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Turnabout (1940)

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RedRiver
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby RedRiver » March 7th, 2013, 1:34 pm

Rachel Maddow is stalking you?

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JackFavell
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby JackFavell » March 7th, 2013, 1:41 pm

ChiO wrote:Do you think THE GREAT DICTATOR was the bigger risk? It was risky, but it had many aspects of The Tramp, which undoubtedly provided some comfort to audiences. MONSIEUR VERDOUX, on the other hand, presents our beloved Tramp as not only a non-Tramp, but a serial murderer in the blackest of comedies. As for the political polemic at the end of THE GREAT DICTATOR, either one would buy it or not, but in MONSIEUR VERDOUX he challenges everyone to the very core -- not just politically, but the moral philosophy of the World as he saw it.


It's like you read my mind. When I first started writing, I thought that Verdoux was easily the biggest risk he ever took, due to the nature of the piece. But then I realized that satirizing Hitler was pretty big too. :D

So I backtracked on my original assumption and you caught me out.

One could say that there are still vestiges of the Tramp in Verdoux, but they are not overt, nor are they particularly meaningful. Chaplin's viewpoint though is the same. I think this is what I was trying to get at in a different thread, talking about Verdoux. His movies were ABOUT something, not just intended as deft slapstick or black comedy, starting very early on, so who's to say he wasn't directing the film properly, for him? His films are not, as some critics would have us believe, simplistic, moralistic, or Victorian. Well not moralistic as we know the word. In fact, I find his sophistication staggering. I think that's why I love A Woman of Paris so much, and it looks like Verdoux is headed for second place on my list. His morals are those of a singularly thoughtful man. He does not go along with the crowd on what is moral. His polemic, no that's the wrong word, his OUTLOOK is what we are after in Chaplin's films, at least once we have seen most of his work, not his outward appearance, nor his skill at framing or attempts to control his actors.

I find his deconstruction of what is right and wrong for individuals most fascinating, not the mechanics of the directing, though I found the movie quite funny and well timed. Right and Wrong are basically different for each person. Human beings are vulnerable and fragile in so many ways, and this motivates them in ways we cannot imagine. Humanism and forgiveness are beaten down by the closed minded in this film (also in Woman of Paris). I feel that he's describing our world in broad terms that I can't always quite grasp. For me, he's talking about freedom to live one's own life, not a life ruled by mores and strictures imposed by someone else or a group or a state or a church or a book or the guy next door. To live a life not bound by convention is freeing, and gives us insight, and I find this very, very appealing. In other words, there is no clearcut right or wrong in Verdoux. We may feel outrage that he killed these women, but the heart tells us something different when we get to the end of the film. I found it open ended in a supremely entertaining way, it leaves you with a brain full of questions about authority, marriage, human nature, society, and again, the nature of right and wrong (which doesn't really exist outside of what society decides at any time).

For me, MONSIEUR VERDOUX is Chaplin's greatest masterpiece in a career with more than most.

Tangentially, the assistant director of LIMELIGHT, a Mr. Robert Aldrich, said in an unpublished interview that Chaplin was "a great artist but a terrible director. He couldn't communicate ideas to a performer; he could only show them how he would do it." But he also said that Chaplin was "an enormous contributor to the film as art and as business" and he taught Aldrich "the impossibility of defeat. No matter what happens, he had enough energy and enthusiasm and confidence to overcome any disaster." That later reflection would appear to apply to Chaplin both as a person and his film persona.


Again, another great artist not bound by convention, like Welles. I believe Chaplin was a worker, he found a way to do what he wanted, what pleased him, what he HAD to say, to show. He risked everything, because everything is pretty small thing to lose when art is concerned.

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CineMaven
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby CineMaven » March 7th, 2013, 9:56 pm

RedRiver wrote:Rachel Maddow is stalking you?


:wink:
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intothenitrate
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby intothenitrate » March 8th, 2013, 10:11 am

I think that even in the twenties, Chaplin was edgy.
However:
1) Much of the humor either went over the audiences' head, or
2) It is done so charmingly and naturally, it gets a laugh before you realize what button has been pushed.
Here's an example. In The Kid, after failing to dispose of the baby he's been stuck with, he takes it home. The women outside the front door ask him the baby's name. He steps inside the doorway for a moment, then comes back out and says "John." Maybe that's not the best example, but it's from the same cloth from which his larger anarchies are cut.

Although the timestamp on The Great Dictator is 1940, we can assume that the script had been in development for some time, during the late thirties. So while the American public was in denial about the growing threat in Germany, Chaplin was very actively constructing this somewhat black comedy. His treatment is entirely different than the anti-Nazi films that would come after Pearl Harbor. He doesn't make Hitler a "thing," or an absolute "other" -- the stock-in-trade of the propagandista. His Hynkel is a silly, vain, aberrant member of the human race...but still a member of the human race. One could even say that he is showing us the Hitler that's inside all of us.

So, while the film is, so to speak, "aligned with Allied sympathies" it's Chaplin's own unique take as a firmly entrenched humanist.
Last edited by intothenitrate on March 8th, 2013, 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
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JackFavell
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby JackFavell » March 8th, 2013, 11:41 am

I love your assessment of Chaplin! Yes, he's a humanist. I think that's what I was trying to say so long-windedly in my post.

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intothenitrate
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby intothenitrate » March 8th, 2013, 12:06 pm

I forgot to mention how much I loved your post.

It's interesting that you mentioned Welles. According to that documentary that I loaned to my son, Welles suggested the idea for Verdoux to Chaplin. They also appeared on the same bill at a benefit to support the USSR during the war, although, according to witnesses, Welles was much more non-committal than Chaplin. A big difference between Welles and Chaplin as risk-takers, however, is the fact that Chaplin put his own money behind his films.

I also appreciate ChiO's compare-and-contrast between the two monologues at the end of TGD and MV. At the end of the former, the fate of the barber is uncertain. Will he be found out and sent to a concentration camp? Will the people of "Tomania," moved by his words, wake up as if from a bad dream?

On the other hand, Verdoux's final statement in the courtroom, eloquent as it is, changes nothing. Instead of trundling off optimistically towards the horizon -- as he had in the past -- he is marched to the guillotine. It is a resignation. He says his peace and accepts the consequences.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

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ChiO
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby ChiO » March 8th, 2013, 1:08 pm

MONSIEUR VERDOUX is a fictionalized account of serial murderer Henri Landru. In the credits to the film, Chaplin gives credit for the idea of the movie to Orson Welles, though apparently that was added shortly after the premiere when Welles challenged him about authorship. Welles undisputedly generated the idea for the movie, but the accounts vary as to how much of the script he wrote. According to Welles, he had a near-finished script and took it to Chaplin to see if he would be willing to star in it. Chaplin said he wouldn't be in a movie in which he didn't direct himself. Chaplin claimed that there was no script, just an outline, that Welles gave it to him, and that the Landru concept was in the public domain. Somewhere in there lies the reality. Welles did admit that the Chaplin-Raye rowboat scene was 100% Chaplin's idea.

For a bit of something tangentially related, watch "The Dominici Affair," a segment of Around the World with Orson Welles (1955), a marvelous series Welles directed, wrote and hosted for British television.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

kingrat
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby kingrat » March 8th, 2013, 1:41 pm

To play devil's advocate for a moment: though Verdoux is daring, Chaplin goes out of his way to load the dice in Verdoux's favor. He loves animals, even earthworms, and is a vegetarian. He loves his wife and child. They eventually die, so more sympathy for him. We don't see him kill anyone. We see the smoke, and know that his wife Thelma is burning, but we never see her. Her relatives are boorish, so we never feel the pain suffered by someone who loved one of the women he killed. We can sympathize with his desire to shut up Martha Raye, even permanently, but even this attempt fails. This may have been the only way the film could work, especially in the 1940s, but it makes the film considerably less daring than it might have been. One might even argue that the preaching at the end against the munitions makers has its limitations. Looking back, it seems clear that ideology, much more than the greed of munitions makers, drove the mass killings.

Which is not to say Monsieur Verdoux is a lousy film. It wouldn't make my top 10 for 1947 or my top 5 Chaplin films, but it's still interesting. Perhaps Aldrich's comments mesh with my sense that some of the supporting players could register more strongly and that Chaplin doesn't have much feeling for building a scene through dialogue.

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intothenitrate
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby intothenitrate » March 8th, 2013, 1:48 pm

You're right about "stacking the deck," KR. I was thinking about how Verdoux treats his victims to more romance than they would have otherwise been likely to have experienced, if that makes any sense.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

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JackFavell
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby JackFavell » March 8th, 2013, 2:29 pm

The victims in Kind Hearts and Coronets are all horrible human beings who we want to see dead, except for poor Henry D'Ascoygne, who is only just stupid. I don't see the problem with that, as long as the filmmaker gets said what he wants to say. It's not daring for Dennis Price to be playing a serial killer but it is for Chaplin. Although, personally, I think there was always an anarchic, mercenary and deliciously self centered streak in the Little Tramp.

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intothenitrate
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Re: Turnabout (1940)

Postby intothenitrate » March 8th, 2013, 11:34 pm

Thanks for the clarification, ChiO. Going by the tone of the documentary, it sounded more like a collegial interchange between the two filmmakers, not a struggle over intellectual property rights.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington


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