Andrewh's Reviews > Chaplin

Chaplin by David  Robinson
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May 31, 12

Read from May 07 to 30, 2012

Though it did occasionally skirt with the hagiographic end of bios, this is probably about as good a book about the legendary comic actor/director you could find. It takes a conventional approach, with the usual slightly tedious trawl through his impoverished early life in Kennington (dad died early of the drink, and his mother was mentally ill, so he and Syndey, naturally enough, went on stage to earn a crust), through to the early days in music hall (his first appearance was in Sherlock Holmes), then with the famous Fred Karno troupe (alongside Stan Jefferson-Laurel) and so on, until he reached and conquered Hollywood and then became the most famous man in the world, as you do. After CC arrives in what was then the silent era, the biography focuses on his career film by film, and takes you behind the scenes of Charlie's agonising directorial style and his political-personal troubles. The latter are dealt with fairly sympathetically here but to 21C eyes his proclivity for 17-year-old actresses does look a bit inopportune. His political troubles are easier to sympathise with - he was an auto-didact who liked to hob-nob with famous intellectuals but his liberal political ideas were somewhat under-developed and slightly sentimental, and his films reflect this (see the Great Dictator and Modern Times, for example). Many see Chaplin as a direct heir to the Dickensian tradition and this book lends credibility to that view, I think.
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