Influences: Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp

Perhaps foremost among my influences in terms of content and overall clown aesthetic is the late, great Sir Charles Chaplin and his incredible character creation, the Little Tramp.  I have no clue when I first saw Charlie Chaplin film, though I suspect it was when I was quite young.  My grandfather, when he wasn’t watching the Italian television station, enjoyed watching old movies on TV.  I remember watching the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup with him, so I’m sure my exposure to Chaplin came in a similar form.

I started researching Chaplin more heavily as I got into the commedia dell’arte and the character of Pierrot, to which Chaplin compared his own Tramp character.  Though his private life and his dealings with women I find a little questionable, I cannot deny that the man was a comic genius, and that his ability to make comedy more than just a few cheap laughs is a skill I strive to have in my own work.

My favorite Chaplin film, though I have yet to see them all, is The Kid.  I watched it when I was feeling a little down and lonely, and I thought it would be a nice way to lift my spirits.  I didn’t expect to start crying!  What an incredible movie, by turns hilarious and heart-rending.  For the longest time (and often still), I am in awe of how perfectly poignant that film is – and how timeless.

Just be warned – the following video has slight spoilers.  It is the most heartwarming scene in the film, with the most incredible dramatic acting by both Charlie Chaplin and his pint-sized partner in crime, Jackie Coogan.

Absolute cinematic genius.  Can’t get over it.  Using his physical comedy repertoire (fist-fighting, rear-kicking, highwire-walking), Chaplin has illustrated the lengths that a parent would go to in order to protect his child.  Gah!

In terms of something a little more light-hearted but just as incredible to watch, let’s have a look at the “Oceana Roll” scene from The Gold Rush.  Largely a comedy, this film also has a touch of sadness to it that I can’t help but adore.

The scene is sadder when you know that his spectacular dinner party is all a dream.  But what fun in the meantime!

Anyway, I could go on at great length about Charlie Chaplin and his beloved Tramp.  Here’s a taste of why he inspires me, and I’m sure I’ll bring him up more in the future.


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