Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World

Overview

See him? That little tramp twitching a postage stamp of a mustache, politely lifting his bowler hat, and leaning on a bamboo cane with the confidence of a gentleman? A slapstick comedian, he blazed forth as the brightest movie star in the Hollywood heavens.

Everyone knew Charlie—Charlie Chaplin.

When he was five years old he was pulled onstage for the first time, and he didn't step off again for almost three-quarters of a century. Escaping the ...

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Overview

See him? That little tramp twitching a postage stamp of a mustache, politely lifting his bowler hat, and leaning on a bamboo cane with the confidence of a gentleman? A slapstick comedian, he blazed forth as the brightest movie star in the Hollywood heavens.

Everyone knew Charlie—Charlie Chaplin.

When he was five years old he was pulled onstage for the first time, and he didn't step off again for almost three-quarters of a century. Escaping the London slums of his tragic childhood, he took Hollywood like a conquistador with a Cockney accent. With his gift for pantomime in films that had not yet acquired vocal cords, he was soon rubbing elbows with royalty and dining on gold plates in his own Beverly Hills mansion. He was the most famous man on earth—and he was regarded as the funniest.

Still is. . . . He comes to life in these pages. It's an astonishing rags-to-riches saga of an irrepressible kid whose childhood was dealt from the bottom of the deck. Abundantly illustrated.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fleischman, who died in March at age 90, left readers with this delightful and informative homage to one of his idols, the silent screen star who went into exile in 1952. "Chaplin had left town... to take up residence in Switzerland. But his footprints were everywhere." Those footprints turned "outward so that each angled off like opposite hands of a clock, at ten past ten," the duck-footed waddle of the Little Tramp, Chaplin's most famous character. Fleischman fills out the familiar outlines of Chaplin's biography--born to Dickensian poverty in England, he scaled the heights of Hollywood fame--in jocular prose and without sugarcoating. Chaplin's gift for mimicry got him laughs "without uttering a word," but he badly misread the tea leaves when "talkies" arrived, and his egomaniacal methods alienated co-stars, collaborators, and three of his four wives. Like Fleischman's biographies of Twain and Houdini, this book is as good-looking as it is well written, with b&w photographs, vintage newspaper clippings, source notes, and a filmography that should send many in search of the silent film gems that made Chaplin one of America's first movie stars. Ages 9-up. (June)
Publishers Weekly
Fleischman, who died in March at age 90, left readers with this delightful and informative homage to one of his idols, the silent screen star who went into exile in 1952. "Chaplin had left town... to take up residence in Switzerland. But his footprints were everywhere." Those footprints turned "outward so that each angled off like opposite hands of a clock, at ten past ten," the duck-footed waddle of the Little Tramp, Chaplin's most famous character. Fleischman fills out the familiar outlines of Chaplin's biography--born to Dickensian poverty in England, he scaled the heights of Hollywood fame--in jocular prose and without sugarcoating. Chaplin's gift for mimicry got him laughs "without uttering a word," but he badly misread the tea leaves when "talkies" arrived, and his egomaniacal methods alienated co-stars, collaborators, and three of his four wives. Like Fleischman's biographies of Twain and Houdini, this book is as good-looking as it is well written, with b&w photographs, vintage newspaper clippings, source notes, and a filmography that should send many in search of the silent film gems that made Chaplin one of America's first movie stars. Ages 9–up. (June)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Fleischman does the story of Houdini justice with an accessible, witty, and fascinating ride that is sure to draw in the skeptical and the admiring alike.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Fleischman does the story of Houdini justice with an accessible, witty, and fascinating ride that is sure to draw in the skeptical and the admiring alike.”
Booklist (starred review)
“[A] standout portrait.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“A solid success.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“Will appeal to fans of movie history and surely inspire readers to seek out Chaplin’s films.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Praise for Escape!:“[Fleischman’s] rendering of the great Houdini is full-bodied and fresh, exuberant yet probing, meticulous and, yes, magical.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
“Fleischman does the story of Houdini justice with an accessible, witty, and fascinating ride that is sure to draw in the skeptical and the admiring alike.”
Children's Literature - Sara Rofofsky Marcus
A biography of Charles "Charlie" Spencer Chaplin, star of the silent films and co-founder of United Artists, these thirty-eight brief chapters are written for ages eight to twelve, yet the length of the volume is more appropriate for a much older reader. Using simple vocabulary and short sentences, Fleischman tells of this English-born orphan child who worked hard and strove to become a household name. Drawing the reader in, this author of four true tales of famous entertainers, once again captures interest with tales of exploits, hardship, and success. Written in child-friendly language, one still learns about Chaplin's numerous wives, the claims of anti-Americanism against Chaplin, and more. Mixed in with this biographical sketch are pieces of cinematic history. From birth to death, this book tells of Chaplin's life and times, both in public and behind closed doors. One drawback to this volume is the sheer size, both in page length (268 pages) and physical size. A reader of the appropriate level would not be likely to select such a large work, while a patron who might select a volume of this size might not appreciate the lower reading level. However, an index makes this work useful as a reference book, as opposed to a book to be read cover to cover. This is a valuable addition to biographical and entertainment collections, providing not only a biography of a famous actor and director, but also a history of cinema at a time when the talking pictures were coming into favor. Reviewer: Sara Rofofsky Marcus
Evelyn Baldwin
How does a Cockney street urchin change his fortune to become one of the wealthiest and most revered comedians of movie history? Fleischman traces the dramatic rise of Chaplin from a boy performing slapstick on a London street corner to an iconic actor who came to forever alter the Hollywood film industry. Fleischman tells Chaplin's tale with a clear fondness for "the Little Tramp," making the reader feel like a privileged listener to the memories of a personal friend. Chaplin's great heights of success and his devastating lows are narrated with carefully researched detail. While the writing style is clear enough for early preteens to understand, Fleischman's spinning of Chaplin's roller-coaster fame will have readers of all ages cheering as Chaplin bucks the bloated studios to follow his own creative instincts and mourns the loss of close family members. Reviewer: Evelyn Baldwin
VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
The modern reader may not know much about silent films, but Fleischman's biography of Charlie Chaplin provides a crash course in understanding movies before "talkies," or films with sound, and the genius of their biggest star. Chaplin, born to vaudevillians in 1889 in London, spent the first many years of his life struggling to get by on his own. His father, a feckless drunk, abandoned the family, and his mother spent most of her life in and out of mental institutions. A natural entertainer, the young Chaplin performed in vaudeville acts and plays and was discovered by a director while part of a comedy troupe touring America. A master of physical humor and slapstick comedy, Chaplin, wearing a bowler hat, fake mustache, and oversize shoes, became an instant celebrity. In what seemed like hardly any time at all, this Cockney kid from the slums became an icon, directing his own films, building a studio, and becoming a millionaire in his twenties. Additionally, Fleischman writes about Chaplin's four marriages, his investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his eventual expulsion from the United States. Fleischman draws the reader in, writing with a droll tone that is well-matched to the subject. Though young readers may not be familiar with Chaplin, this book will appeal to fans of movie history and surely inspire readers to seek out Chaplin's films. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
Kirkus Reviews
Fleischman's unabashed adoration for the duck-footed comedian, filmmaker and movie star effervesces from this fascinating, generously illustrated biography. How a nearly illiterate Cockney boy born to London vaudevillians in 1889 became a Hollywood movie mogul is truly one for the storybooks. The author is almost giddy in the telling, as if Chaplin's flair for hyperbole and comic timing were contagious. When discussing Chaplin's artistic perfectionism in demanding 100 retakes of a particular kissing scene, for example, the author quips, "The heroine went through enough lipstick to paint a small house." Chaplin was an ambitious man who spent his life compensating for the poverty of his childhood, but his adulthood-despite the phenomenal fame and fortune that accompanied it-was complicated and often tragic. Movie-history buffs will learn about the effect of "talkies" on the silent-film industry, and on the pantomime master's ego. Further exploration of Chaplin's classic films, from The Kid (1921) to Modern Times (1936), is a must after finishing this colorful homage to "the funniest man on earth." (timeline, references, photograph sources, bibliography, filmography, index) (Biography. 10 & up)
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“A solid success.”
Booklist
"[A] standout portrait."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A solid success."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061896408
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 547,929
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sid Fleischman wrote more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy. The author described his wasted youth as a magician and newspaperman in his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid. His other titles include The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a novel, and three biographies, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World; The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West; and Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another entertaining biography

    I loved Fleischman's first two biographies for young readers -- about Mark Twain and Harry Houdini. Here he turns his considerable talents to the life of Charlie Chaplin, who most young readers will know nothing about (just the idea of silent film will probably be very, very strange.) I knew only the outlines of his life myself -- born to Dickensian poverty in England, scaled the heights of Hollywood fame -- but Fleischman fills in the mostly sad details. Prodigiously talented, Chaplin suffered from egomania, and badly misread the tea leaves when sound first arrived in his medium. Fleischman's conveys the story in jocular prose. Photographs, newspaper clippings and a reader-friendly design with lots of white space make this an ideal choice for middle school report-writers looking for something different.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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