When Chaplin Killed the Tramp

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The original poster for Chaplin’s most misunderstood film Monsieur Verdoux said it all. A film that was as scathing a critique of its own period as any op-Ed piece the New York Times has been running on Bush policy over the last seven years. the difference of course was that the New York Times wasn’t writing critiques of this kind, nor did anyone in America expect the lovable Tramp to take a turn as a Brechtian social critic. But that’s exactly the direction Chaplin was headed in after films like Modern Times and The Great Dictator, the only thing was that for Verdoux, Chaplin totally abandoned the Tramp. The history behind the making of the film and its place in Chaplin’s artistic cannon are nearly as interesting as Verdoux itself. As the film opens in New York this week, there’s bound to be plenty more chronicling of this period for Chaplin. NWFF will be screening Verdoux next month. Before then, I suggest picking up a copy of Agee on Film and reading his three part defense, one of the only published at the time.

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