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Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema Hardcover – October 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Using his complete access to the Chaplin Archives, film historian Vance creates a compelling portrait of the cinema's first international star: a moviemaker who blended comedy and pathos and whose most complex character was his own off-screen self. Vance, who helped Charlie Chaplin's ex-wife Lita Grey pen her memoirs and has co-authored biographies of silent-film comedy greats Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, discerningly examines both Chaplin's groundbreaking work and the controversial man behind it. More of an encyclopedia than a biography-information from Chaplin's memoirs is frequently quoted-Vance's book shows admiration and sympathy for its subject, plus an extensive understanding of Chaplin's films, which are evaluated at length. But the most impressive and incisive material here are the photos, some of which have never been published before. Family portraits, film-set snapshots and frame enlargements from movies reveal a somber, often fragile-looking young man whose whole personality, not just his physical appearance, is altered when he's playing a role. As Chaplin's career soared in the early 20th century-along with his reputation as a perfectionist and his predilection for teenage girls-the photos capture his enlivening confidence. Later images reveal a man pained by legal battles and, eventually, a family patriarch at peace after marrying Eugene O'Neill's daughter, Oona. Comprehensive captions provide enough details to stand alone from the rest of the text. Released on the heels of a documentary about Chaplin and restored DVDs of his classic films, this book makes a sound introduction to, and study of, the great filmmaker's work. 500 b&w photos.
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Vance's Buster Keaton Remembered (2001) and Harold Lloyd [BKL My 15 02] are the finest photographic books ever published on their subjects, so it is not altogether surprising that his treatment of the greatest silent film comedian is a stunner. Still, that it contains so many superbly reproduced images from Chaplin's earliest years as an English touring-company member; so many documentary photos of Chaplin at work, at play, and in the public eye; and such wonderful rediscoveries as the great photojournalist W. Eugene Smith's expressionistic shots of Chaplin directing and acting in his greatest sound film, Limelight, as well as the expected wealth of movie production and publicity stills, is vastly impressive. Moreover, Vance writes considerably more about Chaplin than he did about Keaton and Lloyd combined. He discusses every film, including early shorts that are lost, and he illuminates Chaplin's working methods. If his prose remains workaday, it is always clear, even when he makes peculiar word choices and gets inconsequential facts wrong. Nevertheless, an absolutely essential book on this great filmmaker. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
I have collected nearly every Chaplin book written in English. They could--and do--fill a small library! How can I sum up what makes this book special? My answer: the book's chapter on Chaplin's 1923 drama "A Woman of Paris."
"A Woman of Paris" was a film I had seen once in the early 1980s and never wanted to see again--despite what David Robinson and others whom I admire wrote about it in other Chaplin books. The rare and beautifully reproduced pictures from the film in "Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema" drew me to the chapter. Then I started to read the text. It explained--for the first time I felt--WHY the film was/is a masterwork. The account of Chaplin's use of decor, parallel events, and objects in the film is very impressive. So too are the comments the author has collected from such varied directors as Rex Ingram, Eisenstein, Michael Powell, and Martin Scorsese praising the film.
That chapter made me want to see the film again! I watched "A Woman of Paris" last week with new eyes and loved it. It's now one of my favorite Chaplins. And this is due in large measure to this wonderful book.
The 500 photographs are reprinted in the duotone process and are of beautiful quality. The books also benefits from an excellent design and first rate manufacture. But be warned: it's a very heavy book!
There are other Chaplin books filled with great photos, but none are as comprehensive or as beautifully produced. I recently compared it against CHARLIE CHAPLIN: A PHOTO DIARY, CHARLIE CHAPLIN by Maurice Besy and Chaplin's own MY LIFE IN PICTURES. CHAPLIN: GENIUS OF THE CINEMA has the greatest range of photos (and are better reproduced) than any other Chaplin photo book.
I find the book's text straightforward, insightful, and thoroughly researched. It has lots of details not found in other books and great interviews with those who knew and/or worked with Chaplin.
Many of the photo captions have some of the best stories. Don't overlook them!
What Kevin Brownlow's book PARADE'S GONE BY did for silent film CHAPLIN: GENIUS OF THE CINEMA will do for Chaplin. Both books have the same winning combination of great pictures, interviews, and film history/interpretation.
The book has an introduction by David Robinson (who wrote the cornerstone of Chaplin studies, CHAPLIN: HIS LIFE AND ART, in 1985) and features Richard Meryman's brilliant 1966 interview with Chaplin as an appendix. There is also a highly detailed bibliography and filmography (including outtakes!)
An excellent book and an instant classic.
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Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in April 16, 1889 in London, England to talented parents who both did well in creative arts.Read more