To say they don’t make them like Charlie Chaplin anymore simply isn’t true, because the fact is they never made them like Charlie Chaplin, he was a true anomaly of multiple talents, a Jack of all trades who over the course of his life became the most recognizable man in the world ahead of presidents, despots, princesses, and Popes. He has no parallel; there are contemporaries, students, and mimics, but no comparables, no equals. Even the phrase “one of a kind” is too clichéd a description for the man the world lovingly knew as The Little Tramp.
Chaplin was a writer, a director, an actor, a producer, an editor, a composer, and pretty much any and everything else his pictures needed, whenever they needed it. He was more of an auteur than Welles, more of an artist than Keaton, and more of a businessman than Bunuel. More than that, though, Chaplin was a man of defined principles, he was a man who refused to shy away from what he wanted his art to say, and a man who never let fear of retaliation shake him from his course.
Dude made The Great Dictator, a scathingly hilarious send-up of Adolf Hitler — you know, the most evil man of the 20th century and a real contender for the shittiest ever — when Hitler was still in power. I can’t even conceive of the size Chaplin’s balls had to be to even attempt something like that, especially as the native son of a country that was fighting off a German invasion when the picture opened. You thought The Interview was daring? The Great Dictator makes it look like Dave.
That’s not to say Chaplin was always at the height of popularity. On the contrary, there were periods of his career when he was viciously despised by the public, which in my opinion just further cements him as an artist, not an entertainer, someone looking for more than an easy laugh, though to a man of his talents the laughs certainly came easily.
Bottom line, cinema has never seen another force like Charlie Chaplin, he was a master of the form and one of the first icons of the medium. In this look at the man from Alex Kalogeropoulos’ CINEMASTERS series, the highs and lows of Chaplin’s brilliant life and career are surveyed. It’s a fascinating look at a fascinating man who for better or worse set the stage for the auteur in filmmaking.