#ThrowbackThursday – Charlie Chaplin – a Book Review

#ThrowbackThursday on It's Book Life blogRenee began the Throwback Thursday meme on her blog, “It’s Book Talk” to share some of her old favorites as well as sharing books published more than a year ago. Sounded like a good reason to join! My TT posts will not come from current ARCs or new releases. Means I’ll be going back over some of my oldies but goodies, my favorite authors, and some of my favorite stories from authors you might not have previously experienced. Hopefully, you’ll find either a story or author that interests you and you’ll check them out.

Originally posted …3 years ago

Book Blurb: A brief yet definitive new biography of one of film’s greatest legends: perfect for readers who want to know more about the iconic star but who don’t want to commit to a lengthy work. He was the very first icon of the silver screen and is one of the most recognizable of Hollywood faces, even a hundred years after his first film. But what of the man behind the moustache? Peter Ackroyd’s new biography turns the spotlight on Chaplin’s life as well as his work, from his humble theatrical beginnings in music halls to winning an honorary Academy Award. Everything is here, from the glamor of his golden age to the murky scandals of the 1940s and eventual exile to Switzerland. There are charming anecdotes along the way: playing the violin in a New York hotel room to mask the sound of Stan Laurel frying pork chops and long Hollywood lunches with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This masterful brief biography offers fresh revelations about one of the most familiar faces of the last century and brings the Little Tramp vividly to life.”

Charlie Chaplin by Peter AckroydCharlie Chaplin – A Brief Life

My Review: I won an ARC of “Charlie Chaplin-A Brief Life” authored by Peter Ackroyd through a Giveaway on Goodreads. (I got some very terrific books though those Giveaways!) Of course the author was referring to the length of his biography rather than the years lived by Charles Chaplin (whom most of the world learned to call Charlie), as we are well aware he lived into his eighties after a hard and tumultuous life. My original review here.

Knowing the name and having seen a few examples of his work, however, I was not prepared for the story of the impact to the theatre his life actually had on not only the United States, but the entire world early in the 20th Century. He was apparently instrumental in igniting the change in what was then considered “acting” and his legacy has lived on.

I was grateful for the concise and interesting biography of the apparent genius in Charlie Chaplin as I know there are numerous biographies out there as well as his own autobiography which are extremely lengthy. Never really a fan of his, having now read this book, I want to find some of his earlier highly acclaimed silent films, the “flickers,” and see if I can glean the true meanings as Ackroyd has so poetically afforded them.

It’s well Ackroyd introduces us to the child of the London slums that created the volatile personality which emerges as a result of his earliest experiences. Still, it is difficult to understand the man he became. He and his brother were born to an alcoholic mother who, following a psychotic break, spends the rest of her life essentially in and out of asylums as well as the boys lives. His older brother, Sydney, and he manage to survive without really knowing who is their biological father.

A natural mimic, he is perfect for the time and quickly gains attention both in his native London music halls and later in America where he pushed the image of the “Little Tramp” to new and popular heights in silent films.

Later as he takes over the direction of his own films, and reading the descriptions of his rages, periods of genius, social withdrawals, and lack of social acumen, I often wondered if he wasn’t really an undiagnosed Aspergers person long before they were identified as such–he certainly exhibited many of the symptoms.

What struck me, however, was the numerous ways in which he actually changed the focus of silent films and acting; dual camera angles, the obsessive, unbelievable attention to detail, the strength he pulled from his actors. Not so commendable was his volatile private life–more ugly than inspired or romantic and Ackroyd includes all the warts; Chaplin the man as opposed to Chaplin the beloved actor. (It’s not pretty.)

Not the first time the fans have not been privy to the real face behind the makeup, Chaplin descends into “murky scandals”, from which he eventually escapes into exile to Switzerland. He was obviously ahead of his time only to fall victim to the “talkies” as well as his own strong philosophical and political ideals that would spell the end of his movie world.

As we sometimes do, however, with our former idols who have been banished in scandals, Chaplin was much later accorded an honorary Academy Award. Indeed, with all of it, there is no denying his cinematic contribution to America. This book is perfect for students of the theatre, cinema, the “flickers,” the history of movies, the history of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin, and his contributions and innovations. Recommended for anyone interested in history–it’s an amazing story for “how we got here.” 

Peter Ackroyd, authorThe Author: Peter Ackroyd, an English biographer, novelist, and critic has a particular interest in the history and culture of London. He has written biographies of, among others, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, and Sr. Thomas More, winning the Somerset Maugham Award and two Whitbread Awards for his works. He is noted for his volume of work, the range of styles, and his skill at assuming different voices along with the depth of his research. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984 and appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003. (Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.) ©2017 Virginia Williams

More Throwback Thursday Blogs:

Renee at Its Book Talk

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Rebecca at The Book Whisperer

Lynn at Fictionophile

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Author: Rosepoint Publishing

I am the granddaughter of Patrick John "Stanley McShane" Rose whose books including "Cocos Island Treasure" I've recently published. My time is now spent in reading, reviewing, and writing bookish articles. I'm looking forward to sharing this social media odyssey with you!

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