Viewed by today’s audiences, Mack Sennett’s 1914 film Tillie’s Punctured Romance might appear to be a broad slapstick comedy that relies on fat jokes, drunken caricatures and butt-kicking for laughs –unremarkable, save for the fact that it was the first feature-length film comedy ever released. Contemporary viewers might also recognize silent film megastar Charlie Chaplin (here billed as “Charles”) and Sennett’s silent comedy mainstays, “the Keystone Kops.” But why revive and screen the film, especially as part of a series entitled “The Women Who Built Hollywood?”
Tag: Charlie Chaplin
The iconic Charlie Chaplin, as the Little Tramp, does it again in the 1936 film, MODERN TIMES, a commentary on the effects of the American people during the Great Depression. Although known for his comedy, Chaplin took on a serious role as a filmmaker and artist by interpreting the living and working situations of many individuals as they struggled through the 1930s. For some, the perfect comedic timing that leaves audiences in stiches may mask the richness within the film. In the opening shots where he compares people to cattle by juxtaposing shots of each being herded along indicates an unexpected depth beneath the silly hijinks. Here Chaplin adapts to the advancement of cinematic grammar, in what is perhaps a direct response to the filmic language utilized by the likes of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, a ‘poet of the people,’ who also captured the struggle of the working class in his films.
Picture yourself trudging through the frozen Alaskan tundra, alone, in the midst of a storm. Flecks of ice and frost are whipping around your hunched figure, your bowler hat can barely stay on, and your bamboo cane sinks straight into the snow when you lean on it for support. You will shortly face extreme hunger, paranoia and attempted cannibalism. From an outsider’s perspective, it would appear that your situation is dire.
By Jessica Singer
The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin’s overtly anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi opus. Written, acted, directed, and produced by Chaplin, the film tells the story of a Jewish barber who gets mistaken for a dictator. The dictator, Adenoid Hynkel, is of course a very thinly veiled version of the similarly named Adolph Hitler. The film–and its famous pantomine scene where the dictator dances around the room with a balloon globe of the world–has made an indelible mark in film history and popular culture, and is fondly remembered today for its rich political satire as well as its delicate blend of pathos and comedy. What is not always remembered, however, is just how daring it was for Chaplin to produce this film in the context of his times.