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Drama - Historic

Chaplin (1992)

Chaplin

Duration 2h 23m Rating (UK) 12
Source of story The life of and the autobiography of Charlie Chaplin plus a book by David Robinson
Director Richard Atenborough
Writers/Script William Boyd, Bryan Forbes,  William Goldman
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Geraldine Chaplin, John Thaw, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomaei, Kevin Klyne, Maria Pitillo, Milla Jovovich, Kevin Dunn, Diane Lane, Nancy Travis, James Woods, Bill Paterson, David Duchovny

Elevator: The film is presented as a series of flashbacks as Chapln is interviewed by the editor of his autobiography in old age in Switzerland, starting in his youth in London as his mother tries to make ends meet. Chaplin hankers after the footlights and becomes a music hall performer. He appears in the silent films, and makes pregnant, marries and divorces numbers of women. There are court cases, and Edgar Hoover chases Chaplin creating adverse publicity. Things become difficult when the talkies manifest themselves but the film maker struggles on and marries Oona O’Neil who is 18, he 50 something. Their marriage endures.

Content: Despite the actor’s somewhat lurid private life there is no sex, and really only one event of female nudity as the young Chaplin ogles the dancers as they strip preparing for their act. There are scenes of the actor in the  music hall and then in America at the Mack Sennett studios as the tramp is developed. He is friends with Douglas Fairbanks and they go riding and have parties. The various young women are portrayed flitting through his life. The film ends with a montage of real Chaplin films and the end credits tell us who everybody was in his life.

A View: It is difficult to separate reality of Sir Charles Chaplin’s life from this version which, it seems to me, sanitises it. Bear in mind that he married two 16 year olds because they were pregnant, and afterwards discarded them. Robert Downie Jr is pretty good as the star. I thought that the most entertaining segment of the film was the Mack Sennett studio stuf, but if you want to know how Charlie Chaplin’s life went you could save a lot of time by reading the Wikipedia presentation.

Addional Info: A script by Bryan Forbes featured the darker aspects of Chaplin’s life. It was discarded but the writer received a credit because the structure of his script was used.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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