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Birthday for a giant little tramp

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Charlie Chaplin came into the world in London, England 114 years ago on this day, April 16 in 1889. This would be a good excuse to hunt down some Chaplin.

Somewhat over time I must admit that the egalitarian liberal sentimentality of the little tramp wear a bit thin.

On the other hand, Chaplin was brilliant, a cinema giant. He made real art out of his political sentiments. If you haven’t seen The Great Dictator or City Lights, then you’re just missing out. I would also suggest looking for some of the last movies he made, after finally, finally retiring the little tramp.

They were not popular at the time, but there is more storytelling and thoughtful expression in Monsieur Verdoux than in most movies. It was also interesting to see him playing a murderous villain. It thus lacks characteristic Chaplin sentimentality. You see him after a lifetime of experience in moviemaking trying something new and different.

That he was making this kind of commitment to advancing the state of his art in this way this late on stands as one of the better testaments you could make to the man.

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  • Enjoying Chaplin requires two things for me:

    1) An audience. Most good comedy goes down better when you’re watching it with someone else, and Chaplin definitely works better when you’re part of a crowd.
    2) Decent prints. There are some terrible prints around, especially of the early short films. I finally latched onto some restored prints of the 1916/17 Mutual films, and the difference was revelatory. I found them funny for the first time.