chaplin
 
Photo Essays
1. Exile’s Return
2. Chaplin’s Parents
3. Hannah Chaplin’s Femmes Fatales
4. Playing Dress-Up  In The Land of Make Believe
5. Teenage Girls and Fear of Aging
6. Chaplin’s Three Teenage Wives
7. Mildred Harris
8. Lita Grey
9. Oona O’Neill
10. Chaplin’s Father
11. A Royal Lion
12. Vesta Tilley as Bertie
13. Ella Shields as Bertie
14. Making A Living
15. The Lion Comique’s Son: Dressed Like A Bum
16. Monsieur Verdoux as a Lion Comique
17. Calvero as a Lion Comique
18. The Lion Comique’s Son in the Limelight
19. Charlie as a Child
20. The Kid’s Lucky Break
21. Syd Chaplin
22. A Family Album of Theatrical Drunks
23. Chaplin’s Family Romance
24. Edna Purviance
25. Purviance’s Influence on Chaplin’s Character
26. Essanay
27. Chaplinitis
28. Chaplin’s Predecessors
29. Eye Contact: Audience-Performer Intimacy
30. Chaplin the Auteur
31. Chaplin’s Two Autobiographies
32. Going It Alone
33. The Circus
34. Autobiographical Starvation Scenes From The Gold Rush
35. Autobiographical Madness Scenes in Modern Times
36. Two British Music Hall Traditions and Topical Comedy
37. The Great Dictator
38. Fatal Attraction: Joan Barry
39. Monsieur Verdoux: Guillotine or Hatchet Job?
40. Limelight
 
Chaplin: A Life In Film
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 The Circus
 
CHARLIE AGE 26 (ca 1915)
Jeffrey Vance Collection
 
CHAPLIN AGE 75 (1964)
©Yves Debraine
 
“He talked to me about the autobiography he was  writing. But even as he talked, he told four different versions of  one childhood incident. Even as he affirmed that he intended to tell the truth, the absolute truth about his life, he told two or three different truths”…..Konrad Bercovici (a friend of Charlie’s).

Chaplin  left memoirs and anecdotal reminiscences which provide us with the raw material to make connections between his early life and his art. He left them  on two separate occasions, fifty years apart.

In 1915, Charlie  was  cajoled and encouraged  to  spin his story  by    a coy  and  flattering  young  reporter  (Rose Wilder Lane) who attempted to scribble  down verbatim her 26-year-old subject’s  non-stop Cockney patter.. Rising to the occasion (or taking  the bait),  a flamboyant and  not-yet-world famous or  reputation-conscious Charlie  obliged his sympathetic feminine   listener by engaging in  a one-man rap (Robin Williams-style). With gusto, the boyishly charming  actor amused himself and entertained Lane by playfully  dramatizing, embroidering and improvising  Oliver Twist-like scenes from his London childhood which she then  attempted to  peddle as    his  “as-told-to” memoirs--“Charlie Chaplin’s Own Story” (CCOS). It was the re-issuing  of Lane’s original newspaper interviews  in book form which Chaplin  decided to kill for several reasons.

His  free-associative monologues had already appeared  as a 29-part  series of articles in the rotogravure section of a limited-circulation, local  San Francisco newspaper  with Charlie’s complete cooperation and approval.  But he got cold feet about allowing  those collected improv sessions to be re-released (verbatim  and unedited)  as CCOS   because of the potentially embarrassing, self-told “lies” they contained coupled with  the fact that during the intervening months  he   had  sky-rocketed  from a well  paid film actor (who modestly described   himself  as “a little nickel comedian”)   to the most well-known and highest-paid  personage   in the world. His  meteoric status change   took place in the interval   between the original newspaper series and CCOS’s scheduled publication  date  one year  later.

Chaplin’s self-written, late-life  memoir   “My Autobiography”  is  equally controversial. The first seven or eight chapters are riveting. But the accuracy and honesty of that book is equally problematic. As a venerable paterfamilias (see the  1964  family Xmas card above), 75-year-old Chaplin purposely  omitted or  obfuscated many personal details of his early childhood and later private life in order to  present himself  and his family of origin  in the most dignified possible light: “to guage  the morals of our family by ordinary standards would be like plunging a thermometer into boiling water.” (For a complete discussion  see the Afterwords chapter in Chaplin A Life).But as the two photographs above  suggest, the playful  young bachelor  who narrated his life story in 1915 bore little physical and psychological  resemblance to the staid  and elderly family man person who penned a very different version of   his life story half a century later.

 
 
 
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