Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Random Chaplin Sighting

I've made it up to the final year of my research for an essay about the film years 1906-1914. One hundred fifty-one films strong with, I don't know, thirty more to go. I think.

Among those who emerged during this period was Charlie Chaplin. Working at first as a supporting player at Mack Sennett's comedy factory, Chaplin quickly became a star. While many of his early efforts are simple variations on Sennett's "everybody-hit-somebody, everybody-fall-down" brand of comedy, Chaplin had an innate sense of rhythm and comic timing that turned these random free-for-alls into a sort of dance—a Waltz of the Violently Clumsy, if you will.

Here's one of his early directorial efforts, The Rounders, co-starring Roscoe Arbuckle, Phyllis Allen and Minta Durfee.


Michael Powers said...

Saw "The Rounders" projected onto a full-sized screen at the Museum of Modern Art a couple of times and it is amazing. Arbuckle goes a jaw-droppingly long way toward holding his own with Chaplin, something not even Mabel Normand or anyone else could really do (although my experience with Normand/Chaplin collaborations remains sadly limited to only a couple of films out of many, so don't chisel that in stone), and it's one of the richest pleasures to see Roscoe and Charles work together this way. Much as I revere Laurel & Hardy, of course they could never hit the level you see here with Chaplin and Arbuckle.

By the way, you're such a fine writer that you should just drop the award framework altogether and write about the films straight up since it confuses new readers dipping in and diverts energy and attention best spent on the nuances you're so superb at addressing. Your essay on "Sunrise" was the most insightful and entertaining I've ever read anywhere, for example, and I'd love to see you focus your attention on the milieu itself without distractions. Ironically, I think the award format constitutes a stumbling block for the blog in various ways, especially regarding readers who, um, stumble in by accident (i.e. everybody at first) and don't know quite what to make of it. You wouldn't have to explain it, just compose future essays without it, and see what happens. Either way, though, I'm certainly reading as long as you're writing.

Douglas Fairbanks said...

You want I should swashbuckle this Powers flatterer for ya?

Drop tha' Katie and she might drop you. . . !

Douglas Fairbanks said...

PS Chaplin is like Nureyev, only more graceful