Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sir Charlie Chaplin: the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman

How to best understand the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin? Well, it helps if you have the writing of Sid Fleischman. The author’s last work, published posthumously in June, 2010, manages to convey Chaplin’s talent and drive while giving reader’s a full picture of the comic’s troubled upbringing and marriages.

This is a book that had me marking pages: I don’t do that very frequently. To describe the Little Tramp’s appeal for the public, readers are told that he “was forever David in a world of Goliaths.” It can be hard to understand Chaplin’s popularity in a world where movies make the kind of money they do today – the information and comparisons help to make that clear, both providing background for and giving readers justification for Chaplin’s outrage over his deportation in 1952.

Charlie’s family life and marriages, from his first shotgun marriage with actress Mildred Harris to his final love match with Oona O’Neill, as well as his complicated relationship with his mother are included. Charlie plumbed his own history as well as current events for his movies. This well-sourced, indexed, illustrated beautifully written book about a comic genius by a master will lead readers to Chaplin’s movies.

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