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Syd Chaplin: A Biography

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0786460359
ISBN-10: 0786460350
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lisa K. Stein is an assistant professor of English at Ohio University Zanesville, in Zanesville, Ohio. A Chaplin scholar for the past ten years, she edited the Charlie Chaplin e-newsletter for four years, the only newsletter sanctioned by the Chaplin family organization.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (November 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786460350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786460359
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.8 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,880,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lisa Stein Haven is an Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Zanesville, specializing in British and American modernist literature, the Beat poets and silent film comedy, especially the work of Charlie and Syd Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

In 2010, she organized and hosted "Charlie in the Heartland: An International Charlie Chaplin Conference" at Zanesville, which was attended by participants from 11 countries outside of the US.

Her work is the result of years of study at the Charlie Chaplin archive in Bologna, Italy, Paris, France and Montreux, Switzerland--as well as archives in America, including the Margaret Herrick Library, the Warner Brothers archive, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Library and several others.

In summer 2014, Haven was the keynote speaker at Charlot 100, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chaplin's Little Tramp persona, held in Bologna, Italy and sponsored by Roy Export S.A.S and the Cineteca di Bologna. She is also a member of the executive board for the Buster Keaton Celebration, held every year in Iola, Kansas.

Her current project is a post-war cultural study of the Little Tramp in America, for which she received a substantial grant in 2013-14. She lives in Zanesville, with her husband, Mark, a violinist and orchestra director, their dog Kallie and two beloved cats.

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Format: Paperback
Writing a biography on a character as illusive as Sydney Chaplin must have been quite a challenge. The author, Lisa Stein spent four years trotting the globe to put this, Syd Chaplin's only biography together, all with the blessing of the Chaplin family.

Sydney was the older brother of the more famous Charlie, but in this well written biography, we discover that he had a period of being quite a famous screen comedian himself and even rivaled some of his brother's box office success. For the uninitiated, a few of his films can be seen on You Tube.

Aside from being a vaudeville and screen comedian, Chaplin was also an innovator in many fields and his accomplishments were many. From being the first owner of a domestic airline in America, to starting a woman's clothing line, to negotiating Charlie's massively successful film contracts to being the brain child behind the founding of United Artists. He was truly a man of many and diverse talents. This biography gives equal and in-depth treatment to all these facets of Sydney's life.

Stein has shed new light on a man that has been all but forgotten, but whose innovations still resonate in the entertainment industry today. Even though Sydney is well known to most Chaplin enthusiasts, a wealth of new knowledge is presented here. Sydney appears to have been a prolific writer of letters, and much of this biography is peppered with Sydney's written correspondence. These letters provide insight into the man and offer his perspective on certain incidents and his occasional twists on the truth. It is almost as if the author had a chance to interview her reluctant subject.

It turns out that the proclivities of both Sydney and his brother Charlie leaned towards very young girls.
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I'd only known a few snippets of info about Charlie's brother Syd, but this book changed all that, providing a fleshed out and superbly well-written account of what turned out to be a character as interesting (if not more so) than his more-famous brother. A thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening read! I highly recommend it. With this book, Syd Chaplin leaves the shadows at last and walks out into the light.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who worked, played or slept with Charlie Chaplin could cash in on it by writing, telling, or selling their story, and an extraordinary number did, including several children, one ex-wife, and a mistress. Jim Tully, a well-known writer employed by Chaplin in the early twenties, later wrote several tart articles about his former boss. "His early years wrote with a heavy and terrible hand upon him," Tully said in one. "Not physically brave, he was a tyrant towards his half brother, Sydney. Without Charlie's capacity, Sydney remained a varnished cockney...(with) the manner of a promoted bank clerk."

Perhaps. But this "varnished cockney" played a crucial role in Charlie's life and art that has never been fully explored. Lisa Stein's remedies that in her splendid biography. All Chaplin fans know about the landmark movie contracts Syd negotiated for his brother in 1916 and 1918, contracts that made Charlie the highest paid entertainer in history and guaranteed him the artistic independence he needed to create the masterworks to come. They also know Syd from his brilliant supporting roles in several of Charlie's First National films. Less well known is the ongoing role he played behind the scenes as an important member of Charlie's creative team during that heady period.

Stein also gives Syd his due by recounting his stage career, which ran parallel to Charlie's, and by providing a valuable overview and critical insights into his once popular series of starring films. Like Jim Tully, she doesn't gloss over the less savory aspects of her subject.
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