Sunday, 5 October 2014

Charlie Chaplin...

Published: April 29 2007 on Helium

Just a funny little man, with a black mo, swinging cane and those dark eyes which could flash from sweet innocence to piercing challenge in a single comic wink!
This man was Charlie Chaplin.
He was a master of mime, satiric comedy in silence.
He was a master of the silent film.

His "first steps" were on the stage. In 1889, he was born in London. His parents were actors. By age 5, he was in a dance troupe. His childhood games were the slapstick acrobatics of vaudeville. By 1914, he had created Charlie, The Tramp, silently wobbling his way through life - stage and film life and the lives of an adoring public in England and the U.S. He became a cult symbol, for all those who could see their own truths, their own identity within the fickle social world, and dared to be different. By 1915, there was a host of Charlie memorabilia from cartoons and poems, to dolls, to songs and dances. An amazing achievement for the "sounds of silence"!

The Tramp trundled silently through World War I, the trendy Jazz Age of the 1920's, the Depression years and the rise of factories and talkies. And, delightfully, there was always the silent little Tramp, keeping true to his own identity. Charlie was a master of stubborn, silent identity stirring a smile in a world of serious change.

However, Charlie Chaplin was not just a master within the silent film, but a master outside. He was a screenwriter, producer and composer of music. By 1915, he had made 35 short films. At age 25, he directed his first film, "Twenty Minutes of Love". By 1919, he formed a studio, United Artists, with such partners as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Perhaps, in keeping with his sense of a public "silent" persona, he did not actually make a film, "Woman of Paris" with the studio until 1923.

Sadly, the smile did not last through the 1930's. A little of Charlie's trademark was lost. A clue to this loss is Charlie's film "The Great Dictator" of 1940. The main character was Adenoid Hynkel. His films already had been banned in Germany by the Third Reich. Perhaps they could see some prickly serious symbolism in the silent antics of a small moustached man long before the rest of the Western world did.

More serious Charlie was to come, culminating in the film "Limelight" of 1952. It is the story of a former, once great dance hall clown, who was also a tramp. Charlie teamed with another great clown of the silent era, Buster Keaton. It was clear The Tramp of old was now a broken Charlie Chaplin up there on the big screen. He bowed, at last, to the new world of talkies.

But "Limelight" had another story to tell behind the scenes. Some saw the film as a silent, communistic weapon. Many theatres in the U.S. refused to screen the film. The slander lasted for many years. It was many years before the film finally won an Academy Award for Best Music.

Charlie closed his life with music. He continued writing music for films. Still, he adopted the silent partner, quietly slipping his "message" into this relentless "talkie era" wih music. But the era of the quirky Tramp had slipped into wistful memory.

Charlie Chaplin will be remembered as the silent star, the silent creator of the silent film.
The silent film stirs the silent uniqueness in us all.
Charlie Chaplin, aka The Tramp, was a master of the genre.

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