Chaplin in the Sound Era

An Analysis of the Seven Talkies

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About the Book

Charles Chaplin’s sound films have often been overlooked by historians, despite the fact that in these films the essential character of Chaplin more overtly asserted itself in his screen images than in his earlier silent work.
Each of Chaplin’s seven sound films—City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), and A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)—is covered in a chapter-length essay here. The comedian’s inspiration for the film is given, along with a narrative that describes the film and offers details on behind-the-scenes activities. There is also a full discussion of the movie’s themes and contemporary critical reaction to it.

About the Author(s)

In addition to writing books about silent film, Eric L. Flom is a contributing editor to HistoryLink, an online encyclopedia of Washington state history, and has written film and theatre pieces for The Seattle Times, The Enterprise and Silent Era. A longtime resident of Seattle, Flom currently lives in Milton, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Eric L. Flom
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 336
Bibliographic Info: 21 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009 [1997]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4052-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0798-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix

Preface      xi

1. Prologue      1

The Boyhood      2

The English Stage      5

Those Moving Pictures      9

Essanay and Mutual      18

First National      23

United Artists      29

Chaplin’s Development as a Film Artist      35

2. City Lights      47

The Emergence of Sound Technology      47

Conceiving City Lights      54

The Narrative of City Lights      56

The Resistance to Sound      59

Continuing the Chaplin Tradition      63

City Lights as Social Commentary      70

Response to City Lights      72

3. Modern Times      77

His Trip Abroad      77

Analysis of His Trip      84

The Return      87

The Narrative of Modern Times      90

The Second Battle with Sound      94

Socio-Political Aspects of Modern Times      99

The Tramp and the Gamin      106

Response to Modern Times      110

4. The Great Dictator      113

Napoleon, Scarlet and Hitler      115

The Narrative of The Great Dictator      125

The Great Satire      129

The Barber and the Tramp      133

The Great Dictator as Propaganda      135

The Speech      140

Response to The Great Dictator      144

5. Monsieur Verdoux      147

Joan Barry      150

The Courts      155

The Aftermath      158

Landru      161

The Narrative of Monsieur Verdoux      164

Casting and Production      171

Chaplin’s Darker Side      175

Chaplin as the Real Henri Verdoux      177

Promotion & Response to Monsieur Verdoux      183



6. Limelight      189

The Attempted Turnaround      194

Footlights      196

The Narrative of Limelight      199

Life Through the Lens      208

A Return to Older Themes      211

Promotion & Response to Limelight      217

7. A King in New York      223

Closing the Door      224

The Ex-King Comes Home to Europe      229

The Narrative of A King in New York      233

Satirizing the United States      242

Response to A King in New York      250

8. A Countess from Hong Kong      253

The Books and Critical Reassessment      256

The Return to Filmmaking      265

The Narrative of A Countess from Hong Kong      267

Shooting A Countess from Hong Kong      268

The Failure      272

Response to A Countess from Hong Kong      275

9. Epilogue      281

The Reconciliation      282

The Limelight      284

Notes      293

Bibliography      309

Index      315

Book Reviews & Awards

“the amount of factual detail is substantial…well-written”—Classic Images; “Flom’s book distinguishes itself by focusing on Chaplin’s sound films…engaging…in-depth analysis”—Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.