Monday, March 28, 2011


“If you want to understand me, watch my movies.”

            Before I had viewed The Great Dictator I had never seen a Charlie Chaplin film. Sure being a film nut I had read about him especially since I like Paulette Goddard. How can anyone with any interest in film not have heard of Charlie Chaplin? He was a film pioneer in so many aspects. Sometimes people tend to overlook how deep Chaplin was as a person and how much his films reflect his personal life and beliefs.
            Chaplin focuses on the personal life of the great entertainer such as where he got his inspiration for many of his films and the women he married. There are mentions of his four marriages with emphasis on his ones to Paulette Goddard and Oona O’Neill. What is interesting about this movie is how it only just focuses on Chaplin it does not put an enormous amount of focus on his films or the people in his life we are shown the man and only him.
            The movie starts off showing his early life as a kid in London with his mother and brother. You feel bad for Chaplin seeing these glimpses of his childhood without his mother but the movie does not give long to feel sorry before it is off to another time in his life. That is how the movie pretty much progresses. We are introduced to the people who came into his life and after a few minutes they are gone and forgotten and he is off to the next thing.
            Everyone in the cast is amazing. Time again I am reminded why Hollywood has given Robert Downey Jr. so many chances the man is such an incredible actor. You really do feel like you are watching the actual Charlie Chaplin at times. I was very interested how he was going to pull off the way the real Chaplin spoke since he had a very nice soft speaking voice and Downey did it wonderfully. Downey even played the physical comedy wonderfully. I admit half the reason I wanted to watch this movie besides the fact of wanting to learn a little something about the comedian was to see how Diane Lane played Paulette Goddard. The real Paulette Goddard had a bit of a high voice, a bit of a long nose, a small face with a big mouth when she spoke and smiled, and a great attitude. Of course this was not all about Paulette Goddard so what was shown of Lane playing the actress was good. I liked in one scene of the movie how they had Paulette mention to Charlie that she was going to try out for Gone with the Wind which the real actress did but because everyone in Hollywood was so conservative back in the day and they all thought Charlie Chaplin was a communist she lost out on the part (which looking at it she would not have made a very good Scarlett O’Hara but I do feel bad for her because she never would have been largely forgotten). The actress Moira Kelly who plays Oona O’Neill (as well as Chaplin’s first love Hetty Kelly) was really good I liked her acting. Kevin Klein plays Chaplin’s good friend Douglas Fairbanks. Marissa Tomei is only in the movie for a short time as silent actress Mabel Normand.
            Perhaps the best casting of the movie is Charlie’s mother played by one of Chaplin’s daughters Geraldine Chaplin. I thought that was a nice touch casting someone from the actor’s real life.
            My favorite part of the movie was seeing how Modern Times and The Great Dictator came into being. For Modern Times, Chaplin had felt bad about how many people were left poor after the stock market crash. In the movie he says jobs that men had in factories were now being taken over by machines. In reaction his character in the movie is constantly surrounded by machines and does work that he is capable of doing himself for him. The Great Dictator scene was a made in reaction to how much he and Hitler looked alike and how men like Hitler were ridiculous. I felt so bad that people were booing the speech and saw this film as pushing communist ideas. Nothing like that could be farther from the truth about the film. I seriously wanted to cry when they had someone throw a tomato at the screen and calling Chaplin a “red”. (J. Edgar Hoover had an issue with Chaplin and for some reason thought the actor was a communist which was absurd. He had a folder thousands of pages long of  information on Chaplin even things on his personal life). I was happy at the end when clips of Chaplin’s films were shown and the scene from The Great Dictator that was shown was when Paulette Goddard hits the storm trooper in the head with the frying pan but also accidentally hits the Barber/Charlie on the head and he’s walking around all screwy (I was possibly just excited to see the real actress).
            Chaplin is a very good movie from start to finish. I feel it respectably told the story of film’s greatest entertainer, writer, producer, and director. The movie excellently shows where his inspiration for his films from his personal life originated. I also really liked how this was also a bit of a history of the cinema and how it got started. One of the characters in the movie a director said he only makes two pictures a week… nowadays one director probably makes one picture a year, making two pictures a week is a myth today.
            Chaplin is all around very well made from direction to acting to script to lighting and everything else in between.  
The real Charlie Chaplin (without makeup and costume) and Paulette Goddard