Chaplin (1992)

Hanspostcard is hosting a movie draft from 12 different genres…this is my biographical entry.

This fulfills my biographical genre. I started to get into silent movies in the late eighties. It started with a book on Clara Bow and it mushroomed from there. By 1992 I was ordering silent movies on VHS from New York and bootlegs where ever I could get them. The actors and actresses that got my attention were Clara Bow, Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, Mary Pickford, and Charles Chaplin.

In 1992 I had just settled into my small Laverne and Shirley basement studio apartment when this movie was released. It was perfect timing because this was the peak of my silent movie interest. I would get USA Today everyday to check my Dodgers box scores and I read about this movie coming out. There was an advertisement where you could make a 99 cent phone call (per minute) to listen to some of the movie on the telephone. Yes I was that desperate (sucker) to do just that… to hear some of the movie…it was a different time.

I had read where Johnny Depp was up for the role and I thought he would have been the perfect person to play Chaplin. I was totally wrong…the perfect actor to play Chaplin was the one who got the role…Robert Downey Jr. He became Chaplin on the screen. He went as far as learning to play tennis left handed.

Robert Downey Jr. had a terrific cast surrounding him. Chaplin’s own daughter (Geraldine Chaplin) played Chaplin’s mom in the movie. Dan Aykroyd portrayed Mack Sennett, and Kevin Kline plays Douglas Fairbanks Sr. It was also directed by the great Richard Attenborough.

The movie starts with an 8 year old Chaplin taking the stage to sing after his mentally disturbed mom was booed off. Chaplin’s childhood was straight out of a Dickens novel. With help from his older brother Syd he got a job with a vaudeville unit ran by Fred Karno. He also met his first love Hetty Kelly who would shape his love interest for the rest of his life. His brother Syd worked as his manager when Chaplin got famous. In the beginning Syd was much more well known than Charlie…until the little tramp appeared.

The movie moves fast…sometimes a little too fast. All through the movie he is talking to an editor (Anthony Hopkins) about his then new (1964) autobiography and that is how they move the movie along. I wanted to see more about certain movies I’d enjoyed but they did have a lot to cover. They manage to touch on some of his political problems like with J. Edgar Hoover and when he made The Great Dictator.

The movie follows Chaplin through his movies, personal life,  and his politically rough waters. As with any movie about a historical figure…things will be missed, wrong, and forgotten but the movie hits the high spots of his life.

If you  really want to know about Chaplin read Chaplin: His Life and Art by David Robinson or watch one of the many documentaries on him. Chaplin was a complicated man…too complicated to be summed up in a two hour motion picture…but it was a great try. After reading so many books, what I wanted would have taken a 6 hour movie…so this is a good introduction to Chaplin.

The movie was very enjoyable and you do get the highs and lows of Charles Spencer Chaplin. You also get a hell of a good acting job from Robert Downey Jr. The movie also combines shots of the real Chaplin in his movies. Sitting in the theater it was magical…near the end of the movie they show real Chaplin clips as seen on an award show in 1972. The laughter in the theater was the loudest I’ve ever heard before or since… the Tramp still drew laughs in 1992 and he still does in 2021.

After watching this movie you will probably want to watch some Chaplin movies…that would be the best outcome…if you haven’t watched any…you are missing a true artist who not only starred but wrote, directed, and produced.

Cast

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin
    • Hugh Downer as Charlie age 5
    • Thomas Bradford as Charlie age 14
  • Marisa Tomei as Mabel Normand
  • Geraldine Chaplin as Hannah Chaplin
  • Paul Rhys as Sydney Chaplin
    • Nicholas Gatt as Sydney age 9
  • John Thaw as Fred Karno
  • Moira Kelly as Hetty Kelly, Charlie’s first love / Oona O’Neill
  • Anthony Hopkins as George Hayden
  • Dan Aykroyd as Mack Sennett
  • Penelope Ann Miller as Edna Purviance
  • Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks
  • Matthew Cottle as Stan Laurel
  • Maria Pitillo as Mary Pickford
  • Milla Jovovich as Mildred Harris
  • Kevin Dunn as J. Edgar Hoover
  • Deborah Moore as Lita Grey
  • Diane Lane as Paulette Goddard
  • Nancy Travis as Joan Barry
  • James Woods as Joseph Scott
  • Francesca Buller as Minnie Chaplin
  • David Duchovny as Roland Totheroh

Back To School

I watched this tonight…oh how I miss Rodney Dangerfield. This movie was released in 1986 and while it’s not in the class of Caddyshack or Animal House…it’s a fun movie to pass the time.

Rodney plays a very rich owner (Thorton Melon) of Tall and Fat shops and has a son (Jason Melon) going to college played by Keith Gordon. Thorton catches his wife cheating…many times and they get a divorce. Jason lies to his dad about being on the swim team and in reality, is about to quit college. Thorton decides to be the oldest freshman on campus and joins his son in college.

Three interesting appearances in this movie…A young Robert Downey Jr…. he plays the eccentric best friend of Jason, Sam Kinison who plays a very loud Professor…and Kurt Vonnegut who plays himself.

This movie is a fun little comedy and Dangerfield gets off some really good one-liners:

With the shape my body is in, I could donate it to science fiction.

 

Bring a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until someone passes out, then bring one every ten minutes.

No kids? Well, get yourself some. Take it all. [hands officer more cash] And just remember, the best thing about kids… is making them!

I don’t know. I can’t figure women out. Today, they’re… independent. They only think about themselves. Why, during sex, Vanessa – she used to scream out her own name!

 

Probably the most famous scene of the movie.