Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chaplin and J. Edgar Hoover

Many people know Charlie Chaplin for his impeccable vaudeville technique. W.C. Fields was reported to have called him the best ballet dancer in the world. But fewer people are acquainted with his politics. His film The Great Dictator used his little tramp image to satirize Hitler - and this was in 1940!

I didn't know about this film, Monsieur Verdoux, which is being run again in New York at the Film Forum. It was released in 1947, and dealt with the issues of the Cold War. The subtitle is "A Comedy of Murders." Here is the NY Times article about it that I read today.

And now that Robert Downey Jr. is back on top of the world with Iron Man, I am reminded of how brilliant he was in Chaplin. Al Pacino incomprehensibly won the Oscar that year, which, given the depth and technical brilliance of Downey's performance, seems like grand larceny. It's definitely worth another look.

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