is a favorite-- it just is. If you see it, you'll understand why I so adore it. I managed to find a clip on YouTube of one of my favorite scenes in the film, when Chaplin is trying to tolerate an annoying child. It's a Spanish video, so even though the screen titles are in in English, there are Spanish subtitles. Ugh. Youtube took the video down :-(

Now, my favorite Chaplin film (that also has the distinct honor of being in my very exclusive TOP FIVE list!) is Monsieur Verdoux. I was incredibly lucky last year to see it on the big screen in Pennsylvania, only a few days after my birthday. Best... Present... Ever. This is one of those few films where every piece of the puzzle aligned to form a perfect movie. The music, the acting, the script, the casting, the direction... every single thing in this film was perfect, from Chaplin's part as an ethical bluebeard right down to the tiniest of supporting roles.

Chaplin was an expert at combining melodrama with comedy (think The Kid, a movie that has you crying from laughing too hard at one point, and then a minute later crying because you are so heartbroken.) And Monsieur Verdoux may be the best example of his genre-defying genius. At its core, this is a movie about the ethics of war vs. murder. If a man kills in civilian life, he is a villan. If a man kills in war, he is a hero. (Chaplin's point wasn't that murder is okay, but that all violence should be eradicated, including violence in war) It's also a movie about love and family, and the things we will do, no matter how awful those things may be, to protect the people we love. And although Chaplin's character is a polished and wealthy gentleman, it's a film that I think brought back The Little Tramp (which Chaplin preferred to call "The Little Fellow".) Underneath his shiny exterior, Chaplin is still playing a hurt little guy that's just trying to get by in a very bleak world.

Of course Chaplin's genius is combining this melodramatic, moralistic tale with humor that makes your sides ache. Every time I've seen the movie (and trust me, I've seen it A LOT) I still laugh hysterically.

Charlie Chaplin was a man who put his star power to great use, even when it meant being blacklisted from Hollywood. His pictures The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux were not welcomed with open arms; at the time they were seen as too radical. But time has sided with Chaplin. Every one of his films is now a classic; Chaplin himself is now a movie legend. And I could probably count on one hand the number of people who would still call The Great Dictator "radical." If only he were alive today.... Chaplin would surely have the last laugh. (Oh, so cliche.. but it fits so well...)

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my run-on sentences and putting up with innumerable amounts of smiley face emoticons for the past two months :)


vivienne strauss said...

Great painting and post Kate! I hadn't noticed any run on sentences, perhaps because I think and write the same way. TCM should buy an ad from you :)

Linda Summerfield said...

Chaplin made 14 comedies in Chicago at the Essanay Studio, the building is still standing in a residential neighborhood.

Kid In The Front Row said...

Absolutely wonderful blog entry.. glad to see another Chaplin admirer - for me, nobody has ever neared his magic in comedy. Truly incredible; we're very lucky to have so many wonderful films from him.

Unknown said...

I'm also a big Chaplin fan-- really like your portrait of him. My Chaplin favorites seem to chang-- right now I'm pretty obsessed with "City Lights," which I saw again for the umpteenth time recently & am now wanting to watch again. Have seen "The Pilgrim," & I agree that's also fantastic.

Congrats on 2 month anniversary-- your posts are so natural it seems "Silents & Talkies" must have been around longer!

Lolita of the Classics said...

I saw that annoying-kid-scene on television a couple of years ago, and thought it was hysterical. Thank you for showing it to me again! I like that he pushes the kid with his foot in the end.

Monsieur Verdoux is my favourite Chaplin movie without a doubt! I think it's a little underestimated, you don't hear about it as much as City Lights, Modern Times or The Great Dictator, do you?

R. D. Finch said...

Kate, this is my favorite of all the paintings I've seen at your site. And your analysis of "Monsieur Verdoux" was excellent. It's not my absolute favorite Chaplin film ("The Gold Rush" is), but it's in the top 4 and easily my favorite of his sound movies. I wrote on it (comparing it to "The Great Dictator") last fall at The Movie Projector. Anyone interested can find a link in the sidebar under "Charles Chaplin." I hope that you're still keeping that other silent great Buster Keaton in mind for a future painting. And Harold Lloyd with his glasses and curly hair would also be a good subject. (Can you tell I love the silent comedians?)

Unknown said...

Vivienne- I've never noticed you writing run on sentences either.... great run-on minds think alike :)

Linda- That's so neat! Have you visited them?

Kid- Thanks! I completely agree-- although I wish he made more talkies. I know he didn't approve of the medium at first, but he utilized it better than anyone else.

John- Thanks! I'll have to go watch City Lights again now :) I actually want to have a big Chaplin marathon but I haven't had the time this month. Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog! I do feel like I've been doing this forever now!

Lolita- Isn't it hilarious?! Monsieur Verdoux is very underestimated. I think it's his masterpiece, absoluetely perfect in every way.

RD- Thanks so much! I got to see The Gold Rush on the big screen a few years ago (I love the shoe part) I'll have to go take a look at your comparison of Msr. Verdoux & The Great Dictator!

I actually did a painting of Buster Keaton as per your request, but I don't like the way it turned out so I'm going to start from scratch... I live near Princeton, NJ and every winter a film historian does a showing of silent comedies at the Princeton Art Council. I almost look forward to it more than Christmas. Last year he showed a Chaplin short feature, a Buster Keaton silent, a Laurel and Hardy short and the year before he did a few Harry Langdon pictures. I love getting to see classics on the big screen!

Anonymous said...

Kate? I knew I liked ya, kiddo. Charlie has been the object of my undying love since I was little girl. True art is something that you don't outgrow--you should still be able to make a connection with it regardless of how much you or the world has changed. This is so with Charlie. I laughed at his pratfalls as a child, and as an adult I am consistently amazed at the fact that I can appreciate something new every single time I watch his films.

To me, this is your best work.

Bravo, lady. And congrats on your two month anniversary.


Unknown said...

Beautiful post with passion all over ti! I was hooked on chaplin in two months myself, and believe me, I was ready to call him the greatest director of all time. Well, now he is in my top 5, and I have seen almost all his feature films. Definitely a genius. I have reviewed a few of his films also at my blog. My blog: http://filmmasterjournal.blogspot.com
Be sure to stop bye!

I will be sure to follow your great blog. Follow me if you can :)

Normal said...

I've just recently rediscovered CC after first being enamoured as a child. I take it all seriously now, watching every bit of film, reading every bit of info and beingappreciatve of the man's absolute genious.Given the opportunity and a time machine, would definately have been one of the many women who fell for him and lived to regret it. I can't believe that for most of my life I didn't even know what 'young' Charlie really looked like which was incredibly beautiful!