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Modern Classics My Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2003/2/25
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A silent comedy star whose legendary slapstick routines are recognisable to this day, Charles 'Charlie' Chaplin's My Autobiography is an incomparably vivid account of the life of one of the greatest filmmakers and comedians, with an introduction by David Robinson As a child, Charlie Chaplin was awed and inspired by the sight of glamorous vaudeville stars passing his home, and from then on he never lost his ambition to become an actor. Chaplin's film career as the Little Tramp adored by the whole world is the stuff of legend, but this frank autobiography shows another side. Born into a theatrical family, Chaplin's father died of drink while his mother, unable to bear the poverty, suffered from bouts of insanity. From a childhood of grinding poverty in the south London slums, Chaplin found an escape in his early debut on the music hall stage, followed by his lucky break in America, the founding of United Artists with D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks, the struggle to maintain artistic control over his work, the string of failed marriages, and his eventual exile from Hollywood after personal scandals and persecution for his left-wing politics during the McCarthy Era. Sir Charles 'Charlie' Chaplin (1895-1976) was born in Walworth, London. Best known for his work in silent film, his most famous role was The Little Tramp, a universally recognisable and iconic character who appeared in films such as The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925) and City Lights (1931). His other films include Modern Times (1936), a commentary on the Great Depression, and The Great Dictator (1940), a satirical attack on Hitler and the Nazis. If you enjoyed My Autobiography, you might like Andy Warhol's The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Tells so much about this curious, difficult man ... a wonderfully vivid imagination' The New York Times 'The only genius to come out of the movie industry' George Bernard Shaw
“The best autobiography ever written by an actor. An astonishing work.” —Chicago Tribune
“A moving picture of the hero himself. A truly fascinating book.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“The most original, virile book about the theater in a long, long time.”
“It holds the reader entranced. Every page can be read with pleasure.” —The Times (London)
“The crucial artist of the twentieth century.” —The New Yorker
“Among the greatest geniuses of film.” —Roger Ebert
“Few men in this century in any field attained his stature with the public.” —The New York Times
“Chaplin was not just ‘big,’ he was gigantic. In 1915, he burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, he stayed on the job. . . It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most.” —Martin Sieff
“For me, comedy begins with Charlie Chaplin. I know there were screen comedies before he came along . . . But none of them created a persona as unique or indelible as the Little Tramp, and no one could match his worldwide impact.” —Leonard Maltin
“For a star who made his fortune in the silent movies, Charlie Chaplin has a surprising way with words. His My Autobiography, published in 1964 and recently reissued, moves along at a quick clip, lit up throughout its many pages by bright anecdotes, easy humor, and a confident way with a good yarn.” —Biographile
An artist is not always a good judge of his own work, but in this case Chaplin's judgment seems to me correct. Even so, I cannot help being surprised at the fact that he chose 'Monsieur Verdoux' as his most superb work, because I thought it more natural that he should have chosen 'The Gold Rush' or 'City Lights', in which his talent as a comedian was displayed more clearly than in 'Monsieur Verdoux'. This fact made me realize that Chaplin had a remarkable ability to see the whole objectively and accurately, not affected by his private conditions.
Many episodes and incidents through the book are very moving, but I am disposed to think that there is a little too much exaggeration there. I don't think that he consciously exaggerated; he couldn't help exaggerating: his talent, his genius if you like, was based on exaggeration(Think about the last scene of 'City Lights').
What struck me more strongly than anything else in this book is how many obstacles he had to contend with, making films. The obstacles came from his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, film company, government and so on.
For example, referring to 'The Kid', he writes; 'As I had not finished cutting the film my instinct told me to cut it in another state. So I set out for Salt Lake City with a staff of two and over 400,000 feet of film, which consisted of five hundred rolls. We stayed at the Salt Lake City Hotel. In one of the bedrooms we laid out the film, using every piece of furniture--ledges, commodes and drawers--to put the rolls of film on. It being against the law to have anything dangerously inflammable in a hotel, we had to go about it secretly.'
But the toughest obstacles he had to contend with came from the Breen Office when he was making 'Monsieur Verdoux'. The Breen Office is a branch of the Legion of Decency, a self-imposed censorship by the Motion Picture Association. They tried to prevent him from making the film by any means which make necessary.
But a true artist is often endowed with an infinite capacity for survival. Chaplin survived all kinds of obstacles they inflicted upon him, managing to finish 'Monsieur Verdoux'. Though it was banned in many places in the United States when it was released, it has now been regarded as a masterpiece, definitely one of the finest films ever made. It will be admired forever--long after the Breen Office is forgotten.
How remarkable it is that he and his brother overcame their Dickensian childhood. He brings you into the story so well that it's a great relief to see him emerge into a life of material well-being and recognition as a great artist, bringing joy and laughter to millions all over the world. I'm moved to see his films all over again.