A King in New York

Overview

King Shadov Charles Chaplin, the newly deposed monarch of a small European country, arrives in New York to face a life in exile. No sooner does he get here, however, than he discovers that his prime minister has stolen the entire royal treasury and departed for parts unknown. Stranded in New York in a luxury hotel without any money, the king tries to adjust to life in America and elicit interest in his plan for the peaceful use of nuclear power. He finds America in 1957 to be too noisy for his taste, however -- a...
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Overview

King Shadov Charles Chaplin, the newly deposed monarch of a small European country, arrives in New York to face a life in exile. No sooner does he get here, however, than he discovers that his prime minister has stolen the entire royal treasury and departed for parts unknown. Stranded in New York in a luxury hotel without any money, the king tries to adjust to life in America and elicit interest in his plan for the peaceful use of nuclear power. He finds America in 1957 to be too noisy for his taste, however -- a run-in with some rock & roll dancers leads to some slapstick antics, and he doesn't take much to modern movies or the blaring entertainment that goes with them. He meets a pretty young lady Dawn Addams in a slightly risqué slapstick encounter in which he is trying to "rescue" her, and she maneuvers him into helping to plug a deodorant on television. The king proves so beguiling on the small screen that he is deluged by offers from advertising agencies, which he rejects at first. But the king soon finds that advertising may be the only thing he can do to earn enough money to keep him living like a king in exile, and he tries to work the system to his advantage, his earnings from television enabling him to remain in the country and push his peaceful nuclear plan. He soon finds the true dark side of life in the United States, however, when he crosses paths with an unhappy little boy Michael Chaplin, the star/director's own son whose parents are about to be jailed as part of the anti-Communist hysteria of the period. In the end, the king provides a shelter to the boy but compromises himself in the process, and while he does make the Congressional committee investigating him look foolish, he sees that he has done all of the good that he can do for now in the United States and leaves.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
A King in New York is a work of spellbinding genius, functioning on so many levels -- personal, political, and artistic, all interwoven so carefully and elegantly -- that it's a delight simply to appreciate what Chaplin is doing as one watches it, as well as the particulars of what he does. His final starring film, it manages to sum up all of the best elements in his work from the silent era on, and combines them in a work that is consistently comical, yet piercing in its satirical edge and savage in its commentary -- a sweetly sentimental yet fiercely angry film that was so open and honest in what it was saying that it wasn't allowed to be released in America until 1973, 16 years after it was made. The basic plot of A King in New York was rife with comic possibilities, which Chaplin exploits brilliantly in the first half -- his encounter with the rock & roll generation is funny, graceful, and quietly sophisticated; and the scene in which filmmaker Chaplin's king encounters CinemaScope for the first time as a filmgoer is a more savage comment on that elongated film format than anything ever uttered by the likes of filmmaker-critics such as George Stevens, as well as being excruciatingly comical. Lest anyone think that A King in New York is too much of a "message" film, however, amid his jaundiced, skeptical look at the advertising and television business, Chaplin also manages to work in a libidinous side to the movie, in his cavorting with Dawn Addams in a comical scene of seduction (and Chaplin the director makes sure that Addams is one of the most cheerfully sexy characters seen on the screen in all of the 1950s). And then, just when it seems as though A King in New York is shaping up as a multilevel comedy, Chaplin adds another twist, suddenly (yet not awkwardly) confronting the Red Scare of the 1950s and, all at once, revealing its tragic and absurd sides for all to see. Chaplin himself was more than a little familiar with the anti-Communist hysteria of the era, having been driven into exile from the United States over it, and this is his answer to those who drove him out of the country. He presents his case with an astonishing degree of grace given the passions that must have been driving him, making it seem easy -- sweetly sentimental (almost in the manner of his silent era work such as The Kid) and searingly angry in the very same shots and scenes. A King in New York is one of Chaplin's least-known talking films, owing to the 16-year delay in its opening in America, and that is a tragedy, because it is arguably not only his final masterpiece, but perhaps his greatest, most ambitious, and personal film, and the movie that best presents his art developed to its highest level of purpose and sophistication. Satirizing Hitler and the Nazis in The Great Dictator was brave but not difficult -- they were absurd figures on their face (lethal but absurd); satirizing Red-baiting American politicians was a tougher job, because they had an audience and did present some justification that swayed reasonable people, or else they wouldn't have gotten as far as they did without force of arms. Moreover, A King in New York is a film with a great deal of heart as well as sentiment -- the king's wistful farewell to the United States not only reflected Chaplin's own relationship with America, but resonates in a manner similar to the closing lines of Shakespeare's The Tempest, as the author's adieu.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/5/1992
  • UPC: 086162301131
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: 20th Century Fox
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charles Chaplin King Shadhov
Dawn Addams Ann Kay
Oliver Johnston The Ambassador
Maxine Audley Queen Irene
Harry Green Lawyer Green
Phil Brown Headmaster
Michael Chaplin Rupert Macabee
John McLaren Macabee Senior
Shani Wallis Night Club Vocalist
Joy Nichols Night Club Vocalist
John Ingram Mr. Cromwell
Jerry Desmonde Prime Minister Voudel
Robert Arden Lift Boy
Macdonald Parke Fred Cromwell
Joan Ingram Mona Cromwell
Alan Gifford School Superintendent
Robert Cawdron U.S. Marshall
George Woodbridge Commissioner
Clifford Buckton Atomic Commission
Lauri Lupino Lane
Frazer Hines
Sidney James Bill Johnson
Technical Credits
Charles Chaplin Director, Score Composer, Producer, Screenwriter
Georges Périnal Cinematographer
Spencer Reeve Editor
John Seabourne Editor
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