MONSIEUR VERDOUX AS A LION COMIQUE
Studio still of Charlie dressed to the nines as a cynical ladykiller in Monsieur Verdoux. This unsentimental black comedy was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay in 1948. Previously, in the sentimental comedies Chaplin made from 1914-1935 as the shabbily-attired Little Tramp, wearing cast-off garments that hinted either at former or future pretensions of lionly elegance, Chaplin’s gallant screen character had selflessly rescued wistful young women in distress from poverty, homelessness, unemployment, prostitution, incurable physical illness, loneliness, stolen babies and other assorted jams and pickles. All of those rescue plots involved unconscious autobiographical reenactments of his mother’s real life trials and tribulations (see Chaplin A Life, Chapters I-VI for details).
As a calculating serial ladykiller, Henri Verdoux, on the other hand, seduces and murders unsuspecting women for financial gain. At this point in his later life, 59-year-old Chaplin had finally begun to revise his former childhood over-idealization of his ex-actress mother at the expense of his lion comique father—a previously unresolved conflict which he would continue to explore more fully in his next film, Limelight (1952).