Chaplin: The Tramp's Odyssey

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An Everyman who expressed the defiant spirit of freedom, Charlie Chaplin was first lauded and later reviled in the America that made him Hollywood’s richest man. He was a figure of multiple paradoxes. Simon Louvish's new book, following his five major biographies of comedy's classic stars, from W.C. Fields to Laurel and Hardy and Mae West, looks afresh at the "mask behind the man."

Louvish charts the tale of the Tramp himself through his films, from the early Mack Sennett shorts...

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Overview

An Everyman who expressed the defiant spirit of freedom, Charlie Chaplin was first lauded and later reviled in the America that made him Hollywood’s richest man. He was a figure of multiple paradoxes. Simon Louvish's new book, following his five major biographies of comedy's classic stars, from W.C. Fields to Laurel and Hardy and Mae West, looks afresh at the "mask behind the man."

Louvish charts the tale of the Tramp himself through his films, from the early Mack Sennett shorts through the major features (The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, et al.). He retrieves Chaplin as the iconic London street kid who carried the "surreal" antics of early British music hall triumphantly onto the Hollywood screen. Louvish also looks anew at Chaplin's and the Tramp's social and political ideas—the challenge to fascism, defiance of the McCarthyite witch hunts, eventual "exile," and last mature disguises as the serial killer Monsieur Verdoux and the dying English clown Calvero in Limelight.

This book is an epic journey, summing up the roots of comedy and its appeal to audiences everywhere, who reveled in the clown's raw energy, his ceaseless struggle against adversity, and his capacity to represent our own fears, foibles, dreams, inner demons and hopes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Tramp's Odyssey is sharp, fast, full of unexpected detail, and impressively succeeds in demystifying Chaplin while leaving the Tramp's mechanistic mystique largely intact."

New Statesman

 

"A handsome and absorbing book....Louvish's tone is that of the dissecting surgeon overlaid with affection."

The Times

 

"Louvish's skillful and stimulating descriptions of old films will rekindle a desire to watch them again or discover them anew. But the real excellence of this book is in deepening our understanding of how Chaplin nurtured his comic creation and how it, in turn, nurtured him."

Daily Express

 

"This is not a volume for the casual film fan seeking laughs or gossip, but for the student of cinema who wishes to truly understand Chaplin's body of work. It is masterfully thorough."

Sunday Telegraph

 

"This is more than just the mere story of an early film actor, it is an epic journey exploring the roots of the 20th century comedy and its broad global appeal."—TusconCitizen.com

Publishers Weekly
Along with his 11 novels, the London-based Louvish writes biographies of cinematic comedians (Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, the Marx Brothers). Amid the many books about Chaplin published since the 1920s, Louvish offers fresh insights as he focuses on the famed, iconic cane-twirling Tramp character. He documents Chaplin's costuming, the development and evolution of the Tramp through the earliest films, plus departures to experiment with other characters. The book opens with the 1914 Keystone comedies and films Chaplin directed for Essanay, followed by Mutual titles and his creative expansion at First National, where he moved from shorts to features. The book often parallels film plots with similar situations in Chaplin's life, such as the 1919 death of his first child (who lived only three days). That event “galvanized him into action,” and he immediately began “auditioning babies” for his first feature, The Kid (1921). Louvish writes with an authoritative, nonacademic clarity, and his remarkable research benefits both from the “vast collection” at the Chaplin Research Centre in Bologna, Italy, and a close study of recent film restorations, “seeing the films as they were seen and known in their first releases.” Interweaving reviews, interviews and early screenplay drafts, Louvish unveils an impressive, prismatic portrait of Hollywood's majestic jester. (Oct. 13)
Library Journal
More than three decades after Charles Chaplin's death and after hundreds of books about the film legend have been written, does the world need another book about Chaplin? Biographer Louvish (Mae West; Stan and Ollie; Cecil B. DeMille) believes so. He isn't interested in Charlie the man, per se, but rather with the journey of his most famous character, the Tramp. It is difficult for our modern era to truly comprehend just how famous Chaplin was in his heyday—a global superstar in an age before television and the Internet. To those legions of fans, Chaplin was the Tramp. Louvish sets out to explore not the man but the mask through synopses of his films and perceptive observations into the relationship between an artist's creation and his audience. VERDICT Those new to Chaplin should start with David Robinson's Chaplin: His Life and Art, which is widely held as the definitive biography. Louvish's book is best for those interested in early film, the cult of celebrity, or the 1910s–30s.—Teri Shiel, Westfield State Coll. Lib., MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312581695
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

SIMON LOUVISH was born in Glasglow in 1947 and grew up in Israel. Later he decamped to the London School of Film Technique, where he became involved in the production of a series of independent documentary films. He also published a memoir of his Israeli days as well as a series of novels set mainly in the Middle East. Since 1979, he has also been teaching film at the London Film School and writing for various newspapers and magazines.

Louvis is the author of definitive biographies of great clowns of screen comedy, including Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Story of W. C. Fields, Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers, and Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy. Further film biographies include Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennet, Mae West: It Ain't No Sin, and Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art.

For more information please visit his Web site: www.simonlouvish.com.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Prologue: The King in Exile

Pt. 1 The Immigrant 1

Pt. 2 The Pilgrim 149

Pt. 3 Modern Times 239

Epilogue: The King in Repose 345

Acknowledgements 367

Illustration Credits 368

Notes on Sources 369

Filmography 385

Select Bibliography 386

Index 399

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