chaplin on the set of his final movie, a countess from hong kong, celebrating his 77th birthday, with sophia loren, tippi hedren and his son, sydney jr.
happy 122nd birthday to charlie chaplin!
make sure you check out the short tribute film to chaplin on google's homepage. i just happened to catch it right after they put it on - very well done.
it's certainly more than what tcm is doing for chaplin on his birthday - which is big fat NOTHING. they are showing the great dictator, but it isn't until tomorrow morning at six a.m. they used to run several shorts and maybe at least a feature, but they have gotten away from that in the last couple of years.
i plan on watching a woman of paris and maybe some shorts. maybe some keystone, definitely the idle class - it feels like it's been ages since i've last watched it.
Post by solgroupie on Apr 18, 2011 15:50:00 GMT -5
i did watch a woman of paris in honor of chaplin's birthday and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. the more i watch it, the more i love that film.
after the limelight
after the completion of limelight, chaplin said he had fewer qualms about its success than any other picture he had made. it received an enthusiastic reaction from a private showing, so chaplin, confident in his film’s future, began planning a trip to europe with oona. oona wanted to send their young children to school there, to remove them from the influences of hollywood.
the chaplin family at the french riviera in 1957 - from left - oona, geraldine, chaplin, eugene, michael, victoria and josephine
though chaplin had not received word on an application for a re-entry permit he’d made three months earlier, he thought little of it and continued making plans and arrangements to leave the country with his family. his taxes had been filed and cleared, but when the IRS learned of his upcoming departure, they discovered he owed them more money. chaplin was suspicious but paid what they asked and again applied for his re-entry permit, only to hear nothing for weeks. chaplin sent a letter to washington d.c., telling them he had applied twice for a permit and was leaving for his trip no matter what.
a week later he received a call from the immigration department, asking if they could come to his house and ask a few questions. chaplin agreed, and three men and a woman with a shorthand typewriter arrived soon after. after setting up a tape recorder, chaplin realized he should have called his lawyer to be present as well. but as he said in his autobiography, he felt he had nothing to hide.
they asked him questions about his name, his origin. they asked him if he was a communist. chaplin said no. they asked him why he used the word “comrades” in a speech. chaplin told them to look the word up in the dictionary; the communists had no claim on that word. they asked if he ever committed adultery. chaplin said bluntly that if they were looking for a technicality to keep him out of the country to tell him now so he could arrange his affairs accordingly. they insisted this was a normal question asked on every re-entry permit.
so chaplin brought out a dictionary so they could all look up the definition of adultery. when he was asked again, if he had ever fornicated with another man’s wife, chaplin said, “not to my knowledge.” they asked him if the united states were ever invaded, would he defend it (chaplin said of course). they asked several more inane questions for three hours, then called a week later to tell him he was expected at the immigration office for further questioning. chaplin’s lawyer insisted on coming along.
one of my favorite pictures of chaplin
once there, he was treated much better. they got his papers in order after chaplin told them they would only be away for no more than six months. he signed the papers - they thanked him and told him to “hurry back home soon.”
chaplin wanted oona to sign some papers at his bank so she would have access to his safety deposit box in case anything ever happened to him, but oona kept putting it off until just before they were set to leave. it was a good thing chaplin made her do it, because if they hadn’t taken care of it he said they would have spent the rest of their lives in litigation over it.
after boarding the queen elizabeth, chaplin got to relax and enjoy himself for about one day before the bomb was dropped on him. harry crocker, who had worked for chaplin for years, was also in attendance, and he was the one who first received the cable with the news. he called chaplin into his cabin and read it to him - he was barred from the united states and before he could re-enter the country he would have to go before an immigration board of inquiry to answer charges of a political nature and “moral turpitude.”
chaplin next film, the first he would make away from his own studio
chaplin said, “whether i re-entered that unhappy country or not was of little consequence to me. i would like to have told them that the sooner i was rid of that hate-beleaguered atmosphere the better, that i was fed up with america’s insults and moral pomposity, and that the whole subject was damned boring. but everything i possessed was in the states and i was terrified they might find a way of confiscating it.” so he played ball for the moment, giving a statement that he would return and answer to the charges to keep the peace. but the rest of the trip on the ship was ruined, as chaplin and his family were plagued with the media that specially embarked at their first stop in cherbourg.
up next: finding a new home and adjusting to a new life
Post by solgroupie on Apr 19, 2011 15:31:05 GMT -5
beginning life in exile - chaplin, oona and the kids wave from the queen elizabeth, where chaplin learned he would not be allowed back into america, 1952
chaplin tried to avoid the press after he, oona and the children disembarked and were at last in london, but it couldnt’ have been easy on anyone involved. i saw a clip of him speaking in the schickel doc, where he said they were going to do all the touristy things and go sightseeing, for it was oona’s first trip abroad. notice he only said it was oona’s first trip, not the children’s. perhaps he thought the children were too young to appreciate where they were. i read somewhere that charlie and oona’s love for each other was so intense that even their children felt like outsiders to their relationship. but then someone brings up the re-entry business and you can see a shadow pass over chaplin’s face before he simply states he has nothing new to add to his original statement.
chaplin, oona and two of their children - i've never been good at telling any of them apart until they got older, and then i could only identify michael and geraldine.
like he would always do when in london, he went to the streets where he could see the small flats he shared with sydney and his mother, as well as the home where he and sydney once lived with chaplin’s father. he seemed saddened that leicester square and piccadilly had been americanized with lunch counters and hot dog stands. chaplin noted “hatless youths and blue jeaned girls” there and said in his autobiography, “i remember when one dressed the part for the west end, and strolled with yellow gloves and a walking stick. but that world has gone, and another takes its place, eyes see differently, emotions react to other themes. men weep at jazz, and violence has become sexual. time marches on.”
chaplin with oona, shortly before they left the states for the last time
to get their money out of the states, oona had to fly back alone to get everything from chaplin’s safety deposit box. she was away for ten days and it was said (by syd jr., i believe) that chaplin was an absolute mess while she was gone. not only was he thoroughly used to her being by his side, he worried incessantly about any possible trouble she might have obtaining his money. after oona left the bank with what she came for, she went to their home in beverly hills. it was hard for oona to face it alone, knowing she would never live there again. when she spoke with with their swiss butler, he told her that the FBI had interrogated him twice, asking about what kind of man chaplin was. they wanted to know about the wild parties with nude girls that had gone on, and when the butler insisted nothing like that had ever taken place, they began to bully him, asking about his nationality and demanded to see his passport.
this is a bit wordy, but i felt it needed to be quoted from chaplin’s autobiography - it’s basically what he thought of the whole experience: “friends have asked how i came to engender this american antagonism. my prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. although i am not a communist, i refused to fall in line by hating them. this, of course, has offended many, including the american legion. i am not opposed to that organization in its true constructive sense; such measures as the g.i. bill of rights and other benefits for ex-soldiers and the needy children of veterans are excellent and humanitarian. but when the legionnaires go beyond their legitimate rights, and under the guise of patriotism use their power to encroach upon others, then they commit an offence against the fundamental structure of the american government.
chaplin's friend, german and austrian composer, hanns eisler, defends himself against the house committee on un-american activities, but was deported. he said upon leaving, "i feel heart-broken over being driven out of this beautiful country in this ridiculous way."
secondly, i was opposed to the committee on un-american activities - a dishonest phase to begin with, elastic enough to wrap around the throat and strangle the voice of any american citizen whose honest opinion is a minority one.
thirdly, i have never attempted to become an american citizen. yet scores of americans earning their living in england have never attempted to become british subjects. for example, an american executive of m.g.m. earning in dollars a four figure salary a week has lived in worked in england for over thirty-five years without becoming a british subject, and the english have never bothered about it. this explanation is not an apology. when i began this book i asked myself the reason for writing it. there are many reasons but apology is not one of them. in summing up my situation, i would say that in an atmosphere of powerful cliques and invisible governments, i engendered a nation’s antagonism and unfortunately lost the affection of the american public.”
Post by solgroupie on Apr 25, 2011 12:04:24 GMT -5
chaplin received much support once he was on the other side of the pond. it sounds as if he and oona were constantly invited to parties and dinners, and as limelight opened, it got the reception it deserved. at least in london and paris - there was an incident in rome at another limelight opening where a group of teenage neo-fascists threw cabbages and tomatoes at chaplin. though many of the italian suits were mortified, chaplin found the whole thing funny and refused to press charges.
while still in paris, chaplin had a phone call from the poet and editor of les lettres francaises, louis aragon, who was interested in meeting chaplin, along with jean-paul sartre and the great picasso. when harry crocker, chaplin’s publicity man, heard his boss invited them to dinner, he was horrified and said, “this will undo all the good we have done since we left the states.” in his autobiography, chaplin said though harry feared this meeting would come off as some kind conspiracy to overthrow western democracy, he was still present when the men arrived to get their autographs. he was not invited to dine with them; chaplin told him they expected stalin to arrive later and he didn’t want any publicity about it.
the chaplins returned to london to seriously look for a new home. oona was close to delivering their fifth child and was not about to continue living in hotels. because chaplin had a concern for blocked currency if they settled in london, and oona wasn’t crazy about the climate there for the children, they decided on switzerland. they found a beautiful thirty-seven acre home, the manoir de ban in the village of corsier, near vervey. an orchard on the property produced cherries, plums, apples and pears with a large vegetable garden and breathtaking views of the mountains.
the family adjusted to their new life - the children soon learned to speak french fluently, though chaplin never did master the language. once things began to feel more settled for them, chaplin was ready to sever all his ties with the united states. he went to the american counsel where he handed in his re-entry permit and announced he was not going back. even oona gave up her citizenship.
pile 'o chaplins
it took more than a year for chaplin to liquidate all his united states interests. once it was done, he said he knew he could at last tell america “to go sit on a tack.” but not wanting to become obligated to another nation’s protection, he did not. but it was still not without difficulty to know the country where he had known such excitement, opportunity and fame had turned its back on him. for the rest of his life, chaplin remained mostly gracious to america, for he had to acknowledge everything he had was possible because of his time there. but he could be bitter too. once, while trying to write in his study, young michael was singing america the beautiful to himself that was loud enough to enrage his father. oona was called in to remove michael from the room.
geraldine and michael in switzerland
chaplin arranged for severance pay with a bonus to his employees in california. he kept edna purviance on the payroll until the day she died, which was january 11th, 1958, of cancer. chaplin included a couple of letters she wrote him in her autobiography. edna never changed. she was very loving, happy for chaplin’s success and his family and grateful for his generosity. she said of her illness, “there cannot be a hell hereafter! it all comes when one can wriggle even a little finger.” she always ended her letters with a joke and signed one letter, “sincerely, your truest and best admirer, love, edna.”
the good old days
i thought it was touching that chaplin ended his autobiography with edna’s death - as if it represented a closing chapter of his life he could not compare with anything else. he also talked of his devotion to oona, saying, “schopenhauer said happiness is a negative state - but i disagree. for the last twenty years i have known what happiness means. i have the good fortune to be married to a wonderful wife. i wish i could write more about this, but it involves love, and perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express.”
chaplin and oona
edna represented the love of a young man who had his whole life and career ahead of him. oona represented his present and future. their marriage was very happy, but they were not without their problems. oona developed an addiction to alcohol that was for the most part, tolerated. and though chaplin loved his children and they loved him, there was an age gap that couldn’t help but be a problem.
there would still be two more kids to follow
michael made his issues of relating to his father public in a book he wrote as a young man in the latter 1960’s called i couldn’t smoke the grass on my father’s lawn, one of the funniest titles i have ever read. the book was terrible - michael was a spoiled kid who resented the attention his father received from the world, and having to share his love with his brothers and sisters made him feel more isolated, though he was very close to geraldine. michael got into trouble regularly as he grew up a rebellious teen in the ‘60’s.
the book is a hoot - full of words like, “pad,” “swinging,” and “groovy.” he married young to a woman several years older than him. he finally seriously pissed his parents off when he applied for whatever the switzerland equivalent is for welfare. he finally settled down to the point where he became one of the family representatives, along with geradine and sydney jr. anytime you see anyone from the chaplin family in an interview about charlie, it is almost always one of those three.
michael as a young man
and as an older man
but before all the turmoil between father and son, michael would co-star in one of chaplin’s final movies, a king of new york.
Last Edit: Apr 25, 2011 15:05:55 GMT -5 by solgroupie
before i watched a king in new york for the first time, i admit i wasn’t looking forward to it as i had with all of the other shorts and films chaplin had made up until then. praise is thrown around generously for about everything he did up until his last two films, a king in new york (1957) and a countess from hong kong (1967). even in the schickel documentary, both films barely got a mention, other than that they were both considered failures that depressed chaplin very much. so i wasn’t going into AKINY with great expectations. but i should have learned to trust chaplin. it turned out to be one of my favorite films.
it’s not perfect - you can tell it wasn’t made at his own studios in california. instead, it was filmed at shepperton studios in england, which must have been difficult for chaplin to adjust to. technically, it’s not up to a standard chaplin feature. and filmed in 12 weeks, it was definitely the least amount of time chaplin ever spent making a movie. but some of his greatest comedy is in a king in new york - i mean, damn funny bits that will make anyone laugh - even if you aren’t a fan of charlie chaplin. one thing that can be honestly said about him - he never lost his timing.
perhaps the reason it was considered a failure was because it was so ahead of its time. chaplin touched on some very current issues in AKINY, including mass commercialization, reducing a human being to a mere number - even plastic surgery, boy bands and reality television, believe it or not.
there are no old familiar faces in AKINY - none of the old cronies that had worked with chaplin for decades appear to work with him, or even behind the scenes. no young actress were “discovered,” nor was there any scandals associated with it. but one of chaplin’s greatest co-stars, perhaps since jackie coogan in the kid, appeared as his eleven year old son, michael chaplin.
as i have said, michael and his father had quite a tumultuous relationship once michael became a teenager. but he has commented on the experience of working with his dad as an enjoyable one. as the liberal-minded, hot-headed rupert macabee, who had a penchant for furious radical speeches, young michael had little idea of what he was saying, only memorizing the lines with the patient help of his father.
chaplin with his son, michael in a king in new york
a king in new york begins with an opening quote - something chaplin always opened a film with - perhaps unable to completely leave the days of the title cards in the past - one of the minor annoyances of modern life is a revolution. an angry mob is yelling for the head of king shadov (some have said that “shadov” was a play on “sod off”) at the gate of his mansion. they bust through and run throughout the king’s home, but it’s empty - he’s escaped.
cut to a plane landing in new york city. a jubilant king shadov trots down the steps of the plane to meet another large mob - this time of reporters and photographers. the first one to reach him rudely shoves a microphone into his face, which the king pushes away with a frown. jaume, the king’s ambassador, greets shadov with a hug, saying he is glad to see him alive and well. “ha-ha! we fooled them!” shadov says jokingly, at first unknowingly into the same reporter’s microphone. inside the airport, shadov poses for the mass of photographers - obeying their various commands - smile! look serious! - without pause or complaint. his prime minister voudel announces they are ready to take questions, and the first one is about the money that is rumored to have been stolen by the king. haughtily, voudel says everything that legally belonged to the king had been safely deposited in a bank in his name. shadov wants to transfer it to his name at once, but the prime minister smoothly tells him he must pass through immigration first.
someone from the crowd asks shadov about the controversy of atomic energy, which is quick to get the attention of the king. he announces that was what cost him his throne - he wanted atomic energy for domestic use, but his ministers wanted it for bombs. he declares he has nuclear plans that will revolutionize life and bring about a new utopia. an immigration officer interrupts him, much to the relief of the prime minister.
now, chaplin was never obvious in AKINY about his less than positive feelings for america, but you can still catch glimpses of little jabs he took. the immigration officer takes him to be finger printed as dozens of photographers surround him to capture the moment, which had to be reference to the day he went through that for real during his trial in the joan berry case. a reporter asks for a few words for the american public, and with perfect timing, shadov looks at the camera as he is being printed and grandly says he is deeply moved by america’s warm friendship and hospitality. “this big-hearted nation has already demonstrated its noble generosity to those who come to seek a refuge from tyranny.” BAM!
in a luxurious hotel suite, shadov plays with a ball and cup toy until voudel and jaume are ready to discus the finances left after the revolution. shadov is dismayed to learn not much was left, and he makes arrangements with voudel to meet in the morning to transfer everything to his name. after voudel leaves, shadov is ready to have a little fun in NYC.
up next in part II: some stiff news and a look at new new york
Post by solgroupie on May 10, 2011 12:33:11 GMT -5
a king in new york, part II
shadov’s night out with jaume begins on a crowded city sidewalk. honestly, were new york city sidewalks ever this crowded? it’s almost impossible for them to push their way forward through the crowd as sirens scream by.
chaplin wasn’t too sad to leave new york behind when he left america in 1952. for him it had lost the charm it once had for him. it was too hurried, too modern. even when chaplin first came to america with the karno company in 1912, he had to get used to the faster pace of new york. from his autobiography: i was alien to this slick tempo. in new york even the owner of the smallest enterprise acts with alacrity. the shoe-black flips his polishing rag with alacrity, the bartender serves a beer with alacrity, sliding it up to you along the polished surface of the bar. the soda clerk, when serving an egg malted milk, performs like a hopped-up juggler. because of his heavy accent, chaplin was often insecure and intimidated by this pace. but he seemed to have no regrets leaving it behind.
chaplin with oliver johnston in a king in new york
my own personal holy grail is in this scene. above the sounds of traffic, sirens, the crowd and the brief dialog between shadov and jaume, you can faintly hear the sound of chaplin himself singing a song. the name of the song is weeping willows. in a short doc on AKINY, they briefly played the song as well. sometimes a song will hit me a certain way and i become obsessed with obtaining it. seriously - i drive myself crazy until i track it down. just the few seconds of hearing chaplin singing that bluesy song set me off. but it is nowhere to be found. i even went as far as emailing someone off the official chaplin website to see if they could point me in the right direction, but it was no use. at least someone did write me back - they said the only copy of the song was damaged so it was never released. i mourn the loss of that song to this day.
not what i had in mind
shadov and jaume decide to take in a movie. they are detained at the entrance to the theater, because a band is playing on the stage to an audience of yelling, dancing youths. that doc i mentioned above spoke of that scene and how that band wasn’t all that different than the “boy bands” we’ve seen - they were playing modern music that made the girls scream. of course there is nothing new about that, but the band did have a sort of disposable sound. and it was a first time chaplin used modern music in a film - not modern to him, you see. an usher leads the pair to a seat in the front. as shadov threads his way through the throngs of squealing girls, one girl on the floor playfully grabs his leg. as the usher pulls her away and the men sit down, shadov says in surprise (and some fear), “she bit me!” what follows is hilarious. i’m so glad there is a clip on it on youtube - please watch it, because it is a perfect example of chaplin’s genius. the whole thing just cracks me up.
they decide to leave the theater and go to what appears to be a quiet, elegant restaurant. they are seated before the stage where a man is playing soft piano music for the diners. just as shadov appreciates the tranquility of their surroundings, the stage revolves and the piano player disappears - replaced by a band. the cymbal of the drums positions itself directly over shadov’s head as he studies the menu. just as they discuss what looks good on the menu, the band begins to play and nearly sends both men to the floor. when i watch shadov thrash around as the drums bang above his head, all i can see is the tramp. it looks like something that would have happened to him in city lights.
chaplin gets to bring back some of his pantomime skills in AKINY when, after they compose themselves, they are ready to give their order to the waiter. the music is so loud he can’t hear what they are saying, so shadov does a very funny and dead on pantomime for caviar and turtle soup.
the next morning the king watches a story on the early morning news about his arrival in new york on television. that alone always struck me, as inane as it might sound. up until then, a television had never been featured in a chaplin film. jaume arrives, distraught. voudel checked out of the hotel the night before and has left with the king’s money. they quickly realize nothing can be done, since all the records and documents for the securities were destroyed in the revolution. shadov grimly realizes he is now broke. flatly, comically, jaume states they still have the king’s atomic plans, but shadov says all he has is blueprints.
but there is little time to dwell on it - they are notified that the queen has arrived. quickly, shadov tells jaume not to tell her of the news of voudel’s treachery.
up next in part III: the king mixes with the elite new york society and meets rupert, a soon-to-be-thorn-in-his-side.
Post by nondescript spice on Dec 12, 2012 16:48:09 GMT -5
....okay, break's over - where was i....?
ah, yes. AKINY. one of the last great films of charlie chaplin, no matter what critics might say. as smitten as i have been with the great schickel film doc charlie: the life and art of charles chaplin, i regret that it spent so little time on AKINY or a countess from hong kong. perhaps it was due to time constraints? still, they were two films worthy of a closer look & discussion, imo.
as i've gone through this monster, reading and re-reading my endless posts about chaplin's work, i decided not to pick the remainder of this one to death, line by line. if any serious pre-fans of chaplin wandered in here, i saved them the trouble of watching his bloody films by over describing them to death. but it is only because i love them so and i've been known to get carried away. never denied it.
but i have to touch on some points, right? as i said some time ago, this film may have been considered one of chaplin's failures, but it touched on some rather current events in our life today, such as society's vain need for plastic surgery and reality tv. there is a very funny scene involving a dinner party the king has been invited to by the alluring dawn addams, who works for an ad agency and is hired to get the king to unwittingly advertise some products.
i wish i could have found a full length pic of the dress she wore in that scene. i'm not really a girly-girl, but that dress was faaaabulous. anyway, the king is very confused throughout dinner and is coaxed into unknowingly making a fool out of himself on live television.
i think it was also a bit of a commentary on the expectations the public had of chaplin during his downtime. the lady in the pic above with the cutlery in her mouth makes a whispered comment before the king sits down that he can be quite entertaining at dinner parties if you get him in the mood. i imagine since it was said chaplin was always on, he felt pressured to take center stage any time he was at a dinner table and it became expected of him. after all, that is where
^this gem was born.
at any rate, it's a funny scene and the chemistry between chaplin and addams is charming. it gives chaplin another shot to show us the old boy's still got it.
she conspires to get him to sign with her agency to do some real commercials, so to do it, she takes a suite next to his and fakes an injury to gain his sympathy. yikes. yeah, we've come a long way, baby.
LOOK at that meaty foot! it just doesn't look like it should belong to the petite dawn addams. it bugs me every time i see it. a friend of mine cracked me up when she said perhaps oona stood in and lent her foot for the scene. anyway, it works and the king agrees to pimp some whiskey or scotch (i forget). not only for the girl, but because he is broke. also, his performance on tv was a roaring success and he needs to milk his 15 minutes while he can.
as you can imagine, it is a disaster. but it convinces him to try plastic surgery, which leads to a really funny scene where chaplin mimics his own art. he is not allowed to laugh or even smile while his surgery "takes," so he is forced to remain stoic for a comedy routine at a dinner theater he is attending with addams. it is two men who play bumbling painters that is remarkably like a scene from the 1915 essanay short, work. my kingdom to have seen chaplin direct that scene! but the king eventually loses it and decides to go back to his old face.
^too bad these two couldn't find the doc he used
dawn addams is an important character in AKINY - she is not the wife, the queen, the one shadov truly loves. but she fulfills the need for a perky, pretty female that keeps the story moving. the queen, played by the serene maxine audley, makes only one appearance at the beginning of the film, but you know she is ultimately who the king wants - why? not because she is the "it" girl or a passing fancy - she's the one the king loves. addams is likable, pretty and fun, but not permanent. he might not be the tramp, but chaplin is showing us his maturity.
the most important character in the story, other than the king, is young rupert, played incredibly well by chaplin's son, michael.
i can see both oona and charlie in michael in this picture
he impressively rattles off his complicated lines and steals every scene he is in.
if you watch michael while chaplin is speaking, you can see he is moving his lips along with his father's lines. maybe an example of someone other than the perfectionist that was chaplin was editing the film - maybe that was the only way michael could get the lines out. but it takes little away from the scene - it's very quick and funny.
i love rupert's character - you never know when he's going to start charging around, wagging his finger in everyone's face, yapping about his ironclad beliefs. you can certainly tell chaplin penned his lines - every one of them came from his mind and heart. but michael's delivery is very, very funny - another brilliant way chaplin got his message across.
there are a few moments, i admit, that are a little old fashioned, a little out of place, like when jaume and the king nervously try to drink a cup of tea while awaiting their fate. it's better suited for a silent short, not a film in 1957. but chaplin saves his greatest bit of comedy for the end when he sprays the HUAC with a fire hose. i would have loved to have been a fly on the wall while chaplin figured out the mechanics of this scene - how would the king accidentally spray the entire committee with water? how he ended up with the hose is sheer tramp. unmistakable. it almost brings tears to my eyes to see it still there in him, fighting to get out.
i laugh out loud every time i watch it and applaud chaplin every time a little more.
the ending is surprisingly grim. rupert is finally stripped of his bawling idealism and exposed as what he really is - a frightened child, forced to forsake his beliefs. it's a thankfully brief scene. as the king journeys back to his queen - for the most part unscathed - you don't feel completely happy and that is what chaplin intended. the first time i watched it, i was a bit - huh...? - but then i realized chaplin was still haunted by his experience in that despicable witch hunt and couldn't quite leave it behind.
*sorry if the pictures are gigantic - i tried to size them, but they seem to want to stay HUGE. also, thanks for the comments. it's good to be back.
Post by nondescript spice on Dec 19, 2012 13:04:02 GMT -5
the world was given charlie chaplin's last film in 1967. the year i was born. coincidence? yeah, most likely.
unless you are a big fan of marlon brando or sophia loren, you probably haven't heard of it. and even if you are big fans of brando and loren you still may have not heard of it, since it was not a huge hit for either star. it was considered a big flop, actually, though i did read it was popular in italy.
wonder why - dur
i didn't see countess, myself, until last year. i had been putting it off because of the terrible reviews, but i knew i had to watch it sooner or later.
chaplin was in his latter 70's when countess came about. he had been jonesing to do another movie and had many ideas and scripts he had worked on over the years. oona wasn't thrilled that he was going to direct another film - it took so much out of him and she worried about his health. but he displayed his usual non-stop energy, despite his age. he still had another ten years to live.
chaplin, cutting his birthday cake with sophia loren, tippi hedren and his son, sydney
chaplin originally wrote countess back in the '30's and had intended to star his third wife, paulette goddard. and it would have been a great film for the late '30's or early '40's. but by 1967, the world of cinema had changed greatly. films like the graduate, bonnie and clyde, in the heat of the night and divorce american style were in the theaters and a lighthearted, madcap romp such as countess seemed totally out of place. but chaplin, stubborn as ever, refused to change.
chaplin with loren - i love how badass chaplin looks in that shot
the story is basically this: marlon brando plays an ambassador-designate to saudi arabia, on a ship that is en route to america. sophia loren plays a russian countess, a stowaway, trying to escape being forced into prostitution. she stays in his room and they must go through a number of wacky misunderstandings throughout the story.
you can pretty much predict the plot - they hate each other at first, but grow fond of one another and by the end, brando risks his career to save the woman he loves. tippi hedren has a small part as brando's wife and chaplin's own son, sydney, plays a lawyer friend to brando. sydney did a great job - he inherited his father's good looks and charm and held his own in every scene he was in. chaplin's daughters had minor roles as debutantes.
chaplin directs a scene with daughter, geradline
chaplin had a cameo as an old steward, suffering from sea sickness. it wasn't easy to see an older chaplin in the small role, but as corny as it was, it still made me smile to see him stumble around, trying to deal with his sea sickness, just as his tramp once did in the immigrant in 1917.
i can't remember brando's exact quote about chaplin from his book - mj would probably know that - but he clearly hated the experience. it's easy to see why - brando represented new hollywood - he was a method actor unused to chaplin's old fashioned direction.
this must have been taken early in production of countess
chaplin still directed the way he always had - he acted out your part while you watched and then he expected you to do it the exact same way. and brando was not the type to follow that. i can't imagine anyone directing that way today, but chaplin came from a different time and his way used to work well for him.
easily my favorite picture of chaplin and brando together and a perfect example of what i was saying
i read once that on the set of countess, chaplin was trying to work through a scene with brando, who was expected to come through a door. brando asked, "what is my motivation?" and chaplin, exasperated, said, "to get through the g.d. door, my boy."
i also read that brando didn't approve of the way chaplin treated sydney - whom he had become friends with while making countess. apparently, chaplin was pretty rough on syd. all in all, it became a very unpleasant atmosphere for all involved and by the end of shooting, as chaplin and brando ended up only communicating through notes.
to top it off, i also understand brando and loren didn't hit it off that well. i don't know if that's true or not, but they did seem a little stiff to me. i could just feel brando's misery when i watched countess. there were a couple of times i thought he really did have great timing with the comedy - you just don't associate brando with comedy, right? but i think he did his best under the circumstances.
as far as loren goes - i believe she was much easier for chaplin to direct. i thought she did quite well for what was expected of her and i got the feeling she just did what she was told without questioning. that was when sophia was at her most stunning, imo.
i hate that chaplin's last film was a disappointment in the box office and he came off as such a tyrant to his actors. i also read that he ended up thinking countess was the greatest film he ever made, but i think at some point, chaplin said that about every film he made. but it was a different time for him - countess was his first movie filmed in color, the technology was changing faster and faster - and he had actors that respected his career but all thought they knew better than he did. many critics said chaplin should have hung it up before countess, but i'm glad he made it. there was a time when he went against the public opinion and won out and i still believe he did with his last offering. he wanted to make one last film and he did it - on his terms. you gotta respect that.