From Publishers Weekly
Weissman, professor at the Washington School of Psychiatry, examines Charlie Chaplin's life and work from a psychoanalytical perspective. Believing in using a life to read a film and a film to read a life, Weissman focuses on Chaplin's childhood and early career, giving scant attention to his later adult life. Most telling is the relationship with his mother. Her madness, brought on by starvation and syphilis, Weissman believes, manifests itself in Chaplin's films with a recurring theme: the rescue of a downtrodden female. For example, City Lights
is a childhood rescue fantasy of saving his parents, while Limelight
is filled with references to his alcoholic father. Weissman uncovers the source for the shabby gentility of the Little Tramp, as well as the development of that extraordinary character. En route, he paints an engaging if narrowly focused portrait of how a cinema artist is created and how he practices his craft. (Jan.)
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Psychiatrist Weissman offers a fascinating, analytic portrait of a most complex man, who from 1915 to the mid-1930s was the most famous person in the world. Chaplin’s near-Dickensian childhood was one of squalid poverty in London. Both parents were in show business, and alcoholism and syphilis blighted their lives. At seven, Charlie was committed to the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children. According to Weissman, Chaplin recreated his painful childhood over and over in his movies, especially through the adventures of Chaplin’s archetypal film persona, the Little Tramp, the comical and lovable Everyman who never gives up. Weissman finds many parallels between Chaplin’s upbringing and what he presented on the big screen; indeed, he maintains that the films are deeply personal statements reflecting the formative influence of early poverty on his artistic development. Besides being a captivating psychological study of a seminal figure in motion-picture history, the book is an engaging survey of early Hollywood filmmaking. --June Sawyers