Fellow Performers: Part III

Fellow Performers: Part III
A Magician; A Clown; A Protégé


I think all teachers are really just frustrated performers. After all, that’s essentially what we do when the classroom doors are closed-perform for our students. So, if I were to admit to being a frustrated performer, it would come as no surprise that I envy the real thing-so much so that I never get enough of stories like the ones that follow here. Any way, this month, I am rounding out the Fellow Performers mini-series with three folks-two accomplished performers and a neophyte. After reading each of their interviews, I think you’ll see that they have a lot to relate. Carl Wilson, of course, has appeared within these pages before. He’s been a close acquaintance of mine now for about five years and through him, I’ve come to appreciate the art of magic and sleight-of-hand like never before. Eli and Ginger I very much hope to meet someday soon. I’ve included Ginger here, because I thought it might be fun to see how Charlie still plays a role in the creative lives of the very young. I think Ginger’s story gives us just that sort of perspective. And Eli’s story is especially appropriate in that he is a clown. Charlie’s influence on his work is palpable-and, therefore, especially compelling.


A Magician: Carl Lane WilsonMagician Carl WilsonBio: Carl was born and raised in Michigan where he performed his first magic show at the age of eight with his father at a Christmas party. His family moved to California when he was 12 and it was there at the age of 13 that he got into mime and improvisational acting. By the time he was 15, his love for magic resurfaced, so he spent much of his free time practicing sleight of hand. Being a magician fulfilled all of his needs as a performer; there is magic, astonishment, acting, entertainment and no script to assist with any of that. In 1988, when he was 18, he made his professional debut at the now long-gone Magic Island in Newport Beach, CA. Today, he has a very busy schedule, from working for agents and corporate events to being the Disneyland Resort’s primary magician subcontractor. The magic keeps happening.

A Clown: Eli Echevarria

Clown Eli EchevarriaBio: Eli began his career as a Chaplin impersonator in 1992 and slowly evolved into becoming a full time professional clown. He is the author of two instructional books on the art of balloon twisting, has won many awards for his make-up, costuming and performance skills and has been on the teaching staff at dozens of clown and magic conventions, workshops, and seminars. For more information, see www.clowningbybuster.com.

A Protégé: Ginger Parsons

Protégé Ginger ParsonsBio: Ginger is 16 years old and has been involved with community theater and high school drama since she was 14. In one instance, she played Fritzi Bonwit in the Community Theater Production of M*A*S*H. She is also active in the local Improv group. Ginger enjoys being on stage as well as working backstage with sets, props and lighting. Recently, she had the pleasure of meeting Dan Kamin during a workshop and was deeply inspired by him; she felt it was like meeting a soul-mate. In her spare time, she designs and maintains a website and blog dedicated to Charlie Chaplin and other comics. It is her desire that others will come to appreciate their contribution to the comedic films of today as she has. She hopes one day to be able to pass along what she has learned and to keep Charlie Chaplin’s dreams alive. See Ginger’s webpage at www.2ndstorylaughter.com.

Describe your first encounter with a Chaplin film and why you think you connected with it.

Carl: My First encounter with Chaplin was in 1978, when I was eight years old. It was at a pizza joint in Okemos, Michigan called The Roaring 20’s. The restaurant featured 15-foot tall posters of silent movie stars. One of those was the picture of Charlie in which he is sitting on a bamboo chair, his chin resting on his cane, looking rather soulful. I was immediately captivated and couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Why was this friendly looking man so sad?

Charlie Chaplin the Little Tramp: sitting on a bamboo chair with chin on his caneI asked my mom, “Who is that?” Her reply was “Charlie Chaplin.”

When I was 14 years old, picking through the school library, I ran across Chaplin the Movies and Charlie and that moment from 1978 came back to me in an instant. I checked it out and read and re-read it. Its synopses of so many of Chaplin’s films and its presentation of the picture of him sadly playing his violin from The Vagabond made me want to see any film of his in the worst way and only intensified my interest in him.

Eli: My first connection with Chaplin was not with a film but with the documentary Unknown Chaplin. I was 12 or 13 years old when it first aired back in the late 1980’s, and I decided to watch it on a whim. Needless to say, I was completely blown away by what I saw. I then found a copy of Chaplin’s autobiography and David Robinson’s Chaplin: His Life and Art, and devoured both texts. I continued to find books and was becoming more and more of a self-titled teenage Chaplin expert, yet I still had not seen any of the films, as they were not exactly available at the video store and were never shown on television. All of that changed when a teacher at my high school learned of my obsession and handed me his personal copy of The Circus. The film exceeded my expectations and I was instantly hooked. From the first gag with Chaplin stealing bites from a child’s hot dog to the immortal final shot, the film (still my favorite) touched me in a way that I had never been touched before. Being 13 years old and having something this special that I knew most kids my age would never have made me feel like I had received some kind of special gift. It’s a feeling I will never forget.

Ginger: One day I saw a Chaplin clip that my teacher showed the class. That was when I was first introduced to slapstick. Something about the sense of humor just seemed to be so honest and innocent. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I researched it and downloaded all I could find off the Internet. The music of his era is elegant and beautiful as well.

How specifically would you say that Charlie influences your craft? In other words, would you say there are moments in your performances that you could trace back directly to Charlie and if so, what are they?

Carl: I never connected Charlie to my performing until I had been doing it for several years. In my youthful exuberance, it was all about non-stop action and dialogue. Studying Chaplin, however, reminded me of certain things. Saying words without using words–it’s all in the facial expressions and movements of the body. When I slowed down and realized that more could be conveyed without words at the proper moment, I became stronger as a performer.

Although we don’t know a lot about Charlie’s working methods, I fancy that Carl Wilson in action since he was directing and acting at the same time, the first time he glanced at Rollie behind the camera to convey something to him came out on the rushes like he was looking directly into the camera. It’s just a guess, but I think that when he saw that moment, it was so funny that he continued to do it throughout his career. His rant at Jack Oakie during the filming of The Great Dictator of “? just look into the camera, that’ll get them,” was all too true because he knew it worked from experience. I bring this up because of that glance; I use it. It works. The stillness, the silence–that works too. I owe that to Charlie.

Eli: My clowning is directly influenced by the Tramp. The physical appearance of my tramp character Buster (named after Charlie’s silent-era rival), is obviously influenced by Chaplin, but the actual character was very purposely based on Chaplin’s description of the Tramp in his autobiography: “a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, hopeful of romance and adventure-but not above robbing a baby of its candy or kicking a lady in the rear.” I like to think of it as “Clowning with an Attitude”, where Eli as Buster the clown on one side you see the sweet and romantic sad-faced clown, but at any second he can snap and do something completely unexpected.

When I perform, the Tramp is always with me. Although I am not consciously doing a Chaplin impersonation, anyone who knows what to look for will notice the manner in which I hold my hands high up on my sides with my fingers pointed downward, or the manner in which I innocently put the fingers of my left hand up to my mouth, or my overly confident “ta-da” bow after I perform a routine (ala The Pilgrim sermon or the tight rope practicing in The Circus), or when I break the very important clown performance rule and turn my back to the audience in hopes of conveying emotion without the use of my face.

Ginger: Watching the Charlie Chaplin videos has definitely helped me with my improv skills. He has definite eye movements, hand movements, and coordination between the two that is unmatched. I have spent hours studying them. He can make something unfunny seem hysterical with just a gesture. When I am performing improv with friends, I have found myself thinking, “What would Charlie do here,” or “Charlie would think logically here and still get a laugh.” Then I try to act accordingly.

Dan Kamin said an interesting thing in my interview with him last month and it has started me thinking. He said that he generally “bores” his friends to death with Charlie. Do you feel that Charlie and his work are generally an acquired taste, limited to a small amount of loyal admirers? If so, do you think of your work at all as slightly evangelical? Ginger, especially you, as such a young person, how do you talk to your friends about Charlie and his work?

Carl: Silent movies are so foreign to today’s generation that it goes without saying that Charlie and silent movies on the whole are an acquired taste. In modern entertainment, everything is handed to you and nothing is left to the imagination. We become conditioned to it and something gets lost. If silent movies were shown in classrooms as an exercise in paying attention, I think that there would be a huge interest in these classics in adulthood. Being acutely aware of this, I don’t shove Charlie at anyone. I find that the longer I know people and the more they become aware of my interests, eventually they will sit through a Chaplin film. And for everyone that has done so, they have become a fan. I dated my wife for two years and was married to her for a year before I took her to a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra screening of City Lights. That was her first time to sit through an entire full-length Chaplin film, and she has been a fan ever since.

Eli: If Chaplin’s work is limited to a small amount of loyal admirers, it’s because the films (at least here in America) are not shown. I have shown at least one Chaplin film to just about everyone that I know well, and they have all loved the films. Last summer I went to a local Chaplin festival where they showed several of the Mutual comedies and the audience, which was made up mostly of kids, devoured the films. The few opportunities that I have had to see Chaplin films on the big screen with a live audience has proven to me that I am not alone in this world. A good film is a good film and it makes no difference what year it was made. I honestly believe that if Chaplin was as exposed as say perhaps the Three Stooges are, we wouldn’t be talking about this very topic.

Ginger: It is so funny that you say that. My friends Ginger Parsons with Dan Kamin have generally gotten used to it. I have made custom Charlie Chaplin shirts. My cell phone has Charlie Chaplin wallpaper and a Charlie Chaplin ringtone. When I have a sleep-over I play silent films. My father came in one time and made me turn them off, because he said I was “boring” my friends to death, but said they were too polite to tell me. I put up posters all over town about my website trying to get everyone to become interested in Charlie Chaplin, as well as other comics on my website. I find it hard to understand that everyone doesn’t just love him as I do. I just feel that they haven’t seen enough of his work!

Charlie once said that “the basic essential of a great actor is that he loves himself in acting.” As a fellow performer, how do you respond to this?

Carl: What Charlie is saying here, is that he loved Charlie the character. It is obvious from Charlie’s relentless pursuit of visual perfection, that he must have been very comfortable watching himself on film. The results were fantastic. Since I am not on film all the time, there is often a gap between my experience and that of the audience. I had myself filmed doing a routine a couple years ago and I was blown away by what the audience was seeing from the “other side of the deck.” I loved what I was doing. When I am not being “the magician,” I am a fairly reserved fellow. From first hand experience, narcissistic behavior is a turn-off to an audience and to friends in private. I try to always be aware of that line between narcissism and what comes out of my personality during the required self-confidence of being a magician.

I feel so privileged to be Charlie Chaplin in THE CIRCUS able to do what I do, that I try not to stick it in other people’s faces. Inspiring envy in others is not something I like or want to do. But, reflecting on Charlie’s statement, I must agree that I do love taking on a magician’s persona. It allows me to give an audience an experience that I love. There is a certain amount of self-love involved in being a magician; it allows me to step outside of my everyday character and become a miracle maker. I will do it until my fingers don’t work anymore.

Eli: There is truth in Charlie’s statement. As arrogant as it may sound, I won’t lie that it gives me great pleasure in knowing that I do my job as a clown extremely well. When I hear the genuine laughter and applause from my audience, at that moment I love the fact that I’m a clown…a good clown, and I love that I am the one providing this “release” for the audience.

Ginger: I must say that I was quite shy as an actress to begin with, but I have come out of my shell, so to speak, since I have been studying so many of Charlie Chaplin’s films. I have come to see now that if I like what I’m doing, then the people around me will like it.

Charlie at times is reported to have given up friends, wives, and even respect and popularity for his artistic vision. Can you talk about a time when you had to give up something or someone you loved in order to pursue your art? Do you regret the decision?

Carl Wilson is performing for Jennifer Love-Hewitt and Tyler Hilton.Carl: Depending on the performing arts for a living can be a bit challenging. My biggest obstacles come when I find myself having to accept work on risky days, like anniversaries, family get-togethers, birthdays, scheduled vacations, etc. Has it damaged some relationships? I would be lying to say that it hasn’t. But would I give up a relationship for it? Most likely not. This is where Charlie’s seeming disconnect between himself and his loved ones may have caused him the most trouble in his private life. One must be cognizant of other people’s feelings and know when to stop. I do my best to state my case, but if I thought it would cause permanent damage, I wouldn’t take the job. My love of family is stronger than my love of audience.

Eli: I am happy to report that I have been one of the lucky ones in that regard. From as far back as I can remember, I have had the great fortune of being with people who have always supported me and my artistic and creative decisions. With the exception of countless hours of sleep, I do not think that I have had to give up anything in my pursuits of becoming the very best clown that I can.

Ginger: I can say that when I first started drama that it was not the most popular choice for teens as an elective. However, with the addition of our current drama teacher, it has become one of the most popular and in-demand classes at our school. When I first started high school, drama was a department that was mocked; people got picked on for being in it. I had my ups and downs and had second thoughts. On one hand I didn’t want to be picked on, but on the other hand I wanted to do something I enjoyed. I stuck with it and about three days after I made my decision to stay in, I watched my first Chaplin clip! It changed my life.

 

Fellow Performers: Part II

Fellow Performers: Part II
Interviewing Dan Kamin


How could I consider a mini-series of Charlie’s fellow performers, really, WITHOUT interviewing Dan Kamin? Impossible. And Dan has graciously complied. I met Dan for the one and only time (so far!) at the 2005 Charlie Chaplin Conference in London where he graced us with a paper of sorts that was really a brief “show.” As impressed as I was, I’m ashamed to say I still have not seen any of his shows, but hold that as a goal for the near future. In addition to his clear gifts of performance, Dan is an engaging guy and can hold you in rapt conversation for hours. Of course, he and I had our Chaplin collecting obsessions in common and spent quite some time discussing this. And I greatly enjoyed it. I just know you’re going to enjoy Dan’s interview below, so let’s get to it!


Dan KaminDan Kamin (bio):Dan performs worldwide for theaters, colleges and symphony orchestras. On film, he created the physical comedy sequences for Chaplin and Benny and Joon, and trained Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp for their acclaimed starring performances. He also created Martian movement for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! and played the wooden Indian come to life in the cult classic Creepshow 2.
Dan Kamin – Comedy in Motion
Your gift is hard to define, Dan. If I had to pigeon-hole you, I would probably call you a performance artist—maybe a physical performance artist—but I think what you do is more complicated than that. It seems to require more finesse than most performance artists I can think of. Can you define what you do and how you got started doing it?

That’s such a kind way of saying I’m incomprehensible!

I first started performing as a boy magician. I got hooked on magic after seeing the movie Houdini with Tony Curtis, and before long I was earning spare money doing magic shows at kids’ birthday parties. This was primarily because I couldn’t get the job I really wanted, which was to be a bagboy at the local supermarket. Those guys had cars, and girlfriends.

Clearly, the silent comedians must have influenced you greatly in developing your art. Can you talk about how you came in contact specifically with Charlie Chaplin’s work and the way in which it continues to influence you in your work today?

I had no intention of making a career as a magician, because I couldn’t imagine a life in smoky nightclubs performing for inebriated audiences. To escape the lure of performing, I attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to study industrial design. While there I happened into a Charlie Chaplin film shown by the campus film society, The Gold Rush. To say I was blown away is putting it mildly. I thought it was the best film I’d ever seen. I still think that. I walked out of that film into a new life.

Dan Kamin as lion during his recent tour of Malaysia But what life? Little as I knew about movies, I understood that silent films were a dead art form. Then I saw a man named Jewel Walker do a mime show on the campus. Jewel could do incredible optical illusions with movement, as well as hilarious comedy without speaking. I instantly knew that that’s where Chaplin’s art had gone, and I began hounding Jewel, who taught in the drama department of our campus, to show me how the tricks work. I soon realized that mime wasn’t just about tricks, but about characters, stories, and comedy. After awhile I wanted to see if I could make people laugh without words, and to see if I had any stories to tell.

This was the late 1960s, and I rode the wave of popularity of mime. Of course, the wave crashed in the late 1970s when everybody started to hate mimes. That’s what mime always does—gets popular as a discrete form (like silent films) and then disappears, to return in a new guise. For example, the current manifestation of the art is the mega-spectacle Cirque du Soleil—what would you call it, after all, other than the illegitimate child of P.T. Barnum and Marcel Marceau?

But by the time the public turned against white-faced mime I was already talking in many of my shows, and doing what you’re referring to as some of my less-classifiable work. I essentially have a magician’s approach to theatre, which is to say I like to catch people off guard and fool them with theatrical pranks. For example, I’ll often masquerade as a keynote speaker for unsuspecting groups, such as being a stress-management expert for a group of geriatric social workers. At first I’m everyone’s worse nightmare of a speaker, boring, disorganized, increasingly ill-at-ease. And before long my stress-management tips start to backfire, until literally everything falls apart, including the lectern and my suit, leaving me in big polka dot boxer shorts.

I also do many shows these days with symphony orchestras, turning concerts into kid-friendly performance events by showing up as someone who isn’t supposed to be there, then interacting with the conductor, the musicians, and the music. When the music plays, of course, all the mime training comes into play. I do a solo program called Comedy in Motion where I basically do everything I know how to do to entertain people, even some of my old magic. And I particularly enjoy doing a special Chaplin evening I’ve developed, Funny Bones-The Comic Body Language of Charlie Chaplin, which is like a class in comedy, with lots of audience participation, performance, film clips and a complete short, accompanied live if possible.

Something else we all know about you is that you worked closely with Johnny Depp in Benny and Joon on the Oceania roll sequence and Robert Downey, Jr. in Attenborough’s Chaplin. How do you think your facility with Chaplin’s art allowed you to be the perfect choice for these tasks?

Well, first of all, had I not written a book about Chaplin I never would have made a single movie. Robert Downey, Jr. got a copy of my book, which is about Chaplin’s performing technique, and realized that it was like a training manual for The dance of rolls from THE GOLD RUSH. Click to see a slideshow of more stills. him. He called me in Pittsburgh and said, “I think you may be the only person in the world who can help me pull this off.” He flew to Pittsburgh and we immediately went to work, and he got me hired. Word got out during production that Robert was giving a remarkable performance, and people in Hollywood knew that someone must be working with him, because even then he was known within the industry as a talented but undisciplined party boy. On the strength of that I was contacted about other projects, including Benny and Joon with Johnny Depp. I ended up creating the comedy scenes for both movies, simply because movie physical comedy is basically a lost art now. I borrowed the roll dance for both films, and have incorporated a variation into my own show, since I worked so damn hard to learn it!If not for my study of Chaplin, and my attempts over the years to put what I learned into practice on stage and in industrial films, I wouldn’t have known where to begin. It was like a dream come true, to come full circle and add physical comedy to movies. And of course, it was a great honor to be able to contribute to bringing Chaplin’s story to a new audience via the Downey film. Although the film has serious flaws, many people enjoyed Robert’s portrayal.

Besides your performance art, you’re quite famous for the ONLY book to date that deals in any way with Charlie’s particular physicality on film, Charlie Chaplin’s One-Man-Show. I know you are currently working on an updated edition of the book. How did you come to write it in the first place and how will the new edition be changed from the original?

A few years after I began performing mime myself, I realized I was noticing some very odd things about the films, such as the fact that Chaplin’s face was whiter than those of the characters around him, and that his moustache was, in effect, a bulls-eye, drawing the eye. Because of my visual art background, I realized that these were things that helped him stand out on the crowded movie screens of 1914 and 1915. They were part of the craft underlying his art. Since no author had ever examined Chaplin’s art from a performer’s point of view, or done a detailed analysis of his mime-based acting technique, I felt that it was my responsibility to do so. It was also a way to avoid boring my friends with my incessant talk about Chaplin as I worked out my ideas. Alas, my attempt to get it out of my system failed, and after all these years I’m still boring my friends about Chaplin. I have high hopes, however, that the revised edition will enable me to break free from this horrendous addiction once and for all.

Dan Kamin during his recent tour of MalaysiaThe book’s already been through two editions, a hardcover and a paperback. When Scarecrow Press, the original publisher, told me they wanted to do a new edition, I thought, great, once over lightly. Hah. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to examine films on DVD than with 8mm and 16mm films, or by taking notes in dark movie theatres. At the time I wrote the book I hadn’t even managed to track down a number of the early films. The opportunity to do a new edition has enabled me to correct many factual errors in the description of certain scenes.

In addition, I’ve been writing consistently since the book came out, including many articles about Chaplin. The practice has improved my writing craft, which is handy, since it’s pretty tricky to write about movement in a way that doesn’t make the reader want to throw the book across the room.

My professional experiences have also deepened my understanding of Chaplin’s work. I’ve had the opportunity to direct classic comedies and put my ideas into practice in Hollywood. Plus, so much material on Chaplin has come out in the past two decades, like the pioneering works by David Robinson and Kevin Brownlow, that we know more than ever before about him. My book’s not a bio, but some of this wealth of material has caused me to reevaluate my views, as has my ongoing dialogue with fellow Chaplin buffs. As a result, my analysis of a number of the films is deeper—at least, I hope so.

The book has changed so much that I’m discussing with Scarecrow the possibility of renaming it. Perhaps Son of One?
Finally, much like many of us, you are a discerning collector of Chaplin items. Can you talk a bit about why you collect and tell us about one or two items of which you are especially proud?

I’m particularly fascinated with early writing about Chaplin, and artists’ images on posters, sheet music and magazine covers. This material is so evocative, for it gives clues to what people found so appealing when he first appeared on the scene, before he had made any of the films now considered to be classics. I love Film Fun magazine, which began publishing in July, 1915, and used Chaplin on the covers again and again until the early 20s, when they got a makeover and became a girlie magazine (using the same title). In 1919 they used Chaplin on nine of their twelve covers, four of which use him to editorialize about the coming Dan Kamin with fans during his recent tour of Malaysia of Prohibition (they clearly hated the notion). I love this kind of stuff.I have a piece of British sheet music called “Charlie Chaplin’s Frolics” from 1915 (you can see it in Chaplin/Genesis of a Clown) with a nice montage of cartoon drawings that pretty much sums up his early appeal—Charlie as lover, bungler, dapper man-about-town. Much early sheet music—both the covers and the lyrics—focused on those big feet, which people seemed to find so hilarious.

Thanks to eBay and the Internet I’ve found books and other pieces I’d never thought I’d come across, such as two early British softcover books from 1915, The Charlie Chaplin Fun Book and The Charlie Chaplin Scream Book, both filled with revealing poems and cartoons. Gifford’s Comic Art of Charlie Chaplin reproduces many of the pages—but it’s very cool to have the originals. I’ve never tracked down a copy of The Charlie Chaplin Book (the Street and Smith paperback of stories from the Essanays), but I live in hope. I did find a fascinating 1917 English variant, The Chronicles of Charlie Chaplin, by Draycott Dell. Dell skillfully weaves the Essanays together into a kind of novel of Charlie’s adventures.

It’s fascinating how seldom these early writers, artists and reviewers accurately describe Chaplin’s comedy, although they all get a part of the picture. But the work is elusive, for its fundamental power lies beyond the power of words to describe, and beyond the ability of still images to convey. Yet for so many it has proven irresistible to try. I’m proud to count myself among those who have made the attempt.

 

Chapliniana in Bologna, Italy 2007

Chapliniana in Bologna, Italy 2007


Having had the good fortune to be able to attend and take part in Cineteca di Bologna’s Chapliniana-a celebration of the symbolic end of Progetto Chaplin, the several-year-long project in which Charlie’s films have been restored and documents have been scanned and uploaded onto the Charlie Chaplin online archive-I decided to devote this month’s newsletter to the events taking place during Cinema Ritrovato week (always the first week in July) in Bologna. In keeping with the interview format, however, for this year’s newsletters, I decided to formulate one question and ask several Chaplin-interested folks in attendance to respond to it. That question and its responses will appear at the end of the newsletter.


My own presentation at the festival turned out to be the first one of the week, a great boon for me, because I was then able to relax and enjoy the festivities. I chose three Mutual films, The Pawnshop, The Rink, and The Cure and talked about Sydney Chaplin’s, Charlie’s brother’s, influence and/or assistance with these particular films. Other presentations included Chuck Maland on Chaplinitis-a talk which left to right: Hooman Mehran, Frank Scheide, Lisa Stein and Neil Brand--pianist and expert silent film accompanist accompanied Bryony Dixon’s compilation of a group of films that would have been typical for a 1915 movie program in the UK. She included a roll call of the dead (WWI, you know), a short dramatic film concerning military heroism, a newsreel about the Lusitania, and Chaplin’s The Bank. The Charlie Chaplin Archive team gave an interesting and informative presentation about the new archive website that will be launched very soon. David Robinson spoke on Marcelline, the clown, one of Chaplin’s admitted inspirations, and showed a recently discovered film clip of him. Serge Bromberg, of Lobster Films, showed two films featuring Charlie without his moustache and accompanied them himself. Sam Stourdzé, the creator of the “Chaplin in Pictures” exhibit, gave an illustrated talk on Charlie’s physicality. Kevin Brownlow talked about the making of The Tramp and the Dictator and then showed the film itself. And Bernard Eisenschitz talked on Chaplin and modernity, or rather showed Chaplin’s influences on filmmakers who followed him. All of these presentations were illustrated by restored films and, of course, the highlight was the Keystones. I think my personal favorite was a simply incredible print of The Masquerader. As I am discovering with all of these restorations, the Keystones are not nearly the plotless pastiches that we all once thought them to be. It turns out that they only suffer greatly because of the many omissions and poor film quality of the versions we have all seen.The highlight of the festival, however, was the accompanied screenings, and there were an incredible three over the course of the week. The first two were housed in the Teatro Communale, an eighteenth century opera house in Bologna that easily satisfies anyone’s ideas and fantasies about what such a thing must be. The first Saturday night we saw The Kid and The Idle Class with the Teatro’s orchestra being lead by Timothy Brock. It was a very good way to start the week. Wednesday we were treated to Tim’s own restoration of Charlie’s score for Modern Times, a score which I’ve been wanting to experience since I missed its debut in LA all the way back in June 2000. It was definitely worth the wait. And, by this time, another important guest had arrived at the festival-actor Ben Gazzara and his wife-and they stole the pre-show amusementsMichael (far left) and Christopher Chaplin (speaking with mic) introducing MODERN TIMES by disregarding their assigned seats and choosing their own, with dog in-tow. More important to me (and most others) was the fact that Michael and Christopher Chaplin introduced the film that night, and if Christopher could look any more like his father, someone please tell me HOW. And the last night, the final Saturday of the festival featured Tim Brock’s brand new restoration of Charlie’s score for The Gold Rush. This one was performed with the film on the Piazza Maggiore, the large square in Bologna. In other words, it was outside. So, the gentle breezes and overwhelming crowd came together to affect Charlie’s film and music and really, it was almost an overwhelming experience. We all forget how beautiful the score is for The Gold Rush.

CHAPLIN E L'IMMAGINE And, to top it all off, if indeed anything further is needed, was Sam Stourdzé’s “Chaplin in Pictures” exhibit (Chaplin e l’immagine) housed in Bologna at the beautiful Sala Borsa. I have written about this exhibit in a previous newsletter, so will not do so here, except to relate the opinion of my friend Alessandra Garofalo who mentioned that the juxtaposition of Charlie’s photos and the renaissance architecture of the building worked together to make the exhibit a sort of work of art in itself. After seeing the exhibit again at the Sala Borsa, I’m very sad that I was unable to do what I had originally wanted to do-that is, experience the exhibit in each of its venues, for certainly, it would be a new adventure each and every time.Finally, as promised, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the festival often turns out to be one of the rare gatherings of Chaplin scholars. I chose four men who I felt could give very different perspectives and also who had not been interviewed for the newsletter before. They are:

Chuck Maland (left) and Hooman Mehran at the Cineteca library working in the Chaplin archiveChuck Maland is the author of the acclaimed Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image, for which he received many awards and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, and Professor of English and Cinema Studies at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
Chuck is also interviewed from time to time for Chaplin documentaries of one sort or another (BBC radio and A & E Entertainment, to name two). He has recently completed a book on City Lights for the British Film Institute and will be working on one for Progetto Chaplin this year and next.

Hooman Mehran is a co-editor of The Chaplin Review, and all around film comedy afficianado. Hooman has written widely on Chaplin and has presented his work most recently at the Charlie Chaplin conference hosted by the BFI in 2005 and this year’s Kyoto Chaplin conference.

Frank Scheide is the other co-editor of The Chaplin Review and cataloguer of Chaplin’s Mutual film outtakes for the BFI. Frank is also an Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Arkansas and is on the board of the Buster Keaton Celebration in Iola, Kansas (as is Hooman).

Lee Tsiantis is a Rights Analyst in the Turner Entertainment Legal Group in Atlanta. His work tools are the studio legal documents of all the films that Ted Turner bought in 1986 (the pre-1986 MGM, pre-1950 Warner Bros. and RKO films). In working with his clients in Turner Classic Movies, who needed his research assistance to respond to a viewer inquiry, he untangled the rights to six long-unseen RKO films made between 1933-38, including A Man to Remember (1938), allowing the channel to purchase the films’ copyrights and showcase them on TCM in April with the theme “RKO: Lost and Found.”
And here is the question I asked all four:

Charlie began to be concerned that his work was “old fashioned” at least in 1967 when the movie critics overwhelmingly labeled his new film A Countess from Hong Kong with thisexhibits at CHAPLIN E L'IMMAGINE, Sala Borsa adjective. Yet, in 2007, Chaplin and his work seem to have had a resurgence. Movie critics once staunchly opposed to Chaplin’s work as “too sentimental,” have engaged in re-examinations of it with the result that they are now both admirers and promoters. Both Richard Schickel and David Thompson are clear examples of this. How do you explain Chaplin’s seeming health in 2007 and do you think it will continue? Why or why not?

 

Chuck:

The claim that Chaplin’s work was old-fashioned actually predates A Countess from Hong Kong by at least three decades. Because he knew that the comic pantomime of the tramp character was central to his success, Chaplin wisely became an aesthetic conservative (even as he started to become more progressive politically) when he resisted dialogue entirely in City Lights and for the most part in Modern Times, which came out seven or eight years after nearly every American movie house had been wired for the talkies. That’s a major reason that Otis Ferguson-one of the most consistently interesting American reviewers in the middle and later 1930s-wrote in his 1936 New Republic review that “Modern Times is about the last thing they should have called the new Chaplin picture.” He went on to complain that many of the scenes, like the skating in the department store, seemed only like reworkings of the comic shorts from the 1910s. Yet “old-fashioned” is in the eyes of the beholder: what’s old-fashioned to one person is mastery of comic form to the next.It is true, though, that for a time in the 1980s and 1990s it became fashionable to criticize Chaplin’s “sentimentality” in favor of Buster Keaton’s stoic response to the world as expressed through his comic persona and films. I attribute this to a couple of factors. First, Keaton’s silent features and many of his short films came available on laserdisc in the Art of Buster Keaton collection, which allowed cineastes to review his work the way they could earlier with Chaplin films on VHS. Also, in the U.S. at least, as film studies was institutionalizing, struggling for respectability, and film theory was becoming ascendant, Keaton’s films somehow seemed more interesting while Chaplin’s sentiment seemed too mainstream and Victorian, only remotely connected to the modern world.

Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand in MABEL'S STRANGE PREDICAMENTI do think that’s changed some in the last decade. I attribute some of the renewed interest in Chaplin-and acceptance of the breadth of emotions evoked in his films-to the work of Progetto Chaplin and the encouragement of Association Chaplin. By digitizing and making available to scholars the rich variety of materials from the Chaplin studios, they make it possible for more people to study and think about Chaplin and his movies. And by encouraging public exhibition of Chaplin’s films with live orchestral accompaniment and of museum exhibits about his life and work, like the ones we’ve encountered in Bologna this week, audiences are able to experience Chaplin’s films in a way that makes them come alive and shows viewers why Chaplin has been considered one of the world’s great filmmakers and performers.
Because even more of the films are being preserved-as in the current cooperative venture to restore Chaplin’s Keystones-we’re able to get a better sense of what Chaplin was doing early in his career.

Back in the 1960s Andrew Sarris wrote that “viewed as a whole, Chaplin’s career is a cinematic biography of the highest level of artistic expression,” and I still find that assertion convincing. Chaplin’s sentiment-as expressed in movies like The Kid and City Lights-will never appeal to everyone. Human beings are too complex and various for that to happen. However, for anyone interested in the history of cinema and its major filmmakers, encountering Chaplin’s work should provide ample rewards for a long time.
exhibits at CHAPLIN E L'IMMAGINE, Sala Borsa

Hooman:

Chaplin was being called old-fashioned by critics long before A Countess from Hong Kong. There are scattered references to this in reviews dating as far back as the 1920s, and by the time of The Great Dictator, it had become a chorus. But having said that, Chaplin’s popularity never depended on his technique – it was always the way he connected with his audiences that was important. He lost that connection with critics and the audiences in the 1940s, but then had a critical resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s, after which his star fell at the expense of Buster Keaton’s. There does seem to be some sort of a comeback in the eyes of critics now at the beginning of the 21st century (but NOT with American audiences, who remain indifferent). If this resurgence is ever going to amount to anything substantial, it will hinge again on his ability as an actor to directly connect with the viewer, and not on his sophistication as a storyteller.
Frank:

These questions bring a number of issues to mind: Countess, is an issue unto itself. The seemingly simple notion of trying to define a perception of Chaplin is complicated, because this perspective changes every five to ten years–not only from generation to generation but from country to country. Countess is definitely not a film of its time, and I was really curious concerning how it would be perceived when shown as a part of Cinema Ritrovato this year. Critics did indeed call Countess old-fashioned at the time of its release. Usually when this phrase is employed it means that someone is continuing to do something in an archaic fashion. But Chaplin wasn’t repeating himself with Countess cinematically. If this movie is old-fashioned, what group of pictures are we comparing it with? It doesn’t look like the Rock Hudson/Doris Day type of farce. It’s still different. If this movie harkens back to another time in Charlie’s career, it was when he was working at the Circle Theater with Jerry [Epstein] and Sydney [Chaplin, Jr.]. And so, I don’t think A Countess from Hong Kong initially was old-fashioned. It just wasn’t the type of movie that people were seeing at the time it came out. We’re now far enough away from the late 1960s that we can consider this picture outside of the period in which it was made, and it either works or it doesn’t work as a film in its own right. I think that time has been rather good to A Countess from Hong Kong. It was meant to be the kind of light-hearted farce that Charlie and his fellow collaborators enjoyed producing at the Circle Theater. Unfortunately, the
negative reception was particularly disappointing for these filmmakers after the enjoyment they shared while putting it together.

entrance to CHAPLIN E L'IMMAGINE I believe that film scholars are currently showing a greater appreciation for Chaplin as actor, director, choreographer, composer, and commentator of his times, but general audiences may be a bit less receptive. Speaking as a teacher, I don’t think casual viewers instantly gravitate to the art and novelty of black and white film the way they once did when channel hopping on television, for example. That said, many of my students still appreciate Chaplin films I show in the classroom after some preparation. If filmmakers from the past are to find a new audience, potential viewers may need the kind of exposure and training long demanded for developing an appreciation for such comparable specialized art forms as opera and ballet.

Lee:

Chaplin’s work, the scholarly reception of that work, as well as his reputation seems to me alive and well in 2007 — at least among the mainstream of film scholars/film lovers; embracing silent films in general, alas, remains problematic for the mass market. Within this mainstream, I’m willing to attribute Chaplin’s health largely to the fact that all of his major work is available for viewing on home video. One simply can’t assess (or, for that matter, reassess) an artist’s work unless the work is able to be seen, preferably in restored, optimal quality prints or video transfers. Whatever the shortcomings of the domestic 2003-04 release of the MK2/Warner Home Video (PAL-to-NTSC transfer issues which marginally cripple the originals’ pitch/speed), Chaplin’s major 1918-57 output is available for all to view — and in source material that’s often generated from well-preserved original negative materials thanks to Association Chaplin and the restoration efforts of L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories.

Cineteca courtyard featuring the sopatone film camera It’s my observation, largely from being able to see the films from the vantage point of public screenings at Il Cinema Ritrovato festivals in Bologna in 2006-7, that Chaplin’s “sentimentality,” which has usually been proffered by detractors as his weakness compared to his fellow genius Keaton, simply does not appear to be as severe a liability as these later film commentators would have it — in fact, and especially in the case of the still heart-wrenching The Kid, the film’s pathos (what I prefer to call it) is often quite powerful emotionally, and reveals itself as a distinct strength. Chaplin’s imagining Calvero the clown’s (that is, his own) death in Limelight, has been cited as a high point of brazen artistic hubris, but it actually comes across, as Bernardo Bertolucci has so accurately observed, as the death of “The Tramp” as envisaged by its creator. If this character is to pass on, why not give it a fitting requiem? The right has been earned.

As long as his films are able to be seen by a mass audience, I think Chaplin’s reputation and his deservedly exalted status in film history will prevail.

 

Fellow Performers: Part I

Fellow Performers: Part I
Musician-Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Michael Cartellone


This month will begin three months of my interviews with fellow performers. The first is Michael Cartellone. I became acquainted with Michael initially from the newsletters, or maybe it was my website, I can’t remember. But we emailed back and forth for a couple of years about various little pieces of Chaplin information. He mentioned to me that he’s been an admirer of Charlie’s since his childhood, which I always find fascinating. Then this year, Michael offered me tickets and backstage passes to a Skynyrd concert near to me and so my man Hank and I happily accepted the offer. The visit backstage with Michael was outstanding. He is a very gregarious, down-to-earth sort of individual and we couldn’t have felt more welcome. And, since Michael is from Cleveland, Ohio, his mother, father, sister and family and brother all attended the show and we got to visit with everyone during that incredible hour backstage. Michael’s father let loose of some candid stories about Michael and his boyhood Charlie devotion. Great stuff! Anyway, after enjoying an amazing concert from the fourth row and watching all the acrobatics involved in playing the drums, I think I understand it all now. I’m very interested in the special sort of affinity some performers seem to have with Charlie, and so let’s allow to Michael get started telling us all about just that.


Michael Cartellone with his painting of John Lennon and Yoko OnoMichael Cartellone is a multi-platinum recording artist and drummer for the legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. His other recording and/or touring credits include: Damn Yankees, Peter Frampton, John Fogerty, Cher, and Freddie Mercury. Michael is also an accomplished painter and has exhibited in Art Galleries from New York to Los Angeles. You can view his Artwork at www.michaelcartellone.com. How did you initially become interested in Charlie Chaplin’s work and why do you think you’ve stayed interested for so long?

When I was 15 years old, I saw The Gold Rush in a film history class in school. I loved everything about it. I can vividly remember my first glimpse of Charlie, shuffling across that glacier with the bear following him. How could you not laugh out loud? Also, it was my introduction to someone using pathos so brilliantly, as he did throughout his career. Shortly afterward, I discovered PBS was airing the First National and Mutual shorts on television. I remember how much I would look forward to those and my lifelong admiration was cemented. The more I studied Charlie’s work, the more connected I felt to it and what he was trying to say. His films actually improved my sense of humor, made me look at life a little differently and I believe, helped make me a better person. I’ve read other people’s accounts of their introduction to Charlie and have seen that I’m not alone in these sentiments. He really knew how to reach the everyman. Charlie’s films have never lost this impact on me.

Unlike some of the other Chaplin admirers that I’ve interviewed, you have a special connection with him because of your musical talents. How would you say you relate to Charlie as a fellow musician?

Charlie’s acting is visually very rhythmic. I noticed that on my first viewing of The Gold Rush, with “The Dance of the Rolls.” Being a drummer, I actually hear and feel a pulse when I watch that scene in the silent form. His movements have been compared to a ballet dancer and I believe this is because of his natural musical sensitivity. As you know, he wasn’t a trained musician, which underscores the fact that he had this ability within. He wrote beautiful, haunting melodies for his films, which I love and find myself humming often. His use of flowing bass lines, which were dark and moody, were also ahead of their time. I even hear some of Charlie’s musical influence popping up in contemporary music. For example, Phillip Glass recently composed the soundtrack to a film called The Illusionist– which I find very Chaplin-esque, musically. John Barry also made sure to evoke Charlie’s musical spirit, when he composed the soundtrack for Richard Attenborough’s beautiful film. Of course, this tipping of the hat is the biggest musical tribute of all.

In addition to your admiration of Charlie’s creative work, I know that you are also a collector of Chaplin memorabilia. Can you talk about your collection and maybe focus on one or two of its most important items and how you came by them? Why do you think you collect (how did you get started)?

Michael with the Chaplin cane Like others, I started collecting all the films and books I could find, perhaps, to feel physically connected to Charlie in some way and to learn more about him. In 1984 on a whim, I wrote a letter to Oona Chaplin and was happily shocked to receive an answer. I have alovely return letter (which included a photo she took of Charlie on the set of A Countess from Hong Kong) framed in my home. Also, from an auction house in Greenwich, Connecticut a few years ago, I purchased a Chaplin bamboo cane. Charlie had given the cane to actress Gloria Swanson on the City Lights set. In 1977, she had given it to a famous New York City radio personality, Joe Franklin. He auctioned it about thirty years later to me. I met Joe at a movie screening in NY recently and introduced myself. He was happy the cane found a good home and made sure to impress upon me that I should never sell it- needless to say, I don’t plan to. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more important Hollywood relic than Charlie Chaplin’s cane. I couldn’t be more proud to own it.

I understand you are also a painter and as such, working on a painting that Charlie is in. Can you talk about your choice of Charlie as such a subject?

Thanks to Kate Guyonvarch for this newspaper clipping. I had an idea to paint my heroes sharing a moment together: Charlie, Harry Houdini and my father. Being fascinated with the 1920’s and loving my adopted home of New York City, I combined all of the above in a photo realistic black and white painting. Consequently, the painting shows the three of them, sitting on a bench (my Dad between Charlie and Houdini) in a busy street scene, sharing a laugh- it’s very Norman Rockwell-esque. Charlie is wearing a cap, casual suit and tie and is not made up in his Tramp persona. He is aged about 40, as are Houdini and my Dad, so they appear to be contemporaries. Actually, Charlie and Houdini did meet in Hollywood once and took a photo together, which you may have seen. It was fun painting Charlie in this context, but only the studied Chaplin fan would recognize him. I did this purposely- so it was about the men themselves and what they mean to me- not their public personas. This is easily the most personal painting I’ve ever done.

If you had the chance to meet and talk with Charlie today, what would you discuss-what would you want to know?

This is a great question, Lisa. I’ve often wondered this myself. I recall Charlie being in a few dreams of mine actually, but I seem to remember being awestruck. Anyway, those who know me would tell you that I’ve never been one to start political conversations. But, I would be curious to talk with him about what he went through with the “Communist Witch Hunt” part of his life and being barred re-entry to the United States. It was such an unfortunate thing that someone like Charlie who had brought so much happiness to people for so many years was forced to endure. I think he may like to express those feelings and would appreciate that someone would ask. As impressive as that may seem, I probably couldn’t resist following that thought provoking question, with asking how he filmed the lion cage scene in The Circus (which I try to figure out every time I watch it). It would also be fun, just reliving some of his fond memories of the early Hollywood Pioneer days as well. Of course, I would like to think I could make a meaningful impression upon him. I don’t know if I could, honestly. The one thing I would surely do is thank him for everything he gave to us.

It is interesting to me that Charlie seems to have so many rock ‘n roll connections. His nephew was Jefferson Airplane’s drummer Spencer Dryden, who just died recently, and he’s been immortalized in songs such as Lou Reed’s “City Lights” and more recently J-Five’s “Modern Times.” Do you think this is a coincidence, or do you see some deeper connection between the non-conformist or anti-authoritarian personae that many rockers embody and, possibly, similar attributes possessed by Charlie’s Little Tramp character-or maybe some other connection?

Michael outside the Chaplin studio stage door, Hollywood Well, the Little Tramp (and for that matter, the real Charlie) had an anti-authoritarian quality that most rockers have, which is an interesting connection now that you mention it. However, I can tell you another rock connection to Charlie that I experienced first hand. His studio lot in Hollywood at one point was the home of A&M Records (now of course, the Jim Hensen/Muppets Company owns the lot). A&M built a state of the art recording studio on the grounds (where the studio swimming pool used to be) and I had the good fortune to record there a few times. The first time, I made sure to explore every inch of the place. Knowing the original layout, it was fun to discover that some buildings (and their contents) remained completely untouched. The carpenter’s workshop still had ancient tools, for example (although now I’ve seen them side by side with Miss Piggy heads, which was bizarre). I’ve been back to the lot many times and have seen more and more: the film developing lab and it’s storage vault directly below, the main soundstage (where I’m a little ashamed to admit playing catch with a football), Charlie’s personal office/dressing room and on the last visit, the screening room (restored to its original splendor). I have to say though, the memory I cherish most was from my first visit, when I walked in Charlie’s footprints in the cement sidewalk. I can’t even put into words what that experience was like. For those of you who don’t know: when the studio was first built, Charlie put on his Tramp shoes and shuffled through wet cement. He then wrote his name in the last section where his feet had come to a stop. The comedian Red Skelton, who later owned the lot, took this piece of the sidewalk when he sold the studio. I would have done the same thing. Even now, I still find it very surreal visiting the lot and maybe it’s me, but you can feel Charlie’s presence.

 

Interviewing Dr. Ono Hiroyuki

Interviewing Dr. Ono Hiroyuki


This month, I interviewed Dr. Ono Hiroyuki, the reigning wunderkind of things Chaplin in Japan. I first met Ono at the London Charlie Chaplin conference a couple of years ago, where it was clear that most folks “in the know” knew about his energy and devotion to Chaplin and his seemingly effortless ability to move mountains when it came to putting on big events in Charlie’s honor. He was already garnering support and enthusiasm for his Chaplin Kono conference that was held well over a year ago already. Since that time, as you will see below, Ono has helped to ignite Chaplin in Japan-or should I say re-ignite-because really the enthusiasm for him has always been there just a little bit under the surface and somewhat dormant.

I met up with Ono by chance in Bologna, Italy last May (May a year ago) when I was there approving graphic choices for Un comico vede il mundo (A Comedian Sees the World). He had been in Bologna doing research at the archive, of course, and I had the pleasure of joining Tim Brock and Cecilia Cenciarelli at dinner on Ono’s last night in town. It was during this dinner that I found out that among Ono’s many talents is his ability to speak good Italian! He is, indeed, an amazing individual. I hope you all enjoy learning much more about him.


Dr. Ono Hiroyuki Ono Hiroyuki was born in Osaka, Japan. He is a film and theatre critic, and director-playwright-composer of the Tottemo Benri Musical Theatre Company. He is also the author of the book Chaplin: Mikokai NG film no Zembo (The Whole Story of Chaplin Out-takes) and The Official Brochure of the Chaplin Film Festival 2003-2004 in Japan. He supervised the Japanese version of the Chaplin DVD set released in 2004. Ono’s musical pieces include “Utsukushii Hito (The Beautiful Man)”, which won the Alice Award in 2003. He lives in Kyoto. He is currently planning to revive the kabuki version of City Lights with Ichikawa Somegoro the 7th. What is the Chaplin Society of Japan and how did you come to found it?

The Chaplin Society of Japan is a Chaplin fan club as well as an academic society for Chaplin researchers. Chaplin’s films are very funny even for those who are seeing them for the first time, and we can find something new even when we see them for the 100th time. We are open to beginners as well as researchers.

Chaplin has been extremely popular in Japan. At the same time, many people still believe the “legends” about him –rumors such as “he is Jewish.” And Chaplin is always considered as a man of love and peace rather than the great comedian. I thought we should modernize our knowledge on the greatest figure of the cinema in this country. Also it is simply fun to communicate with other Chaplin enthusiasts. I have learned many things from older people who have seen Chaplin onscreen for a long time. Someone told me, for instance, that when he saw Modern Times in 1938, there was no strike scene!

Why do you think Chaplin and his art have such a special appeal to the Japanese?

It is said that Japanese people like human drama with laughter and tears. We are very sentimental. We like the sentimentality in his films. Also many Japanese people consider him as kind of “philosopher.” Almost all Japanese know the famous line in Limelight: “All it needs is courage, imagination and a little dough.” To be honest, I do not like the way the Japanese view Chaplin. There is, for sure, something sentimental in his films, but we can see the cruelty of humans there, too. However, we tend to neglect such aspects.

Charlie Chaplin with the mayor of Tokyo during his 1932 visit of JapanAnyway, Chaplin is still extremely popular. We have a 12-year-old girl who is a member and she nicknames herself Edna. I appeared on an educational TV program on Chaplin every Tuesday last June, and my book for Chaplin beginners has sold 50,000 copies. I get at least one phone call every other day from a TV station saying, “We are planning to make a new program on Chaplin” or “We are making a quiz show. Can you please tell me how many shrimp tempuras Chaplin ate when he visited Japan?” I supervised the Chaplin DVD box set which cost 400 dollars, and 7,000 sets sold in just one week! –while the Keaton box sets have sold only 400 copies. Sadly, Keaton is forgotten. I once asked my students who were the three great comedians. Everybody could answer Chaplin, but I have never met someone who can name the other two. Why is Chaplin so popular? –I do not know, but he is popular!

Can you talk about the second Chaplin conference in Kyoto in March 2007? How did it differ from last year’s conference?

The main theme of the conference was “Chaplin and War.” Chaplin was involved in the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War. And now The Great Dictator has become a revival hit in the era of the Iraq war. Thinking about Chaplin and war teaches many things to us living in this world of confusion.

We had an exhibition of 90 pieces of the production designs of Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux in the David Robison collection, which were shown in public for the first time, and precious materials such as the draft of the last speech of The Great Dictator which was displayed thanks to Kate Guyonvarch and Cecilia Cenciarelli.

Ichikawa Somegoro, Charles Sistovaris and Ono HiroyukiWe had many guests including Charles (Charly) Sistovaris, the grandson of the comedian, and the most poplar kabuki actor, Ichikawa Somegoro the 7th. Mr. Ichikawa and I are planning to revive the kabuki version of City Lights. I know Charly has starred in the Bejart’s Ballet, so here ballet met kabuki through love for Chaplin! Also, Chaplin saw Nakamura Kichiemon the First, the famous kabuki actor, at the dressing room of the Kabukiza Theatre in 1932. Mr. Ichikawa is the great grandson of Nakamura. It was very moving that the grandson of the comedian and the great grandson of the kabuki actor met after 75 years.

We also held the first Kyoto Silent Film Festival with the help of Davide Pozzi at Bologna and Tochigi Akira at the National Film Centre. Tim Brock conducted Shoulder Arms. The cherry blossom season in Kyoto was the Chaplin season this year!What other Chaplin projects are you currently working on?

I have just finished my new book on the Chaplin Mutual out-takes, in which I described the contents of every shot. Then the exhibition from last year’s conference, “Chaplin and Japan-the Kono Toraichi exhibition” will tour a few cities in Japan. The exhibition was well received in Sacile last year, so I hope we can do it in other countries. Then I will supervise the new special TV program on Chaplin and Kono, I will write a new book on Kono, a revival of the kabuki version of City Lights, as I mentioned, and then the conference next year and many more.

Back row from right to left: David Robinson, Kate Guyonvarch, Tim Brock, Cecilia Cenciarelli, et al.

And, before we go, dear readers, Dr. Ono would like your input on next year’s conference theme. He has suggested the following as possibilities: Chaplin and music, Chaplin and America, Chaplin and his roots, or Chaplin and technology. Do you like any of these or do you have an idea of your own? Please send us a message!

 

Interviewing Today’s Young Chaplin Scholars

Interviewing Today’s Young Chaplin Scholars


Last weekend I was attending a conference in Boston and noticed on the schedule a paper entitled “The Gold Rush (1925) on the Other Side of the Pacific.” The presentation wasn’t really on Charlie or his work, but even so, the research the young Chinese graduate student was doing for her dissertation project-tracing the significant influence silent film had (she was focusing in this talk just on silent comedy) on bringing western ideas and western lifeways to Shanghai China in the 1920s-I found exceptionally interesting. She had discovered, for instance, that Charlie’s publicity machine had used the savvy strategy of sending seemingly personal Chinese New Year cards to citizens’ homes, greeting them in the traditional Chinese way, but also taking the opportunity to introduce both himself and his latest film.

As this recent experience proves, the longevity-the immortality-of anything and anyone can be measured by the enthusiasm and dedication of the young people coming up for that something or someone. In this month’s newsletter, I have interviewed three young Chaplin scholars who offer us a glimpse of the future. With the online Chaplin archive that Cineteca di Bologna is creating and the general opening-up of Chaplin’s papers, records, etc. to research-all developments that have occurred only in the last five years or so-it will be ever more interesting to see the projects that arise. So much of the archive has been untouched by scholars; there is so much more to do. So perhaps this newsletter is as much a call to action as it is a peek into the research now being done. As a scholar myself, I look forward to the work and workers to come.


For this newsletter, I have interviewed Sarah Kenney, Andrea Dresseno, and Kendra Lisum.
Sarah Kenney SK: Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Sarah Kenney is a college student at the University of Memphis, studying film and technical theatre. In her spare time, she works on various theatrical events, directs a puppet troupe of 14, and writes short stories as well as scripts. A Chaplin enthusiast, she hopes to devote part of her future career to the legacy of Charlie Chaplin in the 21st century.
Andrea Dresseno AD: Andrea Dresseno was born in Vicenza, Italy in 1980. After receiving a high school diploma, he graduated in 2006 in Art, Music and Film at the University of Bologna, with a dissertation about the Chaplin Project, where he has worked since 2002. Andrea has also been writing for several years for videogames magazines. He currently lives in Bologna.
Kendra Lisum KL: Kendra Lisum was born and raised in Newton Falls, Ohio. Last October, she was the featured student presenter at The Buster Keaton Celebration in Iola, Kansas where she spoke on Mabel Normand. She recently graduated with an English degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, and now resides in Missoula, Montana.

 

An Interview with Kate Guyonvarch

An Interview with Kate Guyonvarch


This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Guyonvarch, directrice of Association Chaplin, Roy Export and Bubbles, Inc. The first time I saw Kate was at the now defunct Chaplin Society UK’s meeting in London in 2000. I think it was Thomas Burke who called Charlie a shiny white light, because you could just see the energy busting out of his pores. Well, this was the impression I had of Kate, one that hasn’t proven wrong over the five years now that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of knowing her. Her energy and creativity are, in fact, well-represented by my beacon metaphor, but she is more than that. Much more. Her faith and belief in me and my work have changed my life and she has enthusiasm enough for any such project-be it business, research or otherwise. And, just as important, you’ll never meet a warmer person, if you travel to the ends of the earth looking for one.


Kate Guyonvarch et al What exactly is Association Chaplin and what does it do?

The Association Chaplin is a Swiss association for the protection of the name, image and moral right linked to the works of Charlie Chaplin. Six out of eight of his children are members (the other two didn’t want to belong) and Josephine Chaplin is director. She manages decisions that are taken, reviews and approves Roy Export or Bubbles contracts, and oversees complicated issues that are sent out for vote to her brothers and sisters (excluding Geraldine, who at her request was bought out by one of her siblings a few years ago). If the majority of the family votes for a project to go ahead, then the office has leave to deal with it.

The work I do other than for the Association is for Roy Export, owner of the films made from 1918 onwards and all the Chaplin archives, and Bubbles Inc., the company that owns Chaplin’s image for merchandising purposes. People tend to think the Association Chaplin handles all that, as it is an easier and more identifiable name to remember, and I realise it is confusing because it is always the same people representing the different entities, but each entity has specific rights or tasks.

Put a face (or faces) on the organization for us, if you would. How did you come to work for the Chaplins and how has your role evolved over the years?

I started as a secretary for the Chaplin office in Paris in 1982, working for Rachel Ford and her then assistant Pam Paumier. In those days there was far, far less work to do. They had been very busy in the 50s and 60s, and early 70s, and then things gradually wound down. When Miss Ford retired, I continued to work for Pam, who with Lady Chaplin’s support, opened things up more to the outside world, in particular for 1989, the centenary of Chaplin’s birth. Pam retired in the early 1990s.

Being from a different generation from Miss Ford and Pam, less “protective” perhaps, and with the support of the Chaplin children (same generation as me…), the majority of whom have a firm attitude of “duty-holder” as opposed to “rights-holder,” my aims were and still are to make Chaplin as available and present as possible, and to secure the archives for posterity to enable the family to say to the world “we have done our bit, done our best, to preserve and promote his legacy.” Gradually, thanks to enthusiasm, huge smiles, hard work, and above all the help of many people worldwide working on so many different projects, including you Lisa, we seem to have been building up more interest, and it makes me very happy.

The more interest, the more work : my assistant Claire Byrski has been with us for about three years and it changed my life to have her. And Charly Sistovaris, Josephine’s son, is our website and IT manager. It’s great to think that he is ensuring the propagation of information about his grandfather.

We heard about the Charlie Chaplin archive in Bologna a newsletter or two ago, do you have anything to add about it? Is the Montreux, Switzerland location open to researchers? Charlie Chaplin press book clipping album

The Bologna cinemathèque has been scanning the archives for the last five years, and the whole job should be finished in 2007. We would never have got this monumental task done ourselves, so I am incredibly grateful to Gian Luca Farinelli for instigating it and to the Bologna Cassa di Risparmio foundation for financing it. I hope people will enjoy browsing the catalogue and reading some of the documents when it is all up there. The things we have found are amazing, but my personal passion is for the press books in Montreux, which are too enormous and full of clippings to scan as yet. I absolutely adore taking time off from the office and going through them, taking notes so I can tell researchers which albums to go to when they need something in particular. I think I’m the first person ever to spend so much time doing this, which is a great privilege.

The location in Montreux is open to researchers if they have prior permission from us, and I stipulate what they can and cannot look at.

Are there any new research projects afoot you can tell us about?
When all the scanning is complete, including as much of the press books as we can, we will bring out a huge book like the Taschen Kubrick one or the Phaidon Andy Warhol one with all the best bits from the archives, but it will take a long time to curate.

We are looking forward to your, Lisa’s, biography of Sydney Chaplin, whose life is a mystery to us all. The family are a bit apprehensive of what you might dredge up!

I’m not aware of any other important research projects right now, but it is always nice to learn of students becoming interested in Chaplin and writing about him, even if only school projects.

Can you update us on the Charlie Chaplin heritage museum project?

The Chaplin Museum in Switzerland is currently blocked in its planning permission by an opposition from a neighbour, who does not want trucks and building and traffic and so has decided to oppose the project for as long as he can (in Switzerland democracy goes a little too far..!). Once the tribunal has ruled him out, hopefully later this year, the work should begin, and will take at least 2 years. If all goes well, this should be an exciting venue, not just a house to visit, but also a place to return to again and again because of all the things happening there.

2007 is Charlie’s 30th anniversary year. Can you talk specifically about what has been planned so far in terms of exhibits, performances, festivals, etc.?

Check out the website, http://www.charliechaplin.com/.

Interviewing Fans and Admirers – Part I

Interviewing Fans and Admirers – Part I

This month I have interviewed a group of four “typical” Charlie Chaplin fans/admirers for the newsletter. This will be one of two newsletters this year in which I interview the fans. I have always found it interesting to see how folks first become attracted to Charlie and then also why they stay attracted. So, let’s see how these particular admirers present themselves on these and other issues. This newsletter, we have

Describe your first encounter with a Chaplin film and why you think you connected with it.

AG: The first Chaplin movie I saw was The Great Dictator. I must say that the first part of the film, during the war, didn’t impress me very much. What I really liked was the first Dictator’s speech. Even today this film is one of my favorites. At the time I saw, however, it just brought me into contact with Charlie’s work and it wasn’t until some months later when I bought some Mutual shorts in DVD that I really felt for him. So maybe I should consider the movie One A.M., the first film that caused me to love Charlie’s clever comedy. I think I connected with it, and with most of the other Chaplin sketches, because I think his comic moments are timeless. You can apply them to people today and they are still funny, no matter the difference in costumes or car types. Also, I really like the way Chaplin could see situations. He could find that particular moment that made even the most tragic subjects, like poverty and war, seem humorous.Charlie Chaplin's letter to a fanCVR: My first encounter with Chaplin was when I saw the short film The Cure. Afterwards I got The Gold Rush and Modern Times. Then, when I watched Limelight, I became a Chaplin fan for life. When I discovered Chaplin, I was in a really bad period in my life and these films really helped me. I can’t emphasize this enough. When I watch a Chaplin film, I feel he understands me and shares my points of view. I identify with him. He is the poet of silence, the humanist, the pacifist, and the one who really cares about the poor. Chaplin is the romantic and the lover of beauty. He is the artist and the genius. All that is in his films and music.

LH: Very late one evening when flipping past Turner Classic Movies, I saw an older gentleman poised in a chair and, because he was delivering such an impassioned speech with that regal posture, I continued watching – eyes glued to the TV. The film, of course, was Limelight, and I was only 16. But even then I realized that, as far removed as I was from the pre-WWI setting of the film (and even farther from the music hall culture), the intensity and sincerity with which that gentleman reflected on life trapped my attention and has held it since. I guess I’m one of the few who has seen Charles the Gentleman before seeing Charlie the Tramp.

LJ: I recall seeing The Mutuals on television as a young child. Easy Street, The Pawnshop, The Cure, The Immigrant, and The Rink stick in my mind from those viewings. They were run at Christmas-time. I watched them with my father, with whom I often enjoyed watching classic comedies. I found the films very fast and very funny. I realized, at the time, that they must have been quite old, but that in no way affected my enjoyment of them. I liked the Tramp character – he was high energy, so lively.

As Chaplin’s films weren’t on television very often when I was growing up, I lost track of his work over the years. I focused more on comedians of the sound era whose output were TV staples (Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, and The Three Stooges, among others).

My more recent interest in Chaplin began about 7 years ago when AMC ran a raft of his feature films. As an adult, I was taken with his wit, his physical grace, and the richness and subtlety, amidst the slapstick, of the humor. I was also impressed by his direction of other actors, and the way his scores perfectly matched the emotional tone he established in each scene.

How has your attraction to Chaplin and his work affected your life—your entertainment choices? What is your favorite film and why?AG: What is my favorite film? This is the most difficult of all the questions. I like them all. Everyone has something special to be in competition for the first position. Maybe I like Limelight the least and also some of the very first shorts.

CVR: I’m more positive and for me it is now easier to deal with bad periods in my life. I discovered a lot of great music, thanks to him, like adagios, cello and so on and I have developed an interest in the circus. City Lights is maybe my favorite film. For me it is really hard to decide, but if I have to make a choice, let’s say City Lights, because it is probably the film where the poetry, beauty and romanticism are most potent. Anyway, I also love The Kid, The Gold Rush, The Circus, and Modern Times.

Charlie Chaplin in THE KIDLH: I’ve adopted as my mantra Chaplin’s quote, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” I try to see life now as that comedy. The tragedy will always be there, but if Chaplin, who led a life filled with despair, could find the humor and the relevance in it, then I feel I can attempt to see it that way also.

On the entertainment side of things, being interested in Chaplin’s career has motivated me to watch silent films, which I never would have done before watching City Lights or Modern Times – two of my Chaplin favorites. City Lights has that timeless love story quality, and the humor encased in that shell remains amusing. Do we not still make buffoons out of ourselves when falling in love? And wouldn’t we all love the chance to be our lover’s hero and provide them with a chance to see his or her life’s vision?

If City Lights appeals to my sense of romanticism, Modern Times appeals to the Victorian scholar in me. The mechanization Chaplin portrays in his cog factory was also seen as a serious threat to humanity by many Victorian intellectuals. Walter Benjamin — who wrote The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which was published the same year that MT was released – comments that mechanical reproduction of art changes the masses’ reaction toward art. “The reactionary attitude toward a Picasso painting changes into the progressive reaction toward a Chaplin movie.” I’m aware that Chaplin saw his film-making as an art form, but I wonder if he didn’t feel similarly to Benjamin. That is, could the intellectual aesthete in Chaplin have been commenting in MT on the inability of the masses to see his precious work as the masterpieces they were? Or did Chaplin occasionally feel like a cog lost in the machine of the film industry posing for photos, attending opening nights, keeping up with running a studio, etc.? And, of course, there’s the obvious critique that mechanization costs jobs and can destroy spirits. Plus, the musical score is just brilliant. MT is, in my opinion, a much more cerebral film than, say, Monsieur Verdoux or Limelight.

LJ: My interest in Chaplin has certainly changed the way I spend my leisure time. In addition to collecting his films, I enjoy researching his life and work, and posting this information online. It’s become a rather active hobby. I check through books, articles, news stories (new and archival), and search the Web. I am particularly fond of locating Chaplin information in unusual places, i.e. a mention in another celebrity’s diary from long ago, as well as newly published books not specifically about Chaplin. And, of course, I enjoy interacting with other Chaplin aficionados on the Net.

My favorite Chaplin film is Modern Times. I see the things he railed against still prevalent in the world – poverty, loss of human dignity, homelessness, inhumanity in the workplace, the misuse of technology. I find his work heartfelt and deeply moving, in addition to being very funny.

In terms of entertainment choices, my interest in Chaplin has led me to seek out other silent comedians. I’ve enjoyed Buster Keaton’s work for many years, and, more recently, have sought out the films of Roscoe Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, and many others from that era.

What in particular motivates you to continue your devotion to Chaplin and his work? What would you like to see happen in the future in terms of commemorating Chaplin’s work, making it accessible, etc.? AG: I think what motivates me is the curiosity to find something new I didn’t know about him. Even the smallest particularity would be a joy for me. For the future, I hope to see him more frequently on the television or, even better, on the big screen.

CVR: My identification with him and all of his work–above all the Little Tramp. Chaplin cannot be defined by place and time. I’d like to see and listen to a live orchestra playing all the Chaplin music. To have film festivals and conferences, exhibitions about his life and work…but I’d like them to be shown in all possible countries.

LH: Chaplin was a fascinating person; his personality had so many facets that it’s intriguing to discover the bits and pieces that motivated him and see those appear in his films. I occasionally feel left out – a little like the Tramp – simply because his life didn’t overlap with my own. But the pathos he created in his films through his expressions and gestures draws me to him. His films transcend time, and who better to have an interest in than a dynamic, vivacious, passionate, and understanding individual that time will never forget?

Those films, in order to transcend time though, must be shown! TCM does a great job, and MK2 has made all Chaplin fans happier, but why not screen silents at modern cinemas once a year? And maybe someone could turn the Summit Drive house into a Chaplin museum? Pretty please?
LJ: I am very touched and intrigued by his story – how he overcame all the negatives of his childhood, and used those experiences to express something so artistically positive. I’m fascinated by his genius – how it was expressed in his films, and how it impacted on his private life, positively and negatively. Chaplin’s massive fame and how he dealt with it also interests me. I think Chaplin, like certain other artists – Mozart, Gershwin, The Beatles – created works that are timeless. They may be “of” their era, but also transcend it. And that makes these creative efforts forever new and fresh for those fortunate enough to discover them.

I hope that, someday, Chaplin’s feature films are “downloadable,” so anyone can sample them. Having shown the films to friends who initially had no interest in them, I’m always amazed at how taken people are with Chaplin’s work, if they give him a chance. The online availability of the films would make that “taste testing” much more convenient. In the meantime, I am pleased that the films are frequently shown on TCM, so I can relay viewing times to friends who I think might enjoy them.

In terms of commemorating Chaplin, I hope there will be more official Chaplin events in the US, i.e. the touring photographic exhibit now in Europe. It would enable those interested in his films to learn more about him and further their appreciation of him.

Charlie Chaplin autographing for fans Have you ever attended a Chaplin event—live performance, film festival, fan club event or conference? If so, what was your experience and what would motivate you to attend such an event in the future?

AG: I was present at the projection of A King in New York last July in Bologna. In addition to the fact that I like this film very much and I was pleased to see it on the big screen, I also appreciated the hundreds of people who were present that evening. I liked to hear them laugh and see them seated on the ground when all the seats were taken.

CVR: Unfortunately I’ve not attended any, because they are always very far from me. Madrid would be the best place for me to attend one.

LH: No, but if I ever dig myself out of the Southeast where nothing happens, I’d head straight for any of the above events!

LJ: Unfortunately, I haven’t attended any of those types of events, but would very much like to, especially if they took place at a venue relatively easy for me to reach. I did see a screening of Modern Times with an audience. I very much enjoyed seeing Chaplin on the big screen, and hearing the reaction of the crowd.

Reader Comments


The funny thing is he really did change my life! I first discovered him about 3 or 4 years ago–just stumbled across a film on TCM. Within a matter of minutes I was intrigued. When that piece ended, I quickly checked the guide and found out that TCM was just ending a Chaplin film festival.

Appetite whetted, I went to my local library, checked out everything they had–went online, joined a Chaplin group on yahoo, bought DVDs…as time went by, I bought books on Charlie and other silent film comedians. And THEN I sought other silent films, an art form that I had hitherto never even thought of– but now I find silent film to be one of the most beautiful of art forms. I have now seen “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “Metropolis,” Louise Brooks’ “Diary of a Lost Girl,” Mary Pickford’s “Sparrows,” and needless to say, virtually everything Chaplin ever made.

What is about Charlie and his films that appeals to me? The grace, the beauty, the pathos. I laugh, yes, but unlike almost any other comedian, when Charlie makes me laugh there’s an added layer of delight and appreciation that is rather hard to explain…although not to a fellow Chaplin fan!

A final note, I saw “The Kid” at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles a year or two ago, and it was one of the highlights of my life. To be surrounded by a packed house, roaring with laughter, is just an experience I would wish for every Chaplin lover.

Laura, United States

Chaplin had a multi-talent which I think never will be passed by any other. He arrived at the Keystone Studios without any knowledge about cameras or film in general, and within a couple of years he revolutionized the industry throughout. Watch The Bank from 1915. We laugh of the surprising humor in the opening scene, when Charlie walks into the bank and, in a serious tune with much dignity, opens a mighty vault — just to pick up a scrubbing pail and a swab. A few minutes later, the film changes attitude when Charlie’s sweet-heart tears his love letter to pieces. Chaplin’s mimic is unsurpassed. How much empathy do we feel toward, say, Roscoe Arbuckle when we view one of his 1915-flicks? They’re funny, but what make us laugh is rather a number of insane dolls than human beings. The Kid is one of the most brilliant examples. Gee, how that movie makes me cry.

Chaplin knew what was touching, sad, pathetic and heroic — he knew how to tap the emotions of his audiences to arouse them, and he had an intuitive knowledge of the workings of the human personality. Through his movies, he made the world realize social injustice while he, at the very same time, made us laugh — until we cried. The speech at the end of The Great Dictator is amazing. He is My Master.

An Interview with Cecilia Cenciarelli

An Interview with Cecilia Cenciarelli


Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chaplin’s death, Dr. Lisa Stein will devote this year’s newsletter to the theme of “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Charlie Chaplin in the 21st Century.” A series of interviews will be conducted with people at the center of the field, including Charlie Chaplin fans. The first interview is with Cecilia Cenciarelli, head of Progetto Chaplin (the Chaplin Project) at the Cineteca di Bologna, Italy.


Can you describe the experience a scholar will have in visiting the Biblioteca to use the Chaplin archive database?Cecilia Cenciarelli (right) and her assistant Michaela Zegna

First of all, anybody with an interest in Chaplin can come visit us. It is true though that the Chaplin Archive Database is a rather specific tool, therefore some basic knowledge is needed as well as a certain familiarity with research and more in particular, OPAC* research.

Since the work at the Chaplin Project is still in progress, the Chaplin Research Centre at the Cineteca di Bologna’s Library hasn’t officially opened yet. Nevertheless, since 2004 we already had quite a consistent number of students – undergraduates and graduates – and scholars from Italy and all over the world, including Japan and Australia. The experience is overall one of true discovery and excitement I believe, having felt that myself many times working at this project. I can read on our visitors’ faces the surprise sometimes and the happiness of seeing Chaplin’s handwriting on the margin of a page, or some variations on some very famous sketches or the archeologists’ tiredness when at the end of the day they feel like they’ve unveiled so little and there still SO MUCH in there…

entrance to the Cineteca library and cinema premises What is the protocol for getting permission to use the database?

Visitors are required to make an appointment with our staff, explain their project be it a dissertation, an article or a book. Depending on the requests we receive we might need to forward their letters to the Association Chaplin for approval. To give an example: recently a German judge was researching the Tobis case and since legal proceedings are considered restricted files we consulted the Association first for final approval.

Once the researcher arrives here, he/she is provided access to the database and is assisted in his/her research by the Chaplin Project staff. No printing or burning CDs is allowed from the computer post. Researchers, scholars and students alike are usually very positively surprised by the variety of material they find and overall I believe they’re all quite satisfied with their visits.

What sort of projects have been accepted in the past? Can you give me some examples? What sort of projects might be unacceptable?

Chaplin's note on the Final Speech of THE GREAT DICTATOR Cinema students exploring the history of filmmaking in different times in history (organization of the work, writing and editing methods etc.), others interested in the passage between silent and sound cinema; communication students writing about the rediscovery of archival experience through technology, Chaplin scholars consulting the database for a particular period in his career (e.g. the Keystone-Essanay-Mutual era) a particular film or moment in a film (the final sequence in City Lights, the speech in The Great Dictator) or technique (recording of music), the relationship between Chaplin and the 1940 censorship etc.

Any project where use of the material out of context might result in something defamatory against Chaplin or his family is not considered acceptable as well as any other project which the Chaplin Association/Roy Export Company Est. as sole proprietor of these materials decides not authorize.

What resources does the archive offer?

The archive follows Chaplin’s life and art – and by direct reflection the history of cinema and the history of the world – for almost a century. It includes production and post-production materials (shooting and daily production reports, cutting scripts, screenplays and annotated drafts of screenplays, scenarios, preparatory notes, storyboards, sketches, costume scripts etc.), promotion materials (exhibitor books, lobby cards, programs), shorts stories, business and private correspondence, press clippings, interviews, censorship papers, legal proceedings and more.

When Progetto Chaplin officially ends in 2007, what will happen? Will scholars still be allowed to visit the Biblioteca and use the database? Will the procedure still be the same? At some point, will scholars be able to request a password and search the database from a remote location?

This Keystone album of THE STAR BOARDER was probably compiled in 1937 by H.D. Waley of the British Film Institute When the Chaplin Project ends at the end of 2007 the procedure will basically remain the same. The Chaplin Research Centre will be officially inaugurated and we hope to welcome even a higher number of visitors every year.

The Association Chaplin will decide whether to authorize different ways of accessing the database but no remote access to all the documents has been considered so far, the general idea being that if you need to search Chaplin’s Archive, Bologna is the place to go (and if I might add, not a terrible place to spend a week! Cliché but [therefore] true: excellent food, nice weather, bicycles, lots of theatres and cinemas, some interesting museums, and the oldest university in the world).

Our purpose is to improve the knowledge on Chaplin and keep a high interest on his art and genius for future generations as well as to promote his films through events, retrospectives and publications. Considering the content of the archive, there is certainly room for discovery!

Can you discuss what the Cineteca is planning for the Chaplin retrospective this year?

Cineteca di Bologna, like many other institutions in the world will in 2007 pay a tribute to Charlie Chaplin for the 30th anniversary of his death. For us this date also coincides with the end of our project and with the desire to share our work with the largest and most diversified audience possible.

Besides hosting, starting from the end of May, the monumental “Chaplin in Pictures” exhibit which opened in Paris in 2005 and has since then successfully toured Europe, we are going to show if not all, the great majority of Chaplin’s films from 1914 through 1967. The retrospective will probably start around the first weeks of June with several screenings accompanied by Chaplin’s restored scores played live by the Bologna Opera House orchestra, and will carry on during “Il Cinema Ritrovato” restoration festival (June 30th – July 7th) with more live events, brand new Keystone restorations, other silent and sound films and early Mutual and Essanay short-films. Updated information on the program will be provided soon on our web-site – Chapliniana: Chaplin in Bologna.


***This interview first appeared in the IV-1 issue of the Chaplin Newsletter of Discover Charlie Chaplin.***

Chaplin Performance Reviews

 

Chaplin at Gateway Theatre

Review by: Angel McNamara
February 14, 2007

Charlie Chaplin Goes to War, also known as Chaplin: The Trial of Charles Spencer Chaplin, Esq. at the 2002 Shaw Festival in Ontario, is about Chaplin’s writing process of The Great Dictator. This one-man play is set in 1939 at Chaplin’s screening/dressing room at Chaplin studios. Simon Bradbury, who also wrote this play with Dan Kamin, plays Chaplin during his artistic struggle to finish this film. His personal struggle became so intense that the “rushes” start to talk to him on the screen as well as voices from the people in his life, including Douglas Fairbanks, who had recently passed away. This play also addresses the possible insanity that Chaplin felt during the process of creating his masterpiece.

The play starts right away with Chaplin waking up at his studio trying to figure out his script. If a viewer had no idea of the significance of The Great Dictator, it is at this point that a person could get lost in the story. The story felt rushed, being 90 minutes with no intermission, but Simon gave a great performance just the same. Overall this play was well done; the staging was great–especially the use of a projector screen with footage of Chaplin, played by Simon, interacting with Chaplin on stage. The ending also includes the famous speech from The Great Dictator.

For more information, please visit www.gatewaytheatre.com.

Review 1

Review 2

Review 3

Review 4