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.