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With anyone as well-chronicled as Charlie Chaplin, a new biography must pass the strictest tests of originality. Does it say something new or recast what is known in a different light? Milton (Loss of Eden, 1992, etc.) meets these criteria and more in this major reevaluation of a filmmaker whose one saving grace was his ability to make people laugh. His squalid London childhood was appalling—poverty, a mentally unstable actress mother, an absent alcoholic father. Chaplin got out as soon as he could, finding unexpected success as a music hall pantomime performer. Though Hollywood was eager to have him, he made little mark in his first few films. Then he created his "Tramp" character—the absurd mustache, the bowler and cane, the uneasy mix of pathos and buffoonery—and became a star of almost unimaginable proportions. Fame is rarely ennobling, but with Chaplin it offered too many opportunities to indulge his weaknesses. He pursued women—especially teenagers—obsessively; he cheated friends, cheated the IRS, stole ideas, supported unpleasant causes. All of this had little effect on his movies; perhaps it was even the wellspring of his talent, until he succumbed to the comedian's fatal temptation of taking himself seriously. Milton is particularly devastating in her analysis of how his films turned from ingenious slapstick to leaden, Stalinist posturings. Diagnosing the dead is always an iffy proposition, but she also makes an excellent case for Chaplin having been afflicted with manic-depression. Certainly, this would help explain his innumerable inconsistencies as well as his wild mood swings in which bursts of activity were followed by idle, sullen stretches.
Despite the profusion of negatives, this is not a hatchet job. Rather, Milton presents a complex, insightful portrait of a man in whom genius and iniquity were inseparably combined.
Posted October 12, 2013
If you're a communist, read some other slobbering tribute to him. If you love his early, pure comedic genius, this book is like "The Rink." Balanced, yet bruising.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2013
Without his sence of slapstcick we would't have things like bugs bunny or any other cartoon with his influence I'm a huge fan charlie chaplin and i've read almost every thing about him great comdienWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2012
Posted May 14, 2012
This is a very dry historical view of Charlie Chaplin's life. It reads like an encyclopedia instead of a novel or biography. There is not emotion and no heart to this book. Although Chaplin had an interesting life, it didn't show through this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2012
During the entire duration of this "biography", you can tell that yeah some of these facts may be true, but the entire tone of the book seems like Milton has a bone to pick with Chaplin and shes making him seem like a horrid person. Read David Robinson's "Chaplin". Its MUCH more factual and not as attacking.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2010
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