On Chaplin’s birthday, I usually watch “Chaplin” (the one directed by Sir…err.. Lord Richard Attenborough and starring Robert Downey, Jr), The Gentleman Tramp and/or Unknown Chaplin documentaries, and the ’42 version of The Gold Rush (the re-edited version narrated by and music written by Chaplin himself. It was released on April 16, 1942). Sometimes an additional short film or two.
But this year I watched (or re-watched) some fan-made videos. And now I’ll share them here:
Charlie Chaplin Tribute
One of the favrites by my kids is this one, by cldcollector. Great balance of film clips and home movies. Song is Gin Filled Boy by Divine Comedy.
Charlie Chaplin – Filmography/Montage/Tribute (Moby)
This one uses Moby’s Run On. The beat remains pretty constant throughout the whole video. Hard for me to listen to the song without picturing the video in my head :D.
Charlie Chaplin // Birthday Tribute (2012)
This one I just found today. It was made on his birthday 5 years ago, and somehow I haven’t seen this before. Played it several times today. Reeeaaalllly like it. Song is Light Surrounding You by Evermore
Chaplin, put to the music of Penguin Cafe Orchestra
This is something I wrote about here, but I’ll share again in this post. I’m a fan of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and while listening to the song, Perpetuum Mobile, I pictured the building of Chaplin’s Studio from How To Make Movies. And I matched it up, and, OMG, it strangely fits.
Start the song when How to Make Movies gets to “Hollywood, Cal.”. Ends as Charlie skips off into the background after trying the lemon. Rather fun I think.
So ,there we are. Hope you enjoyed those little bits of Chaplin delight C|:=:)
There are some new things in WordPress that I’m learning to work with, but on the whole, things are moving along. And I might start writing more than just a small handful of articles (the pictures issue just was soooo disheartening). Maybe even videos! I have a camera or three that I have been fooling with.
There is just so many ideas and thoughts that just sit in my head, and real life has had a way of wearing me down to the point that I lacked the motivation and energy, but it’s going in an upswing now 🙂
So it’s Christmas time once again, and I thought I would share some of the things I like to watch around this time of year. In no real order. Except Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown always comes in first!
A Charlie Brown Christmas
What is there not to like in this classic 1965 cartoon? Everything is so perfect that I can’t imagine it any other way. The characters, the wonderful, upbeat music, how just about every line is quotable.
Added bonus – If you are as old as I am, you might remember the special being preceded by this CBS intro
The Blue Carbuncle
The beautiful Granada series that starred Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in this wonderful story set at Christmastime. Ah, a Victorian Christmas! This is one of my favorite episodes of the show. Back when VHS reigned supreme this was the only episode I bought (they cost $15-20 each back then!)
This is based off the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story of the same name (text from Wikisource; audio part 1 and part 2 from Project Gutenburg, a fantastic reading!)
Mork’s First Christmas
From the Mork and Mindy tv series, this one has recently been added (though I have seen it at least a dozen times since August). Mork finds out what the true meaning of Christmas is (not a horrible plague…watch to find out his telling of his first encounter with Christmas) And what a sweet ending!
The Greatest Gift
From one of my favorite scifi shows, Warehouse 13 (I miss that show! 🙁 ), this is their Christmas episode from season 3. Something happens to Pete where he wakes up as if he never was born. The story and title comes from the short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern that led to the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Unfortunately, I am not able to find the full episode, so here is a clip from near the beginning:
(Another tv episode that was inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life was also from Mork and Mindy, “It’s a Wonderful Mork“, but it’s not a Christmas episode so I don’t really include it in this list. But it’s really good, and a bit of a tearjerker due to recent events).
It’s a Wonderful Life
There was a time when I was growing up that this movie would be on a bunch of channels, sometimes at the same time. You turn to one channel and it would be at one scene, and go to another channel and it would be at another scene. And it remains and endearing movie, full of heart and makes you realize how much you can make a difference to someone else, even if it’s a small one.
A true classic starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Henry Travers.
The Gold Rush
Not exactly a Chistimasy type of movie, but it takes place over Thanksgiving and Christmas. This 1925 silent film by Charlie Chaplin is considered to be his best. Charlie, as the Little Tramp, goes to the mountains in hopes of finding gold. He encounters a friend. and enemy, boils and eats a shoe, does a dance with rolls, and falls in love.
The below version is the 1942 (tweaked) re-release with Chaplin’s own narration (in place of the typical silent film title cards) and musical score. While I like this one better overall, I like the story of the original better (mostly the same version, just a couple important cuts that Chaplin took out)
A Christmas Carol
Take a classic Charles Dickens story, and the 11th Doctor, and you get Doctor Who’s 2010 Christmas episode (my favorite Who Christmas episode so far, though I didn’t quite understand the whole thing about the fish and shark). And there is the absolutely beautiful, operatic song, “Silence is All You Know”
As with Warehouse 13, the full episode is not online for free (that I can find), so below is a trailer and a clip.
This episode is on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and a few other places.
Chaplin as Billy, age 14 (though he looks 12 to me.
When I became a Charlie Chaplin fan in 1991, one of the *very first things* I learned about him was his role in the 1901 Sherlock Holmes play written by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I had been a Sherlockian for 5 years by then and was thrilled that my new “obsession” had a connection, one of many (and growing!) I would later discover.
William Gillette, in his Holmes garb
Chaplin was born on April 16,1889, in Lambeth, London, England, at the beginning of the Sherlock Holmes publishing era. the year before the publishing of the second Holmes story, “The Sign of Four”. After living for some time in poverty, he gradually got work as a child actor (both his parents were stage performers). He wrote in his My Autobiography (1964) how he lied about his age to get a part in a H A Saintsbury play, A Romance of Cocknaye, saying he was 14, when he was actually 12 1/2. The manager of the production and cast liked him so much they offered him the Billy the Pageboy role. So from July 1903 to February 1906 he traveled the country performing the part. (Holmes trivia: The pageboy in the original stories did not have a name until after the play was made. It would have been interesting if Doyle named him Charlie!)
The argument over “Who’s the best Sherlock Holmes?” is nothing new, though the names change over time. Back in his day, Chaplin worked under two of the starring Holmes’: William Gillette and H A Saintsbury. He wrote in his “My Autobiography” that while he liked both, he felt Saintsbury was closer to the “real” Holmes.
List of the cast (including Chaplin as Billy), as they performed at Duke of York’s Theatre, circa 1905
Want to see the play? Here it is, performed in 1981 for HBO. Frank Langella plays Holmes (very well, I must say!) My favorite scene (Act 3, pt 2), which includes some great interactions with Billy, is embedded below:
(side note – the boy playing Billy in the above performance is a young Christian Slater)
The Great Dictator (1940) – Chaplin as Hynkel (center), Reginald Gardiner (left) as Schultz, and Henry Daniell as Garbitsch (right)
While he had other roles in his early childhood showbiz career, none seemed to have stuck with him later in his life than the Billy role. Decades later in 1939 when he was shooting his Hitler satire, “The Great Dictator”, he would re-enact scenes from the Holmes play in-between scenes for the movie to entertain the cast and crew.
One of the actors in Dictator was Henry Daniell, who later who appear in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), and The Woman in Green (1945, playing Professor Moriarty, the role I best remember him for.)
Which also brings us to Nigel Bruce. Chaplin hired Bruce for his 1952 film, Limelight. Bruce was hired not only because of his talent but mainly because of his strong connection with the Holmes franchise having famously played Dr. Watson.
Basil Rathbone (left) as Holmes, Nigel Bruce (back, center) as Watson and Henry Daniell (right) from Voice of Terror (1943)
In the film Limelight, Bruce plays Mr Postant, an homage to the real life who was William Gillette’s stage manager, and who had played an important role of keeping an eye out for the young Chaplin during the Holmesian days.
I have often felt that if he played Watson like he later played Postant, Watson would have been considered less bumbling. Below is a clip from Limelight which not only includes Bruce, but also Claire Bloom (many years later she would costar with David Tennant in Doctor Who, “The End of Time”), and Buster Keaton who plays Calvero’s partner (Keaton’s Holmes connection is making the brilliant 1924 silent film Sherlock Jr.)
One of the reasons why I picked using the name Calvero on the internet, and have kept it for almost 20 years, is the Holmes connection (along with Keaton, and the later Doctor Who connection,
To Modern Times
In 1992 came Robert Downey Jr playing the title role in Sir Richard Attenborough’s “Chaplin”. Absolutely brilliant! And he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor (he was ROBBED! ROBBED, I tell you!). Downey did such a great job, that most of the time I forgot I was watching someone else playing Charlie.
Fast-forward 17 years and he was picked by Guy Ritchie to play the lead in Sherlock Holmes, which, honestly, sounded a little weird. For Chaplin, he played someone who was about 5’4″. And years later he plays someone who is described by Watson as being at least 6 feet tall. Either way, I did (and still do) enjoy his take on the Great Detective. He did win a Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy” for his portrayal of Holmes (a category I still don’t understand how he won, but he won it. So, YAY!)
Chaplin and Holmes meet once again
On season 2, episode 1 of BBC’s excellent show Sherlock, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, John Watson’s girlfriend Jeanette is played play by Charlie’s granddaughter (Geraldine’s daughter), Oona Chaplin. When I was first watching the episode, I didn’t know who the actress was but there was something about her… I couldn’t put my finger on it. She seemed familiar, and at the same time not familiar. When I immediately re-watched the episode for the second time (because it was so mind blowingly awesome), I paid more attention to the ending credits, and the name “Oona Chaplin” jumped out at me. I threw my arms up in the air and shouted “WOOOOOOOHOOOO!!!” and did a happy dance. And so a new Chaplin comes face to face with the great detective.
Close encounter of a Sherlockian/Chaplinesque kind: Aidan Quinn
Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) from Elementary
Another recent connection (though not as strong as the above ones, but still there) is CBS’s newest take of the Holmes and Watson interpretations in Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes, and Lisa Liu as Joan Watson (that’s right, a female Watson…a very good one), which premiered during Holmes’ 125th anniversary (2012). Co-starring is Aidan Quinn who plays Captain Thomas Gregson of the NYPD.
Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), Sam (Johnny Depp), and Benny (Aidan Quinn)
Almost 20 years earlier (1993), Quinn played in an adorable movie that also starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Matherson, Benny and Joon (released just a few months after Downey’s Chaplin.). Quinn plays the older, and pretty protective brother, Benny to Matherson’s Joon who slowly falls in love with Depp’s Sam who is a eccentric person who is obsessed with Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Continuing on with Chaplin’s 125th anniversary of his birth and 100th anniversary of his first film! HUZZAH!
I was listening to a song, Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and it popped in my head of a scene from a not-so-well-known Charlie Chaplin film that was never released (until a few years ago). The song itself does not necessarily remind one of Chaplin, but the tempo reminded me of the stop motion building of his studio from the film, How to Make Movies (a kind of “behind the scenes” type movie). And other things just fell into place.
Below are embeds of the film (no need to adjust the volume, there is no sound at all for the film), and two different places to listen to the song (your choice). I start the song right after the “Hollywood, Cal.” title card (about 0:14), and the song ends as Charlie finishes eating the lemon and skips away from the camera.
Here is the song on YouTube:
Have Spotify? (Where I first heard the song.)
It’s not a 100% match, but it does match quite a bit of it especially since it’s not an obvious song choice (Maple Leaf Rag always reminds me of Chaplin), and ends at a good spot. Fun to watch 🙂
Some thoughts on the film:
Although the film was never released to the public, Chaplin did release the beginning part of it when he put together three of his silent films together, A Dog’s Life, Should Arms, and The Pilgrim, in 1959 for The Chaplin Revue. He added music (which is wonderful! Especially for guy who couldn’t read or write music) and narrated short intros before each of the three films. Right before A Dog’s Life, he narrates parts of HTMM.
Such as the scene where the 1918 Charlie arrives at the studio, older Chaplin says “Now you see my arrival. (Charlie gets out of car) That’s me. I looked much younger there. (laughs) That was at least ten years ago” he says, 40 years later! Always makes me chuckle.
I just tried looking for it online, and (as of right now) it’s been removed and I cannot find another one.
It is an amazing look (albeit staged) at how he worked at that time of his career. And a lot of fun to see him, for a good amount of the film, as his own person, no costume. Interacting with his cast, directing, going over gags, putting on, and later taking off, his famous tramp costume, and some golf outtakes from The Idle Class.
And like many of his other films, he wrote, produced, directed it, and starred in this one.
The lemon that Chaplin eats is from citrus trees that grew on the lot. The land was covered with them, and when Chaplin build his studio, he kept a few standing.
And now I’ll head off and watch one of The Chaplin Revue collection movies, Shoulder Arms…
Silent Scream, parts 1 & 2 Written by Tony Lee Illustrated by Al Davidson
A few days ago, Humble Bundle was having a major sale of dozens of digital Doctor Who comic books.with part of the sales going to charity (Sorry, so sorry, it’s over now 🙁 ). The max payment tier was just $15 for over 80 digital issues. I have been interested in getting the digital comic books, particularly interested in the Silver Scream issue since it first came out in 2009 (I have enjoyed the few paper DW comics that I have) but never (though close) got around to buying it. And in the spirit of Chaplin’s 125th birthday, 100th anniversary of his films, and the excellent price, I snagged it!
At the end of series 4 episode, “Journey’s End” of Doctor Who, Donna makes a request to meet Chaplin, just as she is having a mental breakdown due to her mind melding with the Doctor’s. (And I’m just re-watching on Netflix. Oh, the feels!). And in this issue, the Doctor “helps to finish her last wish”.
Summary (no spoilers!)
The Doctor arrives in 1926 at a Hollywood party hosted by Archie. Two things brought him here: last request by his now departed companion, Donna, and a mysterious static point in space and time. A bunch of bad things are happening. So the Doctor can’t help but investigate it.
So why isn’t it actually Chaplin?
So, as you can see by the cover art, it’s not exactly Chaplin. It turned out that near the end of working on the issue, IDW (comic book publisher) was not able to work our an agreement with the Chaplin estate. So they had to make some changes to the name, Archibald Maplin, and his mustache, hat, and cane.
While the artwork was pretty good in the beginning, it had some room for improvement towards the end. But there were a number of things that impressed me about the story. When I first heard about this, I was just expecting the Doctor to pop-up and share some sort of adventure. I was not expecting Mr Lee to be familiar (or well researched?) with Chaplin’s life, specifically 1926.
So how many names changed?
So due to there being no agreement between the Chaplin estate and IDW (Boo on the CE…. ((don’t hurt me!)) but they missed a great opportunity of properly introducing him to Whovians and comic book fans), a number of things had to be renamed. Here’s all the ones I noticed, in order of appearance
Future Times – Modern Times (1936). Chaplin’s comedic social commentary on the growing machine age.
United Actors – United Artists. The film company co-founded by
Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (all pictured left) in 1919 to give them the freedom to make movies they way they wanted. “The inmates have taken over the asylum”
United Actors Studio – There was no actual “United Artists Studios” during this period, but there was Pickford and Fairbanks’ Studio, nicknamed The Lot (part of it was torn down just a couple years ago 🙁 ), and there was Charlie Chaplin’s Studios (still standing! Mostly :D)
The Fun Fair – The Circus (1928). As the Doctor tells Archie this film “will be one of your best films ever.” It certainly is.
In real life, Chaplin was making The Circus in 1926. Just as Archie tells the Doctor, the set burned down twice, and there was a really nasty public divorce battle between him and his second wife. It was so stressful for him, that his hair went white.
The photo to the right is one of my all-time favorite photos of Chaplin. It’s of him with his (first? second?) burned down set. His face says it all.
And after reading the comic, now we know the *real* reason why he was having all those problems! As with the Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) and London (1666), the baddies were trying to take over and the Doctor had to stop them. And fires broke out.
“They named a pub after you in the Elephant and Castle though. No, wait, That was for the other guy. The one in the bowler hat” – The only time Chaplin himself is referred to. And yes, there is a pub in Elephant & Castle named after him. I’ve been there quite some time ago (but that’s another story). Even Chaplin had visited it.
Mentioned were the Keystone Kops, Rudolph Valentino, Harold Lloyd (as well recreating Lloyd’s famous stunt as the Doctor and baddie hanging off a giant clock), and Douglas Fairbanks who was a big silent film star and Chaplin’s best friend.
Cameos For these pictures, I found photos that were very close to how the real counterparts looked like around the time of the story.
Toraichi Kono (renamed Kato, you can see him on that sample page) who was Chaplin’s chauffeur/secretary/ bodyguard/confidant. Kono immigrated from Japan to the US and after being in the US for a few years, applied to be a driver unknowing for Chaplin in 1916. He became in the close circle of Chaplin’s associates. It got to the point where if you wanted to communicate with Chaplin, you went through Kono. Image to the right is of Kono and Chaplin, circa 1932. Interesting info about a documentary of him here.
Buster Keaton (using his real name!), one Chaplin’s major comedic (friendly) rivals and, to many fans, his equal.. Just as he and his cameraman witness the Doctor yank Archie into the cutout window of a falling front of a house which inspires Keaton this famous bit from Steamboat Bill Jr (and,no, it’s not a stuntman, that really is Buster):
Laurel and Hardy (maybe?). In the footage that
Keaton shoots (cleverly drawn in black and white, with subtitles), we see the Doctor and Archie chasing the baddie on a motorcycle, and they encounter two gentlemen who closely resemble Stan and Ollie, with goatees, carrying a ladder. They would later appear in an actual episode of Doctor Who, series 6, “The Impossible Astronaut”. The three of them dance 🙂
My brief review Pros – The Doctor and a Chaplinesque character! Good story (I always liked it when the Doctor arrives in Earth history), great nods to not only Chaplin but silent comedy in general. Fun cameos (KEATON!)
Cons – IT’S NOT CHAPLIN! I mean, seriously?!? (but they did give it a honest go at it). Could have done away with the stereotypical person tied to the train tracks. Ahh well. Drawing was a bit off in the second issue. IT’S NOT CHAPLIN! (did I mention that already? I did?)
Orverall — Despite the major flaw, I really liked it. I might just get it in it’s physical form!
Where to get it? Amazon currently has issue one for the Kindle and Kindle app, as well as the full volume of Fugitive (includes the 2 parter Silver Scream as well as following 4 issues) The Fugitive is the first in 3 volumes (I am in the middle of the second volume, Tesseract),a big story arc involveing Emily Winter and Matthew . If you check out the Fugitive on Amazon’s site, you can get a sneak peak at several of pages.
And of course, I put links for The Circus DVD and also Streaming on Amazon or Hulu Plus. The music, BTW, is composed and opening song sung by him :).
Extra Links Just a few places (of many) to go for more info
Silent movies/comedy Silent Era – One of the longest running sites dedicated to the silent film era Movies, Silently – awesome blog containing review and information, and provides great info for those just getting interested in silent movies. Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more) – similar to Chaplin Then and Now, shows present day locations of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd films. The Silent Clown Film Series – If you are in the New York City area, this group play silent comedies at various time of the year. Admission is free! Nitrateville – Forums discussing both silent and talkies. Silent Comedy Mafia – active forum focusing on silent comedy Golden Silents – info on famous stars of that era, and a messageboard
William Hartnell (most famous for playing the first Doctor), became inspired to become an actor after watching Chaplin.
The original cover artwork for the issue, before things had to change around
No, not a wedding anniversary (won’t have another one of those for a long time yet). But today is the anniversary of me starting to use the name Calvero.
Ah, I remember like it was yesterday…
Well, no, not yesterday…. some things have happened since which makes it seem longer than 15 years…
I had signed up for a BBS (bulletin board system… very popular in the early days of the internet boom). I had been on the internet since January of ’95. And to signup for this BBS (ah, the days of Dynasty BBS of Orlando!) you had to create a username. Being a Chaplin fan, I tried using “Charlie”.
Drat, already taken.
So I tried a couple others. None took.
So I sat and thought. It should be a good name. One that sticks out somewhat but not to odd or too difficult for me to remember how to spell it.
What about Hynkel? The name Chaplin used for The Great Dictator? No, don’t think so. While it was a great movie, Hynkel being a wonderful parody of Adolf Hitler, I wasn’t to keen on using a mass muderer related name. Verdoux from Monsieur Verdoux, but that’s about another mass murderer.
What about Calvero from Limelight? Sounds cool, Chaplin related, and as I thought about it later, it also has a link to a couple other interests. Buster Keaton (he makes a brilliant appearance in it) and also Nigel Bruce who plays Mr. Postant. Bruce is most famous for playing Dr. Watson opposite Basil Rathbone in the popular 1940s Sherlock Holmes films (Chaplin hired Bruce for that reason, since Chaplin has a part in Holmes history.
I soon “met” many people in that BBS’s chatroom, though only one person I have stayed in contact with since those days. Others changed their name a couple times but I kept mine. I liked it, it sounded cool, and it sounded like I was a guy, so I wouldn’t be hounded by guys.
That year would bring other things, good and bad, but I just wanted to note the beginning of a beautiful, and sometimes rough, relationship (of sorts).
It is strange and funny how what is laying around the house affects what your kid watches.
The 4th Doctor, aka Tom Baker. One of my, and Kristi's, favorite Doctors
I remember when Kristi was 3 (she’s now 10), she saw one of my old Doctor Who VHS tapes in the cabinet, “Full Circle” starring Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor.
She put it in the machine and started watching it. And then she watched it again. And again. And again. I had a few others but for some reason she liked this one a lot. She would get scared of the monsters and laugh whenever the Doctor who give off his big toothy smile.
I should add that I did not watch Doctor Who much when Kristi was awake. Usually it was her shows like Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, etc. so it’s not like she just watched it when I watched it.
Since then she has become a fan of the renewed Doctor Who series and likes David Tennant as much as Tom.
And just yesterday I was watching Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights while folding the
Could it be that I have a future silent film fan in the making?
laundry. Kristi was watching Pokemon videos on Youtube (She loves Pokemon!). When I got up to put some clothes away, I left the movie playing. I came back a couple minutes later and there was Kristi laying on the sofa watching City Lights. Not her Pokemon!
Since she caught it in the middle of the movie, I explained some of what was going on, like why the millionaire treated Charlie different drunk versus sober, and that the young lady who Charlie falls in love with is blind.
Now that Katie, my other daughter, is almost 3, she has discovered something even more off the
The controversial brothers from the 1960s got the attention of my almost 3 year old
wall. The Smothers Brothers. She often sits on my lap watching YouTube videos, and the other day she saw the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour Season 3 DVD set sitting on my desk where my computer is. She pointed to it wanting to watch it. She likes watching them sing. Even when they are talking she will sit there glued as they talk about the Vietnam War and student protests and so on. I don’t go into explaining what happened back in the 1960s, what the protests were about or anything… I’ll wait to explain that when she’s older :).
But it’s weird how my kids pick up on my interests like that.