Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Charlie Chaplin, The Dignified ‘Little Tramp’

Photo of the Day

“Friends have asked how I came to engender this American antagonism. My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refused to fall in line by hating them. Secondly, I was opposed to the Committee on Un-American Activities — a dishonest phrase to begin with, elastic enough to wrap around the throat and strangle the voice of any American citizen whose honest opinion is a minority of one.”
—Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)

Charles Spencer Chaplin [born in 1889 in London, England–died in 1977 in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland] is shown here in this 1921 photo. Chaplin starred in 82 films; his first film appearance was Making A Living (February 2, 1914), which can be seen [here]; The Tramp character was first seen in his next film, Kid Auto Races at Venice (February 7, 1914), and can be seen [here]. Although he played many other roles, Chaplin is most famous for his role as “The Tramp,” a childlike goodhearted individual, who, despite being a vagrant, behaves with the manners and dignity of someone born into a higher social class. The Tramp is endearing, representing us, all downtrodden and resilient humanity. Without a doubt, Chaplin is a most wonderful actor, whose silent films I have enjoyed since I first laid eyes on them as a small child. These quickly come to mind: Easy Street (1916), where life in the slums is not easy, a life of hardship and incredible deprivation; The Kid (1921), which is again close to home, a reminder, a reflection of Chaplin’s life as a kid living in the slums of South London at the end of the 19th century; The Gold Rush (1925)—“the picture I want to be remembered by,” Chaplin said; and City Lights (1931), a tragicomedy that took 800,000 feet of film and over two years to complete. What they bring to the common man and woman is thoughtful and powerful commentaries of being poor, both before and during “The Great Depression” it is their story. Then there is Modern Times (1936), the last silent film, a masterpiece of satire of our modern industrialized age (The Tramp never talks but sings a gibberish song at the end.); The Great Dictator (1940), his first talkie, and so prescient on totalitarianism, notably Fascism; and A King in New York (1957), a satirical look at the paranoia and hysteria dominant in the U.S. during  the era of McCarthyism (roughly 1947 to 1956) Moreover, as an anti-Fascist, he will forever be in my mind a man of good conscience and good taste. He will forever be the dignified “Little Tramp.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons; National Portrait Gallery, London

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