Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life (Ackroyd's Brief Lives)
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A brief yet definitive new biography of one of film's greatest legends: perfect for readers who want to know more about the iconic star but who don't want to commit to a lengthy work.
He was the very first icon of the silver screen and is one of the most recognizable of Hollywood faces, even a hundred years after his first film. But what of the man behind the moustache? Peter Ackroyd's new biography turns the spotlight on Chaplin's life as well as his work, from his humble theatrical beginnings in music halls to winning an honorary Academy Award. Everything is here, from the glamor of his golden age to the murky scandals of the 1940s and eventual exile to Switzerland. There are charming anecdotes along the way: playing the violin in a New York hotel room to mask the sound of Stan Laurel frying pork chops and long Hollywood lunches with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This masterful brief biography offers fresh revelations about one of the most familiar faces of the last century and brings the Little Tramp vividly to life.
the “little fellow,” under the auspices of Keystone. He had made thirty-six films in one year, 1914, and as a result had become the most popular film comedian in America. To some people he was film. But he had already rejected the frantic environment of the studio system. He would never work again for another director, and would always write his own parts. 6 The Eternal Imp Chaplin left the Keystone studios on a Saturday night in December, after cutting his last film, without bidding farewell
Chaplin knew or sensed that this film would be a defining moment in his career, and he wanted to bring it as close to perfection as he could manage. Some sequences were repeated forty or fifty times. One of the performers told Stan Laurel at a later date that “they repeated some gags until the actors felt that if they did it one more time they’d blow their corks.” But Chaplin was relentless until he got it right. The Tramp ends with what would become the most famous exit in cinematic history; he
people want. I have felt for a long time that this would be my big year and this contract gives me my opportunity. There is inspiration in it.” His immense popular success meant that he now had the power to control all aspects of film production, from rehearsals to the editing room. Mutual had agreed to equip a new studio for him, and to pay for all production costs. He realised, too, that he could continue to fashion and develop the most significant screen character in the history of the cinema.
of the power of The Kid. Chaplin on the set of The Kid with Jackie Coogan, 1921. Courtesy of Mondadori There is one famous scene in which the young boy is being taken away from Charlie by a welfare worker and is thrown into the orphanage van, at which point the boy breaks down in hysterical tears. Jackie Coogan recalled that “the musicians, of course, helped a lot. We had music on the set. And Chaplin used to talk, as every director did, while the shot was in process, being silent pictures.
None of these people cared a damn about me. If they did, they wouldn’t embarrass me. They were thinking about themselves, feeling bigger because they had seen me and could go and brag about it.” He entertained his friends and acquaintances in New York with endless stories and imitation. Brooks recalled that he was “doing imitations all the time.” As Isadora Duncan he danced among streams of toilet paper and, as John Barrymore, he picked his nose. He said, one evening, “Look, Louise, guess whom