For most aprising to reach success in the life of stardom, creating a name for yourself in any aspect of fame that you can is usually the end goal. Some may even claim that excelling in multiple fame aspects is nearly impossible, such as directing and producing several films, becoming an iconic movie star or a successful composer. However, Charlie Chaplin was able to excel at all three of these aspect throughout his lifetime. Chaplin was born in London on April 16, 1889, son to parents Hannah and Charles Chaplin. Both parents were involved in the theater and music workforce industry; the Chaplins never had a reliable sense of income. With the death of his alcoholic father and the constant illness of his mother, Charlie and his brother were forced to learn how to live on their own when Charlie was nearly only 10 years old. The siblings took this chance to take their natural born talent and perform onstage for money; Charlie eventually got his big break in the acting industry as a juvenile member when “The Eight Lancashire Lads” was released.
Because of this big break, Keystone Studios saw potential in Chaplin. He later signed with Keystone, and came to the United States in order to create a living for himself, and gain some namesake independence as well. It is important to note that Chaplin always tried to make his films diverse enough so that almost anyone could understand his humor, story, and plot. Chaplin was able to achieve this goal by “combining traditional drama and humanistic view of life” (Marshall), allowing the audience to create a special and emotional bond with the characters as well as what was happening in the film.
Every single one of Chaplin’s films tried to enhance these emotional factors; this often regarded to the plot, purpose and target and was defined as “vital social questions” (Marshall). Creating these subconscious questions for the audience to interpret regarding the plot, purpose and target allowed Chaplin to create extreme possibilities and answers, some of which were not even realistic whatsoever. Not having any boundaries created a expressive gate for Chaplin with no end road, allowing his comedic thoughts and ideas to have no restrictions in his films since almost anything could be the conclusion. Chaplin created a phenomenal character mark in film history, “The Tramp” icon, during the silent film era.
This character was used in several of Chaplin’s silent films. The film “The Tramp”, which was released in 1915, was the story of a a young boy who finds love, fights crime and grows with his family all on the family farm. This film was the very start of “The Tramp” character that Chaplin is known so well for to this day. The Tramp character was often portrayed as a child-like, bubbly and well behaved role, despite the social status the character held. From his late twenties to mid thirties, Chaplin spent nearly a decade of his life devoting his creative film skills to silent films. Chaplin was drawn and amused by silent films; he enjoyed using facial expressions and actions in order to tell a one of a kind story.
This is an example of mannerism, a technique that Chaplin preached daily. Some of Chaplin’s best work consisted of “The Kid” (1921) and “A Woman of Paris” (1923), both which were created during this successful decade of Chaplin’s life and practiced some his well known techniques, such as expression of mannerism without words. His originality through acting, directing, and composing never did not fly under the radar… he was recognized for his success through an Oscar award presented to Chaplin in 1973, from his film “Limelight” (1952). He certainly was a noticeable mark on the reel of film history, creating a major shift in what was viewed as “acceptable and professional” during that era.
Several other directors admired Chaplin’s work. His originality and creativity is what set him so far apart from any other director during his time; he refused for the longest time to move out of the silent film movies (even when every other movie had sound at the time). The artistry he used in his film consisted of aspects such as dream imagery, mannerism without words and realist techniques… all of which marked him as a stamp in film history. Most of Chaplin’s films consisted of silent films, therefore the technique expression of mannerism without words was often utilized through facial expressions. Chaplin used the medium shot angle in order to capture every facial expression the actor was making, whether it was extremely expressive or not. This allowed him to communicate a clear and concise message to the audience, without any vocal scripture. If the camera was any further away from the actor’s face, the audience might not be able to pick up on the exact expressions the actor was portraying, therefore an unclear message would be presented.
In Chaplin’s film, “The Adventurer” (1917), Chaplin utilized the skill of realism when he presents a 47 second clip of pure, never ending comedy. There is no change of angle or adjustment of scenery; the audience is forced to see everything happening at once. Chaplin’s attempt to rawly portray the truth of the chaos happening in this scene makes the clip that much more entertaining to watch. Although Chaplin chose not to cut any scenes in the 47 second clip of “The Adventurer”, he was often known for another one of his film techniques, crosscutting. Crosscutting is the depiction of a scene through differing frames, often switching back and forth. This skill was often used by Chaplin, as it builds up often the feeling of anticipation.
In Chaplin’s film, The Kid, crosscutting is utilized when the two officers are holding down the Tramp onto the bed upstairs. The frames switch back and forth between this scene with the officers and a close up shot of the Tramp’s son’s scared face. This allows the audience to see how the Tramp is being attacked from the son’s point of view. Chaplin creates a feeling of suspense for the audience in this moment, because the audience is not positive if the Tramp will reach his son soon enough. Chaplin’s comedic side did not only unveil in his films, but also happened to be tremendous part of his personality and was no secret to the public.
In interviews with reporters, sometimes Chaplin even barely spoke; he used facial expressions to communicate with the reporters, just like the mannerism without words technique he used in his silent films. These dramatic expressions during the interviews allowed the reporters to interpret how Chaplin would have responded to their questions (if he was speaking, of course), which was not too hard to figure out considering how fluently Chaplin was able to express himself. He was able to joke, amuse, and ridicule in a very similar fashion as his silent films. Creating an alternative reality where everything is dream-like and enhanced is often very appealing to any audience, especially during the time of the Great Depression (1929). The Great Depression occurred during the time that several of Chaplin’s silent films were released. Giving this gateway to another reality had audiences of all kind questioning their very own presence.
Chaplin applied a nonrealistic effect to his films through methods such as gag jokes and stereotypical, “flat” characters in order to create a nonrealistic theme that was easy to play around with. Although this technique was unordinary, the viewers seemed to rave over it. This technique only fed into Chaplin’s “originality” title and helped him gain popularity and respect. His different approach to film while still using basic comedic acts allowed almost any kind of audience to understand while also laughing at something new and unique.Often times, most artists’ ideas or taste stem from their childhood.
For example, singer Mary J Blige was raped and abused as a child– this led to drug use in her later teens… but eventually these hardships translated into inspiration for her music; her music also being a coping mechanism as well. Chaplin often portrayed his fatally ill mother in several of his films, whether that be through character or cause and effect. Often times, however, it was through a lifeless, distressed female, who is often cared for or saved (something that Chaplin was unable to accomplish). Although the illness of his mother was no laughing matter, Chaplin was able to create a parallelism reflecting the impact his mother had on his life through his films, even if his films were comedic. This portrayal of his mother was also believed to be a coping mechanism for Chaplin, considering he lost his mother at such a young age. Although several modern day directors utilize Chaplin’s original methods, even back when Charlie was alive other directors were inspired by him.
Chaplin’s corky personality spoke to fellow script writer and director Grigory Alexandrov, who was not only inspired by Charlie’s film methods but his perspective on life as well.”and while swimming Alexandrov sang the famous Russian song, “Volga-Volga, native mother, Volga – Russian river.” Chaplin, who liked the song’s melody immediately, started to sing along. In his memoirs, the Soviet director wrote that Chaplin was so impressed by the song that he suggested they make a movie about the Volga: “It’s such a great river! Just like our Mississippi. You can find a lot of wonderful stories to illustrate the river, and the people living around it.
” After a few years, Alexandrov used this idea to make the film Volga-Volga” (Grigoryan).Chaplin’s work not only impacted the film aspect of business, but also the historical aspect as well. Chaplin’s World museum was opened in Switzerland, an attraction that portrayed the story of his life, achievements and even has dedicated rooms to some of his most memorable films. This is a hot spot for Chaplin lovers of all kinds– whether they love Charlie for his music, acting status or films, this museum has it all. It presents Chaplin’s legacy with pride and dignity.
There has also been other memorials dedicated to Chaplin, such as the Charlie Chaplin Statue also located in Switzerland. In 1992, there was even an influential film produced, “Chaplin”, that told the biography of Charlie’s life. All of these dedications just go to show how much respect Chaplin has gained worldwide for his creativity and hard work. He never went unrecognized for his originality, and many directors now a days look up to him and his unique film methods.