When it comes to icons of cinema it’s hard to think of any more significant than the legendary Charlie Chaplin. His character the Little Tramp has permeated pop culture to such a degree that even those who have never seen a single film of his can instantly recognise the trademark baggy trousers, awkwardly tight jacket, petite bowler hat and twirling cane.
But he is more than just a well remembered figure; Chaplin laid some of the key foundations of cinematic comedy and was one of the first to incite real pathos on the screen. When audiences first saw The Kid in 1921 it wasn’t so much the laughs that had a lasting impact but the relationship between the Little Tramp and the Child – largely owed to the astonishingly moving performance, and one of the best infant acting accomplishments ever, by Jackie Coogan which was of course extracted by Chaplin himself as director.
Chaplin went on to transcend this tonal boundary, where tears of laughter would meet those of affection and sorrow on the same cheeks, time and time again and to a degree that arguably hasn’t been matched since. This reached a touching pinnacle with his crescendo of a monologue in The Great Dictator. The fact that this speech is still recut by fans to new music and overlaid upon new imagery on YouTube almost ad infinitum is proof of Chaplin’s enduring impression on us.
Thankfully, this of course means there is still clearly a hunger for Chaplin and his work, which is why Curzon Artificial Eye is releasing ten of his most beloved films on DVD and Blu-ray this year, starting with The Gold Rush, The Circus and the aforementioned The Kid on the 10 August. It is always a great pleasure for us to bring important filmmakers, stars and parts of cinema history to UK audiences, but triply so for Chaplin because he is truly the epitome of all three.
Mark Towers is the Home Entertainment Product Manager at Curzon Artificial Eye. Twitter: @MarkDTowers
CHAPLIN - FROM THE SOUND OF SILENCE TO TALKIES at Curzon Bloomsbury
It is a common misconception that cinema started as a silent medium; early films may have had no sound dialogue or in-built soundtrack, but motion pictures were always accompanied by scores to build, heighten, and counterpoint drama and comedy alike.
To celebrate the re-release of Charlie Chaplin’s films in a remastered version by Curzon Artificial Eye, we have included in our Summer of Sound some of his masterpieces that chart the transition from original score soundtrack to talking pictures.
All screenings in the Celebrating Chaplin series have now taken place. Sign up to the Curzon Cinemas newsletter or follow us on social media to hear about more events like these.