Photo Essays
1. Exile’s Return
2. Chaplin’s Parents
3. Hannah Chaplin’s Femmes Fatales
4. Playing Dress-Up  In The Land of Make Believe
5. Teenage Girls and Fear of Aging
6. Chaplin’s Three Teenage Wives
7. Mildred Harris
8. Lita Grey
9. Oona O’Neill
10. Chaplin’s Father
11. A Royal Lion
12. Vesta Tilley as Bertie
13. Ella Shields as Bertie
14. Making A Living
15. The Lion Comique’s Son: Dressed Like A Bum
16. Monsieur Verdoux as a Lion Comique
17. Calvero as a Lion Comique
18. The Lion Comique’s Son in the Limelight
19. Charlie as a Child
20. The Kid’s Lucky Break
21. Syd Chaplin
22. A Family Album of Theatrical Drunks
23. Chaplin’s Family Romance
24. Edna Purviance
25. Purviance’s Influence on Chaplin’s Character
26. Essanay
27. Chaplinitis
28. Chaplin’s Predecessors
29. Eye Contact: Audience-Performer Intimacy
30. Chaplin the Auteur
31. Chaplin’s Two Autobiographies
32. Going It Alone
33. The Circus
34. Autobiographical Starvation Scenes From The Gold Rush
35. Autobiographical Madness Scenes in Modern Times
36. Two British Music Hall Traditions and Topical Comedy
37. The Great Dictator
38. Fatal Attraction: Joan Barry
39. Monsieur Verdoux: Guillotine or Hatchet Job?
40. Limelight
Chaplin: A Life In Film
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As Barry's lawyer put it in his summing-up: "There has been no one to stop Chaplin in his lecherous conduct all these years--except you. Wives and mothers all over the country are watching to see you stop him dead in his tracks. You'll sleep well the night you give this baby a name--the night you show him [Chaplin] the law means him as well as the bums on Skid Row."

Two Chaplin and Two Verdoux Headlines
© Roy Export

Henri Verdoux the lady-killer

© Roy Export
“I told her, ‘I’ll fight you even though they believe your lies.”
Herald Examiner LAPL
Verdoux in Court
© Roy Export
Chaplin in Court
Hersld Examiner LAPL

Turning the tables on his right-wing adversaries, who used the legal system and news media to brand him a cynical womanizer in order to neutralize him politically, Chaplin fought back by doing what he did best. Supremely confident in his artistic control, his access to a sympathetic world audience and his undisputed reputation as a genius—Chaplin “re-wrote” the political hatchet job directed at him, as an angry black comedy about the tribulations and trials of a notorious lady-killer who is guillotined unfairly by a bourgeois capitalist society which has driven him into a life of crime out of economic necessity.

© Roy Export
If they wanted  a lady-killer, he’d give them a lady-killer. Once again, Chaplin transformed  personal adversity into   comedy in hopes of  winning the world’s affection  and approval.Unfortunately for Charlie, Monsieur Verdoux didn’t work—at least in the United States. While it won   Best Film of the Year from the National Board of Review and also earned him  an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Verdoux was a box office  flop. After two years,the film had grossed  $325,000 in the United States but  more than $1.5 million abroad.


Nothing if not an invulnerable child who (very much like Oprah Winfrey today) had  survived and overcome  multiple  childhood traumas and gone on to become a world famous and universally admired  media star, Chaplin was a pugnacious fighter  who had considered   himself  invincible to adversity.

Faced with the controversy over his film, Charlie  never  knew what hit him: "Proceed with the butchery . . . fire ahead at this old gray head," were his opening words to the reporters who gathered at the press conference for  the opening of  Monsieur Verdoux in New York City. Distinctly disinterested in discussing Verdoux, they were there to report on his politics. They bombarded him with questions about his patriotism. The Cold War was heating up. His good-natured attempt to deflect humorously their hostility by describing himself as a "peace monger" did not go over.

Afterward, when right-wing political pressure groups demonstrated their ability to induce Americans to boycott his next film (Limelight) as an act of patriotism, Chaplin began to fully appreciate the extent to which he had underestimated his opponents. Looking back on those events twenty  years later, the former president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time—Ronald Reagan—unapologetically remarked   that  Chaplin had gotten what he deserved. Were  Chaplin’s  opponents justified in trying to  silence him, or was Chaplin justified in  refusing to be silenced because his political enemies were trying to suppress his freedom of speech? (For an in-depth discussion see Chaplin And American Culture  .
© 2008 All Essay Rights Reserved.

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