He was one person who made the world laugh, cry, resent, pity and most importantly- think. He was the greatest showman ever to dawn on earth, and will be, for generations to come. He was more than an entertainer. He was also the first Auteur activist. His films, starring him as The Tramp, were subtle commentaries on class divide. The Tramp was a friend to the working class and used slapstick humour to create timeless social commentaries.
Having come from a poor background, and being a perfectionist actor and director he was, optimism was his biggest virtue. As a director, he resurrected slapstick humour, which was thought to be primitive. Slapstick is the most fundamental of all comedies that any audience can associate to- a reason why Chaplin is a household figure, even in the far east, and his films have proven to be timeless. Although talkies became the dominant mode of film making soon after 1927, Chaplin resisted making such a film all through the 1930s. He considered cinema essentially a pantomimic art. He said- “Action is more generally understood than words.”
While “The Gold Rush”(1925) was a slapstick satire on greed and hunger with streaks of poetry, pathos and tenderness, “City Lights” (1931), a romantic comedy, has become the timeless classic his is remembered for. A worthwhile mention here, is “Modern Times” (1936), which was his social protest and final stand against the synchronized sound films. This film was a left leaning political satire showing workers in dismal conditions. Against all odds, it broke all previous box office records and became the quintessential silent comedy of the century.
As Chaplin grew older, he felt compelled to speak out. He resisted using sound in any of his films until “The Great Dictator” (1940), which was a satire on Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Well, when he finally spoke, he roared! In his final speech of the film, released a year before the U.S. entered the World War II, he for once, shed his comic image and addressed the audience directly denouncing dictatorship, greed, hate, and intolerance, in favour of liberty and human brotherhood. This would become one of the greatest speeches ever registered on celluloid –