"Monsieur Verdoux, anybody?"

Mjollnir’s thread on “The Graduate” brought this one to mind. Anyone else think is film was so far ahead of its time (today), that’s it hardly surprising it was Chaplin’s first ‘flop’ (commercially). I defy anyone of sensibility & sensitivity to not be astonished by Chaplin’s vision . . .

I think his first flop was A WOMAN OF PARIS (1923).


A WOMAN OF PARIS wasn’t exactly a flop – it did well enough, though not as well as Chapin’s usual work, since Chaplin wasn’t starring.

I’m not at home, so I don’t have references available, but certainly there is a black humour element to MONSIEUR VERDOUX that (at least arguably) hadn’t appeared in Chaplin’s work before.

LIMELIGHT is much later.

And THE GREAT DICTATOR has a certain black humour in hindsight, now that we know Hitler was evil rather than absurd.

Well, I know this is heresy, but I just flat-out don’t like Chaplin, as a person, a director or an actor.

His early stuff was mostly “hit the cop with a brick” and his best early gags were stolen from Max Linder. A lot of of later work was just maudlin “sniff a rose while a tear runs down your cheek” stuff.

Just not my cup of tea–for silent comedy, give me Linder, Lloyd or Keaton any day! Why is Chaplin so deified? Is it because so much of his work survived and was revived throughout the years?

Never saw Monseur Verdoux, but heard it was great. While I’m not a Chaplin worshipper, I do think he’s one of the greats. Lloyd & Keaton are awesome as well, as is Roscoe Arbuckle. Arbuckle & Keaton did some work together, and their stuff is just magic.

Cristi, without seeming to gush, I really would like to encourage you to rent or check out Monsieur Verdoux from the local library or wherever you can find it. I guarantee, you’ll think the movie could have been made any time in the last 10 years. Although it is a black comedy about a French serial killer, the sardonicism of Chaplin’s ‘take’ will astonish you.

And, Flora, I guess there’s no accounting for tastes; but frankly, I think you actually just haven’t seen enough Chaplin.

DIF, I think Flora knows the guy’s work. It’s pretty hard to ignore it if you have even the slightest interest in film history. Her disdain may have something to do with Chaplin’s treatment of Lita Grey.

“Tears and roses,” you obviously mean the climax of CITY LIGHTS, Ms. McF? But that movie also included some great slapstick set pieces (the boxing match), a complex and funny social relationship (Charlie and the schnockered millionaire), and dozens of lovely throwaway comic bits (the mixup over lighting the cigar in the nightclub, for one). I haven’t seen this film for years and these scenes are rolling past my third eye like it was only yesterday. Don’t even get me started on MODERN TIMES.

I always preferred Keaton to Chaplin, myself. But even though I like strawberry best, I order the butter pecan once in a while.


DIF, I shall rent that film ASAP. Not going to be much of a problem convincing my husband to watch, thank goodness…he is quite the huge Chaplin fan. We’ve got a gozillion video stores here, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble finding it. :slight_smile:

Because Chapin IS better than any of the others. Lloyd and Keaton owe a lot to Chaplin, who changed film comedy almost from the very first film. Before Chaplin, films had maybe about five gags in 20 minutes. Chaplin did five in a minute, setting a standard that few have matched. He was good at both physical comedy and subtle gags put across with just a shrug of a shoulder. (Lloyd and Keaton, BTW, agreed that Chaplin was ahead of them in ability.)

The Max Linder comment is standard snobbery. Chaplin used similar jokes on occasion, but gave the characters more depth and built upon the jokes to a degree that leaves Linder in the dust.

Chaplin, more than any other comedian, could do it all – move from being extremely funny to very dramatic. There is much more in any Chaplin film than just gags, and you can find more in them in repeated viewings. His comedies were more ambitious than anyone else’s, and more often than not, he carried out his ambitions.

The main downside is that Chaplin’s sentimentality is out of fashion right now (much like Lloyd’s eager beaver persona is unfashionable). Keaton is much more modern, but that doesn’t make him better.

Mack Sennett had it right about Chaplin: “Oh, well, he’s just the greatest artist who ever lived.”


Chuck, I’m not gonna argue with you, 'cause it all boils down to taste: you prefer Chaplin, I prefer Max Linder. “Let’s call the whole thing off!”

Ike, you’re back! How was vacation? We were beginning to think you’d gotten blown up in a Moscow apartment building! Did you meet any Ukelele Ladies down on Honolulu Bay (where all the beaches are full of peaches who bring their ukes along)?

Flora, m’love, I missed you terribly. It’s great to be back in the land of electrons.

No Honolulu Bay for me…you can’t be the Bull Goose Loony Ukulele Man in the land of ukuleles!

RC makes a fine point about Keaton’s current status being a product of his sensibility. While I don’t think too many people are running down Chaplin’s work, Keaton’s reputation is certainly solid gold now, more so than when he was alive.

Speaking of Linder, what other big silent comedians are forgotten today? I remember being amused as a child by Charley Chase, who appeared in some TV retrospectives during the 1960s. His humor seemed to depend mainly on his pants falling down…


Damn! I shouldn’t drag DIF’s thread so far off-topic.

Ahem. Yes. MONSIEUR VERDOUX is a fine film. Everyone should rent it right away.

Well, I adore Max Linder, and everyone should go out and rent The Man in the Silk Hat, a video collection put out by his daughter. He was not only funny, he was a handsome devil, which is more than you can say for Chaplin (though some think Keaton was a cutie, in his own way).

Max Davidson is a silent comic totally forgotten–I’d never heard of him till I saw some of his shorts (!) at a film festival, and the audience was rolling on the floor.

As for the silent ladies, of course Mabel Normand was a goddess, and Marion Davies was a brilliant deadpan comic. Clara Bow was great, too–ever see her in It? Hilarious!

I’ve always considered Buster Keaton to be a strikingly handsome man, in his youth, anyway. (Got rather toadlike when he passed fifty.) Especially with the long hair he wore for THE GENERAL. If he’d ever grown to any taller than 5’4" or so, he could’ve made it as a leading man, if he’d been inclined that way.

Come to think of it, Chaplin’s mighty handsome in MONSIEUR VERDOUX, what with that silver hair and dapper duds.

Maybe I’m just attracted to comic personae? Carole Lombard…rowwwwwwr!


Just to toss in a shameless plug, the Turner Movie Channel (TMC) shows a silent film every Sunday night (11:00 PM CDT) … they’ve shown some wonderful stuff, and some mediocre stuff, and some interesting-but-not-really-very-good stuff. Very few comedies, unfortunately, but the silent comedy greats are readily available in the video stores.

Actually, it’s TCM (Turner Classic Movies), not TMC (The Movie Channel).