CHAPLIN by Stephen Weissman


A Life
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A fresh entry in the evergreen field of works devoted to Charlie Chaplin.

If ever an artist’s life lent itself to psychoanalysis, it’s Chaplin’s. His alcoholic father abandoned him and his brother when they were children, leaving him in the abject poverty of a London slum with an encephalitic mother who ended up in a madhouse. “We laugh…in order not to weep,” said Chaplin years later. Rather than take the fun out of Chaplin’s comedies with tendentious theorizing, Weissman, a faculty member at the Washington School of Psychiatry, lends dimension to the classics, drawing reasonable connections between Chaplin’s life and art. The author demonstrates Chaplin’s ability to transform family heartbreak into film comedies such as The Gold Rush, Modern Times and City Lights. Equally influential on Chaplin’s art were the early days he spent honing his craft in British music halls. With lean, energetic prose, Weissman ably sidesteps stilted academic writing to bring this colorful theatrical period to life. He offers vivid sketches of the hardships of touring in the hardscrabble provinces and the painstaking, meticulous ways in which Chaplin honed his talents. Childhood pain, the music-hall apprenticeships and the new art of film aligned in Hollywood as Chaplin went to work for director Mack Sennett. Weissman carefully follows the confluence of several artists that led to the creation of Chaplin’s iconic Little Tramp. Throughout the book, the author caps exhaustive sourcing with an overlay of insightful observations about Chaplin’s creative process.

Find space on the crowded Chaplin shelf for this perceptive, literate take on the great screen clown.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-55970-892-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2008


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