Movies

Little Man with a Big Jailbait Fetish: Charlie Chaplin Edition

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Film critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman (yes, that Vanneman!) has written a very entertaining essay about jailbait fetishist Charlie Chaplin and his late-career film Monsieur Verdoux, a not-so-hoo-larious black comedy about a serial killer.

Vanneman's essay, in the excellent online pub, Bright Lights Film Journal, is recommended for all film and Chaplin buffs but especially Chaplin haters. Me? I've always found Chaplin as funny as cancer.

Snippets:

In 1942, the Soviets were bearing the full brunt of Hitler's war machine, with almost no assistance from her "allies." There was a quite reasonable fear that the Soviets would go under, leaving Hitler in complete control of Europe, leading to substantial agitation for a "Second Front" — the invasion of Europe in 1942 by British and U.S. forces.

Chaplin threw himself into this agitation. It was a perfect way to irritate the suits and stuffed shirts. You want patriotism? I got patriotism! Let's win this damn war, kids! Now! Chaplin made several long public speeches in the course of the agitation for a Second Front, sometimes sounding pragmatic, and sometimes aggressively pro-Soviet — "I am not a communist, but I am pro-communist" — and was obviously having a great time, to the great irritation of the many people who disliked him. He even went so far as to announce that "We are no longer shocked by the Russian purges." There is nothing wrong, after all, with killing people who are "bad." Stalin was just thinking ahead!…

All his life, Chaplin had played the hero, and he couldn't stop now [in Monsieur Verdoux], no matter how much it muddled the picture's theme. But despite the muddle, the message of the last scenes of the movie are clear: a higher man, like Chaplin, is beyond society's rules. He has only one duty — to fulfill his nature. Once he has done that, he is free. Society may kill him, but it cannot defeat him.

The premiere of Monsieur Verdoux was naturally awaited with a great deal of anticipation [but]…April 1947 was a very bad time for Chaplin to release a bad film that, however confusedly, presented himself as a martyr. His old buddy Joe Stalin was taking over Eastern Europe in traditional Stalinist fashion, committing new crimes every day while fresh evidence of his old ones — often censored during the war — were coming to light. The Soviet purges of which Chaplin spoke so highly were now seen for what they were — grotesque exercises in cruelty and sadism on an almost unimaginable scale. The public mood was shifting violently against our Red allies, and Chaplin would pay the price for his self-indulgent behavior.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Quit spelling my name wrong!

  2. Looks like he changed his moustache style around that time for some reason.

  3. Quite an interesting article. Though he is quite wrong that the Soviet Union defeated the Nazi hordes without any help from the rest of the allies. Without the lend-lease supplies (plus the US and British bombers sapping Nazi air-power and industrial production) the Soviets would have collapsed.

    1. Quite correct. Also, the SS screwed up royally when they proved to be even more cruel than the Soviets in the contended regions of the Eastern Front. Many were ready to revolt against the Communist but ultimately backed down.

      The devil you know . . .

      1. We should have let thiws two fight it out and kicked the ass of the victor.

    2. My point was that, though the efforts of the U.S. and Britain were (probably) essential to Hitler’s defeat, it was Stalin and the USSR who did the heavy lifting. Only the Soviets were willing to endure the massive casualties needed to defeat Hitler. They suffered 90% of the Allied casualities in Europe and inflicted the same percentage on the Germans.

      1. Stop spelling your name wrong, anal. Soviets and your kind: “the capitalists didn’t help at all. Now give us half of Europe and asia.”
        FDR: “sure, if we can be friends”
        Stalin: “time for that after we steal your atomic bomb secrets with the help of our useful idiots”

      2. Sucking at battle only gains points with news dweebs and poetry fags.

      3. Only the Soviets were willing to endure the massive casualties needed to defeat Hitler.

        Yes, because unlike most of the other countries Hitler invaded, they didn’t surrender or get caught with their pants down.

        And lest you think I’m taking a jab at most of europe, I’m not. It’s hard to catch the Soviet Union with its pants down. Especially when you have to make a 1000 mile dash to attack its capital city.

        England certainly did a lot of heavy liftin (Thanks U.S.!) compared to its relative size and strength.

        1. Uh, the Soviets did get caught with their pants down. Operation Barbarossa was a huge success at the beginning until Hitler turned toward Stalingrad instead of continuing toward the oil fields he was going for.

          Stalin was warned of the attack beforehand but was so convinced that Hitler would not attack for awhile longer that he made it a crime to tell him of the Germans amassing on the Western border.

          1. Don’t forget that sucking at economics, stratigery and battle are no reason to praise getting your ass kicked while your primary focus is murdering 20 million of your own people. Blaming it on the allies you never should have had, priceless.

      4. Quite correct. I in no way wished to minimize the suffering and endurance of the Soviet people. They suffered horribly under their own government and the Nazis.

      5. Only the Soviets were willing to endure the massive casualties needed to defeat Hitler.

        I’m not sure if “willing” is the right word here. “Forced” sounds about right, especially if you have the individual Soviet citizen in mind.

    3. Don’t forget how fucking helpful those Russians were with Japan. The Soviet warplan was “give us free shit and fight for us while we do a big purge”.

  4. I recall being young and naive enough when Chaplin came out in the theaters that I felt an obligation to see the movie even though I really didn’t want to do it. Now it would never occur to me to waste even a minute of my time on something that did not entertain me at the talky shows. They really cost too much to indulge a docu-drama or some boring ass biopic.

  5. Anybody who thinks Stalin loving FDR just didn’t help pou the fucking Russians because he didn’t feel like getting out of his wheel chair to lend a hand is as fucking retarded as the morons who think we nuked Japan out of racism.

  6. I’ve always found Chaplin as funny as cancer.

    You’re not the only one:

    George: Oh well, because if you are cheezed off, you know what would cheer you up, a lot of Charlie Chaplin films. Oh, I love Old Chappers, don’t you, Cap?

    Edmund: Unfortuately no I don’t. I find his films about as funny as getting an arrow through the neck and discovering there’s a gas bill tied to it.

    George: Ah, beg pardon, sir, but come off! His films are ball-bouncingly funny.

    Edmund: Rubbish!

    George: Alright, why let’s consult the men for a casting vote, shall we? Baldrick?

    Baldrick: (entering) Sir!

    George: Charlie Chaplin, Baldrick. What do you make of him?

    Baldrick: Oh sir, he’s as funny as a vegetable that’s grown into a rude and amusing shape, sir.

    Edmund: So you agree with me. Not at all funny?

    George: Oh come on, skipper, it ain’t fair. I haven’t asked for all of this. When he kicked that fellow in the backside, I thought I’d die!

    Edmund: Well, if that’s your idea of comedy, we can provide our own without(??) for the priviledge. (kicks Baldrick) There, you find that funny?

    George: Well, no of course not, sir, but you see, Chaplin is a genius.

    Edmund: He certainly is a genuis, George. He invented a way of getting a million dollars a year by wearing stupid trousers. Did you find that funny, Baldrick?

    1. George: Bully!
      Edmumd: Bully!
      Baldrick: Bully!

  7. Which one of the stooges was Chaplain?

  8. You know, I’ve always pondered what would have happened if the Germs had won. If things would have been all that different…

    After all, who would have guessed that after Stalin’s death, the more “liberal” elements of the Politburo would take control? After a victory, and Hitler’s death, is it possible the Nazis would have slowly become less deranged as well?

    1. Who knows? Maybe the Axis powers would turn on each other and we’d just clean up the mess.

    2. Most of Stalin’s close henchmen weren’t as crazy as he was. Hitler, on the other hand, seemed to surround himself with people just as bad or worse than himself. Molotov was much more rational than Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, and Von Rippentrop

    3. We’d probably have a president that would be saying something like, “I’m against Die Endl?sung, but I want to leave the policy in place until the Reichstag gives me a full report on the issue.”

      1. Sure, because we all know Hitler was fully capable of crossing the Atlantic and conquering the U.S.A

        1. He was sinking ships on the US coast in the 1930s.

        2. And the Japanese were firebombing the west coast in the 1940s.

    4. It would be just like the world we have now under Obama.

  9. Which one of the stooges was Chaplain?

    Purgy Joe.

  10. I’d take issue with the idea that the “Second Front Now” push got started in 1942. Stalin’s first letter to Churchill after Barbarossa called for such an invasion and the communists in the West – nothing if not sock puppets for Uncle Joe – immediately parroted the theme.

    Fuck Stalin and his minions…the whole war wouldn’t have happened absent the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Rooskies got what was coming to them.

    1. Typical left cry: take care of ME now! The difference between them and infants is speech.

      1. It continued for a long while after Barbarossa, too. Stalin and his goons had no shame at all over being Hitler’s pals up to and including the invasions of Poland, Norway and France. They were more than happy to take the spoils.

        1. On the plus side, Simo Hayha killed a metric ton of them when they invaded Finland.

          1. How much is that in real weight?

  11. Dwight Mcdonald’s takedown of Monsieur Verdoux may be the only perfect film review ever written.

    1. Are you the leaver of the GLTV reason staff or just a member?

    2. Not that’s just cruel, Jesse. Tell us about a great panning, but give no link?

      Hey, Roger Ebert’s review of North was epic…

      1. I don’t think it’s online, alas. You can find it in his book On Movies.

        Macdonald finds a few parts of the picture to praise, so the article isn’t a North-style evisceration. It just sums up exactly what’s wrong with the movie, and does it so ably I don’t think I’d change so much as a comma.

  12. I’ll put it as Patton put it:
    “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

    So what if the American’s didn’t have as many casualties as the Russians? Our job was to stop Hitler’s tyranny. We helped Russia because the enemy of our enemy blah blah. But in war, especially if freedom and liberty is batling against tyranny and oppression, and in that case, genocide, we, the freedom lovers, should lose NONE if possible, and them, as many as it takes to defeat them. ON the other hand, people will fight for freedom til the last man. Yes, there are many wusses in today’s America….(they’re called liberals!) who would happily hand over freedom for comfort, or even control, provided by a government. But most freedom loving people everywhere will die rather than be slaves, where soldiers can wak into your home whenever and rape your wife or kids on a whim.
    This is why I hate it when supposed “intellectuals” wax eloquently about the “injustices” of America on the poor, brave communists, or the decision by Truman, Democrat, but no liberal, (at least not by today’s standards!) to drop the atomic bombs.

  13. It’s too bad the Bright Lights site has annoying ads that pop up if you hover over the photos.

  14. If you want a nice summary of the life and um, loves of Charlie Chaplin, get a copy of Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger. One of those little books you can read again and again.

  15. My point was that, though the efforts of the U.S. and Britain were (probably) essential to Hitler’s defeat,

    Completely essential. Without Allied material support, airpower, tying down troops on the Western Front, and completely destroying two Army Groups in on the Western Front, its hard to see the Soviets taking Berlin.

    Only the Soviets were willing to endure the massive casualties needed to defeat Hitler.

    Only the Soviets were both incompetent enough to take massive casualties, and brutal enough to sustain them.

    They suffered 90% of the Allied casualities in Europe and inflicted the same percentage on the Germans.

    The 90% of casualties inflicted by the Germans is probably right. Not so sure about the 90% inflicted on the Germans.

    1. “In all the western campaigns of the war against French, British, Americans, and troops of many other lands, some 200,000 German soldiers died. Four million Germans died on the Eastern Front.”

      http://www.boston.com/news/glo…..ar?pg=full

  16. In grad school (the first time) I figured out that “classic comedy” really means “not funny.”

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