Friday, January 21, 2011

Thinking of Chaplin. . . . .

Charlie Chaplin was one of my favorite people of all time. He was brilliant, funny, innovative, creative, versatile, and one of the great teaches of happiness that has ever lived. If you get a chance to read his autobiography I highly recommend it, it is full of good, funny, sometimes sentimental stuff and makes you laugh and cry. He ends the book by talking briefly about his love for his wife Oona with the wonderful quote that "perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express." Chaplin said many insightful things but I just thought I would share the following quote from the great dictator because it reminds me that there is good in the world.

"I don't want to be an emperor. That is not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible - Jew - Gentile - Black Man - White. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness - not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there room enough for everyone and the good earth is rich enough to provide for everyone."

Besides being a great comedian and filmaker, Chaplin was a wonderful musical composer and his tune Smile, to which someone later added lyrics, is one of the great melodies of the 20th century. My favorite Chaplin film is Limelight, a "talkie" as they used to call them, made in 1952, and it tells the story of a once famous clown who has fallen on hard times but is still wonderfully happy and optimistic. He saves a young girl who is attempting to commit suicide, nursing her back to health, teaching her to enjoy life again despite his own hardships. It reminds me so much of my father who always tried to enjoy life right up until he passed away. Two days before my dad died I went out and found two great model airplanes for him and even as sick as he was he looked at them as though he were a little boy again revelling in their detail and talking about how they reminded him of being a kid.

Of course Limelight was also one of my dad's favorite films and we enjoyed it together more than once. Thanks Charlie Chaplin for all the laughs and tears you brought to me and my father. Both of you are sorely missed.


Dana said...

Those beautiful lyrics were written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons (which was a pseud for an English lyricist named James Phillips).

I'm a fan too.

Have you ever had the opportunity to see Monsieur Verdoux?

Wonderful film well outside the boundaries of the rest of his body of work.

I still watch A Countess From Hong Kong now and again. If for no other reason than just to see Charlie and Marlon Brando bouncing back and forth across a state room together.

In 1977 I went back to my family home in Regina from Toronto where I was living and working in various theatre companies. On Christmas morning I awoke to hear the news that he's died. CBC was airing The Gold Rush that morning as a tribute. I insisted, forcefully, that my entire family sit and watch it with me. They were astounded to see me weeping while they were all laughing.

Great, great artist. We have never seen his like again and likely never will.

900ft Jesus said...

thanks for the reading tip. Sweet man, Mr. Chaplin.

kirbycairo said...

Thanks for the comments. Dana - I have never had a chance to see Monsieur Verdoux, I have a number of his films on DVD but not that one.

Something interesting that I didn't mention in my post was that when I was young (ten, eleven, and twelve) I lived in Calgary where my dad was teaching at the Alberta College of Art. At the time there was a man teaching there named Charles Hoffman who was in his seventies who was a film historian and had the largest collection of silent films in Canada. He had lived in Hollywood at one time and had known a number of the silent film stars. (One time when my father and I were at his house Lillian Gish called him on the phone) Anyway, he used to do evenings of silent films at the Lecture Hall of the Art College and what really made it amazing was that Charles was a very good piano player and he would play the piano along with silent films in the way that they used to in the original days of silent films. I spent many a remarkable night sitting in the dark lecture hall watching the films of Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and others listening to the sound of the old projector and the piano perfectly timed to the incidents of the films.

A remarkable experience and the place that I learned to appreciate Chaplin.

Dana said...

Chaplin. Keaton. Lloyd. Arbuckle. Gish. Fairbanks. Pickford.

So many geniuses and so many originals of the still extant iconography of cinema.

What a time.