The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion

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From his early shorts in the 1910s through his final film in 1967, Charlie Chaplin's genius embraced many arts: mime, dance, acting, music, writing, and directing. The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion examines Chaplin's fusion of these arts in his films, providing new understanding of how movement communicates, how comedy routines are structured, and how stage skills can be translated to the screen.

An acclaimed comic performing artist himself, Dan Kamin brings a unique insider's perspective to the subject. He explores how Chaplin's physical virtuosity led him to create the timeless visual comedy that brought silent films to their peak. Kamin uncovers the underlying principles behind the filmmaker's gags, illuminating how Chaplin conjured comedy from the fundamental physical laws of movement. He then presents provocative new interpretations of the comedian's sound films, showing how Chaplin remained faithful to his silent comedy roots even as he kept reinventing his art for changing times.

Kamin also offers new insights into how Chaplin achieved rapport with audiences and demonstrates how comedy created nearly a century ago is still fresh today. Lavishly illustrated with many never-before-published images, The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin provides the only in-depth analysis of Chaplin as a movement artist and physical comedian. Revealing the inner working of Chaplin's mesmerizing art, this book will appeal not just to Chaplin fans but to anyone who loves comedy.

This paperback edition features an annotated bibliography and a foreword by Scott Eyman, author of Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford.

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Editorial Reviews

The Journal Of American Culture
Kamin has devoted his life to understanding and internalizing physical comedy in general and Chaplin in particular, and it shows. His grasp of Chaplin is peerless, and he is also skilled with words.
— James M. Welsh
Soused Cinema Library Blog
Dan Kamin's new book, The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion, is something different altogether. It is an examination of Chaplin's art, focusing on what made his films so compelling to audiences of the time and what continues to make his work captivating to new generations experiencing his silent films in the modern era. The author is uniquely qualified to analyze and break down Chaplin's body movements, as Dan Kamin is a professional comedian and mime...

The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin will also be of great interest to soused cinema enthusiasts, because Mr. Kamin delves deeper than previous authors into Chaplin's soused slapstick. Fans of "booze movies" and lovers of film comedy should consider Dan Kamin's book an essential read. It receives my highest recommendation.

Springfield News-Sun
The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion, is no mere book. It’s an autopsy. [Kamin] slices and dices the Tramp, picks his brain, looks into his heart and performs the most conclusive examination yet into why this guy, who would’ve been 120 had he not expired on Christmas Day 1977, is still so funny….Kamin is the go-to guy for all things Chaplin and slapstick — the man who trained Robert Downey Jr. for his 'scar-nominated starring role in Chaplin in 1992. He then created Johnny Depp’s physical comedy sequences for Benny and Joon in 1993. Depp was nominated for a Golden Globe….if anybody has unlocked the secrets of physical comedy, it’s Kamin, who even created the Martian movement for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!
Leonard Maltin's Movie Fan
A well-known Chaplin aficionado and authority, Kamin is also—unlike almost everyone else who writes about him—a talented performer who has studied and absorbed the physicality of the Great Man. (You can see samples of him at work on YouTube.) He helped develop Johnny Depp’s pantomime routines for Benny & Joon, and even coached Robert Downey, Jr. on how to walk like Charlie for his performance in Chaplin. This profusely illustrated book expands upon and supersedes his earlier work, Charlie Chaplin’s One-Man Show, and attempts to analyze the nature, and genius, of Chaplin’s work. Yet Kamin writes clearly and sensibly: “Isolating scenes makes it easy to see how Chaplin uses the various elements of dance—or, more accurately, the laws of Newtonian physics along with some of the aesthetic principles of dance movement—to conjure comedy from the mundane actions of everyday life. Of course, viewers don’t have to recognize the sophisticated underpinnings of his physical comedy to appreciate it, which makes his achievement all the more impressive. Chaplin’s highly stylized movement comes to seem so natural that we stop noticing it is stylized. Instead, like a good movie soundtrack, it becomes unobtrusive. Yet dance—in this larger sense—is central to the meaning of Chaplin’s films, helping him to define his character and strongly affecting what subject matter he is drawn to. It intertwines with the films’ content.”
Leonard Maltin
Anyone who cares about Charlie Chaplin should dive into this excellent book. Kamin is both passionate and articulate, and offers thoughtful new interpretations of his work.
Scott Eyman
Dan Kamin’s The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin is indispensable. Its detailed, penetrating analysis of the how and why of Chaplin's body language reveals the craft behind the art of the greatest clown of them all.
The Journal of American Culture - James M. Welsh
Kamin has devoted his life to understanding and internalizing physical comedy in general and Chaplin in particular, and it shows. His grasp of Chaplin is peerless, and he is also skilled with words.
Robert Downey Jr.
Dan's insights are amazing. He's probably the foremost authority on Chaplin...there was really no scene [in Chaplin] that he didn't help me with.
What makes Kamin’s book so insightful is his hard and well studied knowledge of his subject. Kamin is an expert on the art of mime and it is from the perspective of Chaplin the mime from his early music hall days of Fred Karno’s troupe to his final films that Kamin studies from this perspective. Added to this Dan Kamin trained Robert Downey Jr. on how to move and ‘be’ Chaplin for Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic.

This book by Scarecrow Press and originally published in 2008 is brilliantly illustrated with selected stills from his films, sometimes several frames from the same film illustrating Chaplin’s movements and comic timing complementing the text. In summary this splendid book would convince anyone not converted to Chaplin why he was heralded as he was and what gives him such a raised status.

RALPH: The Review of Arts
This is . . . a book that will be treasured by Chaplin fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810861428
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/5/2008
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Kamin performs comedy shows worldwide and is a frequent guest artist with symphony orchestras. He created the physical comedy sequences for the films Chaplin and Benny and Joon, and trained Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp for their acclaimed performances.

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Table of Contents

Introduction The Surprising Art of Charlie Chaplin

Pt. I That Charlie Chaplin Walk

Ch. 1 On the Boards 3

Ch. 2 Fooling for the Flickers 12

Ch. 3 Shoot the Mime 31

Ch. 4 Drunk Again 41

Pt. II Charlie Chaplin's Frolics

Ch. 5 Gagman 55

Ch. 6 Cast of Characters 76

Ch. 7 Shall We Dance? 100

Pt. III March of the Movies

Ch. 8 Facing Sound 121

Ch. 9 Swan Song with Music: City Lights 126

Ch. 10 The Machine Age: Modern Times 137

Ch. 11 Split Personality: The Great Dictator 154

Ch. 12 Return Engagement 172

Ch. 13 Monster Movie: Monsieur Verdoux 180

Ch. 14 Full Circle: Limelight 190

Ch. 15 The Banished Monarch 204

Postscript: Teaching Charlie Chaplin How to Walk 209

Index 213

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