What matters most
G-Money unwittingly comments on film fandom and levels of knowledge in his three latest posts. His piece on THE CIRCUS (by far the meatiest of the three) could only have been written by a Chaplin fanboy, a man for whom coming to grips with each Chaplin film means putting it in the context of his whole career and the movies at the time:
Unlike the rest of the clowns, the Tramp does not seem to be playing for laughs–he isn’t in on the joke with the audience and lacks the sort of immediate emotional connection a clown might have. This is what set the movie comics apart from their vaudeville counterparts.
Could this be the fear that was gnawing at Chaplin and his contemporaries [in 1928], that we were moving away from the visual lyricism of silent comedy, and returning toward the wink-wink nod-nod relationship with the audience that characterized humor in the theater? Certainly, the most successful early sound-era comics, especially the Marx Brothers, thrived on a new style that was far more self-aware, that played to the audience in a more overtly comic way. Perhaps, looking forward to a largely uncertain future, Chaplin was writing the story of his own end as an artist.
Yes, he was. Obviously, Chaplin was so huge himself that he was able to continue through the 30s with two basically-silent movies — his masterpiece CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES. But talkies were his death.
But on the other hand, Michael notes that while he liked Harold Lloyd’s SAFETY LAST only some, apart from *the* famous sequence, his 8-year-old brother was completely taken by it. I’ve heard a lot of silent-film fans myself say that Lloyd really appeals to their children. “We forget, sometimes, how magical the cinema can be, unencumbered by critical airs,” Michael writes. “Critical airs” though, are exactly what THE CIRCUS piece was all about. And FWIW bud, Roger Ebert had a similar reaction to SAFETY LAST when he saw it, his first Lloyd … in 2005 (and he got taken to task over it).
And in his short piece on ADAM’S RIB, Michael noted that his mother (I am closer to her age than to his) told him as if for granted that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy had a real-life years-long affair, which accounts in part for how easy and free their chemistry is. This was something I happened to know before I ever saw the two act together — in WOMAN OF THE YEAR. But he didn’t, and my reaction was “wow bud.”
I cannot imagine watching the Tracy-Hepburn comedies without knowing that the two were lovers offscreen. It was for me (and critics of Kael’s generation) always part of the fun of the pairing, that these films were light-comedy larks, but also substitutes for the relationship they could not have because Tracy was already married. Try PAT AND MIKE, by the same writers-director team, armed with this knowledge (your named problem with ADAM’S RIB will not occur).
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