Chaplin: A Life in Film

Chaplin: A Life in Film

by Stephen Weissman
     
 
An Authoritative new biography of the greatest cinematic comedian of all time

Born in London in 1889, Charlie Chaplin grew up in dire poverty. Both his parents were in show business, but his father's flourishing career was cut short by severe alcoholism, and his beloved mother first lost her voice, then lost her mind to syphilis. Even when both his parents were

Overview

An Authoritative new biography of the greatest cinematic comedian of all time

Born in London in 1889, Charlie Chaplin grew up in dire poverty. Both his parents were in show business, but his father's flourishing career was cut short by severe alcoholism, and his beloved mother first lost her voice, then lost her mind to syphilis. Even when both his parents were alive, Charlie at age seven was committed to the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children. It was, he remembered, the most unhappy period of his life. How then did this poor, lonely, and utterly miserable child become such an extraordinary comedian, known and celebrated worldwide?

Chaplin cut his teeth as a youngster in British music halls, where he honed his art both as a slapstick comic and in serious theater. But it was America that made him. At the age of twenty-five, he was touring here with a vaudeville troupe when his talents caught the eye of entertainment entrepreneur Mack Sennett of the Keystone Film Studio, who spirited him off to California and signed him to a film contract. Chaplin rapidly because Sennett's star comedian, and as the burgeoning film industry prospered, his fame grew with it. By the age of twenty-eight, Chaplin had become a millionaire and arguably the world's greatest celebrity.

Stephen Weissmann traces Chaplin's life and the sources of his genius in fascinating detail, demonstrating how his tragic childhood shaped his personality and his art. Infamous for his politics and his scandalous sex life -- both of which Weissman contextualizes and analyzes -- Chaplin was a much more complex and contradictory character than has hitherto been known. Weissman brilliantlyilluminates both the screen legend and the turbulent era through which he lived and worked.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Weissman, professor at the Washington School of Psychiatry, examines Charlie Chaplin's life and work from a psychoanalytical perspective. Believing in "using a life to read a film and a film to read a life," Weissman focuses on Chaplin's childhood and early career, giving scant attention to his later adult life. Most telling is the relationship with his mother. Her madness, brought on by starvation and syphilis, Weissman believes, manifests itself in Chaplin's films with a recurring theme: the rescue of a downtrodden female. For example, City Lights is a "childhood rescue fantasy" of saving his parents, while Limelight is filled with references to his alcoholic father. Weissman uncovers the source for the "shabby gentility" of the Little Tramp, as well as the development of that extraordinary character. En route, he paints an engaging if narrowly focused portrait of how a cinema artist is created and how he practices his craft. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781559708920
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
11/24/2008
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)

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