Charlie Chaplin (1889–1977) revolutionized the language of cinema and became one of the most loved performers of all time. But he was also a man plagued by loneliness and driven by the search for artistic perfection. His life was an extraordinarily dramatic one, and David Robinson explores the often tragic story of Chaplin’s alcoholic father; his mentally disturbed mother; his marriages to very young women; the “white slavery” case against him; and his persecution by anti-Communist forces during the McCarthy era, which ultimately forced Chaplin to leave America. Chaplin—the only biography written with full access to his archives—contains many provocative revelations about his private life, romances, business dealings, and the making of his magical films. The text is studded with unexpected gems, from the multilingual lyrics of his song in Modern Times (the first time his voice was heard on the screen) to the step-by-step choreography of his celebrated dance with the balloon globe of the world in The Great Dictator. The author tells of the many famous figures who sought Chaplin out, including Picasso, Gandhi, and Krushchev. The book vividly recreates the different worlds in which Chaplin moved: from Victorian to Edwardian London, through the glamorous birth and sad decline of Hollywood’s studio system, to the nightmare of McCarthyism, after which America once again came to adore the ”Little Tramp.”Illustrated with eighty pages of rare photographs from the family albums, Chaplin contains a detailed chronology, filmography, list of theater tours, a summary of the secret FBI file on him, and a Chaplin who’s who. This is the definitive and monumental biography of a mesmerizing artist.
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Of the many books about Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), among them the Tramp's own charming but evasive 1964 autobiography, this magisterial volume does by far the best job of detailing and analyzing his genius as a filmmaker. Chaplin's widow allowed David Robinson to examine their personal archives in Switzerland, and he makes good use of this access in his meticulous descriptions of the movies that created the legend, including City Lights and Modern Times. Robinson is less interested in Chaplin's tumultuous personal life, skating rather lightly over the lawsuits and scandals that plagued his later years in the United States. No matter: Chaplin lovers will find their understanding of his films enhanced; those unfamiliar with his artistry will learn why an actor-director whose greatest work was done before 1940 remains a key figure in the history of motion pictures.
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