On Thursday, February 4th, 6pm UK time, you can join Carol Homden, Group Chief Executive of the children’s charity Coram, Kate Guyonvarch of the Chaplin Office and British Film Institute expert Bryony Dixon for an online discussion on Chaplin and the history of care to support Coram. The event will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of THE KID, one of Chaplin’s most personal films, resonating his own childhood experiences.
THE KID had its world premiere one hundred years ago today, on January 21, 1921 at Carnegie Hall in New York City in a pre-public subscription showing as part of a benefit for the Children’s Fund of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. A milestone in his artistry, THE KID was Charles Chaplin’s first full-length film as a director and his most ambitious production to date.
Chaplin created something completely new with THE KID. Films were either dramas, or comedies – but here, as in life, the two were combined in the most natural seeming way. Chaplin wrote in his autobiography that “there had been satire, farce, realism, naturalism, melodrama and fantasy, but raw slapstick and sentiment, the premise of THE KID, was something of an innovation.” He recalled being told by an industry professional, “It won’t work. The form must be pure, either slapstick or drama; you cannot mix them, otherwise one element of your story will fail.” But Chaplin followed his intuition, the film was an instant success, and the cinema industry never looked back.
In February 1921, the Morning Telegraph noted that “THE KID will live when other pictures have died. Its pathos is universal in its appeal. Its humor is classic. Chaplin is a humanitarian. He understands the hearts of the irresponsible, the children and the willing failures of the world. The joys of THE KID cannot be catalogued, they must be seen.”
THE KID is still a hit with audiences 100 years on. It is no surprise that the honorary Academy Award presented to Chaplin in 1972 was for the incalculable effect he had had in making motion pictures the art form of the 20th century. In 2011, THE KID was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
We’ve just uploaded a new video to our Youtube channel: Japanese Chaplin specialist Ono Hiroyuki talks about KOMORI NO YASUSAN, a Kabuki version of Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS that was originally performed in August 1931 at Tokyo’s Kabuki Theatre. In December 2019, the National Theatre of Japan revived the show. Mr. Hiroyuki supervised the script and the production.
Charlie Chaplin, The Genius of Liberty, the excellent new documentary by Yves Jeuland & François Aymé, which premiered at Cannes Classics 2020/Festival Lumière in Lyon, will be broadcast on Wednesday, January 6th at 9:05 pm on French television station France 3. The documentary will be followed by Modern Times at 11:30 pm.
The Italian edition of a new book by David Robinson on Charlie Chaplin’s unfinished film THE FREAK, published by Cineteca di Bologna, is available in Italian bookstores and on the Cineteca’s online shop. Other language versions are hoped for in 2021.
This book is not just the first-ever publication of an unknown Chaplin film script, but the comprehensive presentation of an unfinished film – one of Charles Chaplin’s most remarkable works, and his last.
Chaplin had the idea for THE FREAK in 1968-9 when he was close to 80, and was inspired to produce the script in a much shorter time and with more confidence than any preceding screenplay. Once the script was complete, Chaplin and his producer Jerry Epstein saw the urgency, given Chaplin’s age, of getting the film into active production as soon as possible. Hence, even while still seeking funding, Chaplin at his own cost engaged designers to present his visual concepts and to produce storyboards, and explored the elaborate (pre-CGI) special effects techniques the story demanded. In particular, Chaplin, Epstein and the studio special-effects department spent much time and money in producing the prototype of the big articulated wings which were to be attached to the leading actress – Chaplin’s daughter, Victoria – throughout the film. (The wings are now on display at Chaplin’s World in Switzerland.)
The recent acquisition of some Jerry Epstein papers by the Chaplin office revealed surprising information about THE FREAK: the project was actually one step away from being made, as evidenced by pre-production files, casting, location scouting and extensive correspondence between Epstein and several studios.
Although the film was never finished, Chaplin left us a rich testimony – almost 3,000 pages worth –of words, photographs and designs, together with sound recordings of his own reading of the script, and of his own experiments on the piano, when composing the musical track.
It is from these that this book is able to evoke the real essence of Charles Chaplin’s THE FREAK.
THE FREAK is Cineteca di Bologna Publishing’s second journey through unmade Chaplin films. In 2014, they published “Footlights: The World of Limelight”, which included the previously unpublished novella Footlights (the “book-of-the-film” that preceded Limelight) by Chaplin with a commentary by David Robinson. This new book publishes, for the first time, Chaplin’s complete script as well as a rich selection of previously unseen materials. The texts are assembled and edited with an accompanying commentary by David Robinson in association with Cineteca di Bologna, and in close collaboration with Victoria Chaplin, Gerald Larn, principal art director during preparation of the film, Kate Guyonvarch and the Chaplin Office in Paris, and Cecilia Cenciarelli, whose years with the Chaplin Archive have given her an unrivalled and indispensable grasp of his work.