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Charlie Chaplin

He was born in a poor area of south London. He wore his mother's old red stockings cut down for ankle socks. His mother was temporarily declared mad. Dickens might have created Charlie Chaplin's childhood. But only Charle Chaplin could have created the great comic character of " the Tramp ", the little man in rags who gave his creator permanent fame. Other countries — France, Italy, Spain, even Japan and Korea — have provided more applause (and profit) where Chaplin is concerned than the land of his birth. Chaplin quit Britain for good in 1913 when he journeyed to America with a group of performers to do his comedy act on the stage where talent scouts recruited him to work for Mack Sennett, the king of Hollywood comedy films. Sad to say, many English people in the 1920's and 1930's thought Chaplin's Tramp a bit, well, " crude ". Certainly middle-class audiences did; the working-class audiences were more likely to clap for a character who revolted against authority, using his wicked little cane to trip it up, or aiming the heel of his boot for a well-placed kick at its broad rear. All the same, Chaplin's comic beggar didn't seem all that English or even working class. English tramps didn't sport tiny moustaches, huge pants or tail coats: European leaders and Italian waiters wore things like that. Then again, the Tramp's quick eye for a pretty girl had a coarse way about it that was considered, well, not quite nice by English audiences — that's how foreigners behaved, wasn't it? But for over half of his screen career, Chaplin had no screen voice to confirm his British nationality. Indeed, it was a headache for Chaplin when he could no longer resist the talking movies and had to find "the right voice" for his Tramp. He postponed that day as long as possible: in Modern Times in 1936, the first film in which he was heard as a singing waiter, he made up a nonsense language which sounded like no known nationality. He later said he imagined the Tramp to be a college-educated gentleman who'd come down in the world. But if he'd been able to speak with an educated accent in those early short comedy movies, it's doubtful if he would have achieved world fame. And the English would have been sure to find it "odd". No one was certain whether Chaplin did it on purpose but this helped to bring about his huge success. He was an immensely talented man, determined to a degree unusual even in the ranks of Hollywood stars. His huge fame gave him the freedom — and, more importantly, the money — to be his own master. He already had the urge to explore and extend a talent he discovered in himself as he went along. "It can't be me. Is that possible? How extraordinary," is how he greeted the first sight of himself as the Tramp on the screen. But that shock roused his imagination. Chaplin didn't have his jokes written into a script in advance; he was the kind of comic who used his physical senses to invent his art as he went along. Li

feless objects especially helped Chaplin make "contact" with himself as an artist. He turned them into other kinds of objects. Thus, a broken alarm clock in the movie The Pawnbroker became a "sick" patient undergoing surgery; boots were boiled in his film The Gold Rush and their soles eaten with salt and pepper like prime cuts of fish (the nails being removed like fish bones). This physical transformation, plus the skill with which he executed it again and again, are surely the secrets of Chaplin's great comedy. He also had a deep need to be loved — and a corresponding fear of being betrayed. The two were hard to combine and sometimes — as in his early marriages — the collision between them resulted in disaster. Yet even this painfully-bought self-knowledge found its way into his comic creations. The Tramp never loses his faith in the flower girl who'll be waiting to walk into the sunset with him; while the other side of Chaplin makes Monsieur Verdoux, the French wife killer, into a symbol of hatred for women. It's a relief to know that life eventually gave Charlie Chaplin the stable happiness it had earlier denied him. In Oona O'Neill Chaplin, he found a partner whose stability and affection spanned the 37 years age difference between them that had seemed so threatening that when the official who was marrying them in 1942, turned to the beautiful girl of 17 who'd given notice of their wedding date and said, "And where is the young man?" — Chaplin, then 54, had cautiously waited outside. As Oona herself was the child of a large family with its own problems, she was well-prepared for the battle that Chaplin's life became as unfounded rumors of Marxist sympathies surrounded them both — and, later on, she was the center of rest in the quarrels that Chaplin sometimes sparked in their own large family of talented children. Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977. A few months later, a couple of almost comic body-thieves stole his body from the family burial chamber and held it for money: the police recovered it with more efficiency than Mack Sennett's clumsy Keystone Cops would have done. But one can't help feeling Chaplin would have regarded this strange incident as a fitting memorial — his way of having the last laugh on a world to which he had given so many.


英国流浪者并不留小胡子,也不穿肥大的裤子或燕尾服:欧洲的领导人和意大利的侍者才那样穿戴。另外,“流浪汉”瞟着漂亮女孩的眼神也有些粗俗,被英国观众认为不太正派──只有外国人才那样,不是吗? 而在卓别林大半的银幕生涯中,银幕上的他是不出声的,也就无从证明他是英国人。事实上,当卓别林再也无法抵制有声电影,不得不为他的“流浪汉”寻找“合适的声音”时,他确实很头疼。他尽可能地推迟那一天的到来:在 1936 的《摩登时代》里,他第一次在影片里发声唱歌。在片中,他扮演一名侍者,满口胡言乱语,听起来不像任何国家的语言。后来他说,他想象中的“流浪汉”是一位受过大学教育,但已经没落的绅士。但假如他在早期那些短小的喜剧电影中能操一口受教育人的口音,那么他是否会闻名世界就难说了,而英国人也肯定会觉得这很“古怪”。没有人知道卓别林这么干是不是有意的,但这促使他获得了巨大的成功。他是一个才能非凡的人,他的决心之大甚至在好莱坞明星中也十分少见。他的巨大名声为他带来了自由,更重要的是带来了财富,他因此得以成为自己的主人。在事业发展之初,他就感到一种冲动要去发掘并扩展自己身上所显露的天才。


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