10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2010
A few months ago whilst on business on a rainy day in Kennington South London, I found myself standing outside a house with a blue plaque "Charlie Chaplin lived here ...".
I then saw this book "Charles Chaplin My Autobiography" and bought it out of curiosity and for something to read on the Tube-not expecting very much.
I was was completely wrong. It is brilliant so well written and the way Charlie writes is so vivid & engaging. He clearly was often very interested in the people he met and what motivated them and the situations in which he found himself.
It certainly pushed asided the preconceptions I had about him as just playing the "little tramp" and just being a silent movie star without much relevance to modern times. On the contrary his life was astonishingly rich and he was greatly loved and respected by people of all walks of life. But although he became very wealthly, he never forgot where he came from and he supported socialism. He suffered for this at the hands of the American authorities during the McCarthy Era and the anti communist witch hunts.
As regards the criticism by another reviewer of his film "the Great Dictator" and the way it pokes fun at Hitler and the Nazi's. Well seeing the funny side is a very English way of dealing with monsters. But when Charlie made that film he did not know about the concentration camps. We know about them but we still poke fun at the Nazis in comedies such as "Allo Allo"
This book is definitely a good read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Charlie Chaplin's life story makes a real page-turner of a book. The misery of his first twelve years had me almost in tears; he lived with his mentally ill mother in an endless series of tiny rooms in the worst slums of Victorian London. Charlie lived on pennies a week and was eventually sent to a workhouse for over a year where the beatings were right out of Dickens. What a contrast to his adult life! While traveling in a vaudeville show in the U.S. he was invited to Hollywood where he created the character of the tramp and rose to international fame and fortune.
Chaplin writes in a very readable style, recounting the horrors and high points of his life with fascinating detail (except for his many love affairs and marriages which are barely mentioned). He socialized with royalty and traveled the world, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings. Highly recommended, especially for film fans.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2009
What a fantastic book! All you 20-something wannabes (Kerry, Chantelle, I mean you) take note - this is how an autobiography SHOULD be written: at the end of a long, fulfilling and fascinating life, not after a normal childhood and ten minutes on a reality TV show.
This is a sweeping and beautifully written story covering the entire span of Chaplin's life at the time of writing, from his poverty-stricken London childhood and his early theatrical career, through the evolution of Hollywood and the development of his most famous and well-loved character, the `Little Tramp', to his dazzling rise to fame and fortune, his brushes with the harsh face of American politics, and his final escape to Switzerland with his wife Oona and their large family, where he remained until his death in 1977.
Not only is this a wonderful journey through the world of theatre and the development of the film industry, it is also overflowing with interesting people, places and anecdotes. His was a golden era of sparkling society in which the aristocracy and the intellectual elite mixed on equal terms and travelled frequently. Thus Chaplin can legitimately name-drop a veritable wealth of friends, acquaintances and casual meetings, from Albert Einstein to Winston Churchill, Lord and Lady Mountbatten to John Steinbeck, Rachmaninov to Picasso. On top of all that there is a meandering thread of personal philosophy, politics and considered opinion, all of which come together to form a rounded picture of someone whose genius could otherwise have become buried under his comedy.
I picked up the book on the strength of the film `Chaplin' (starring Robert Downey Jr.), which I fell to watching on television one day and watched to the end, finding myself captivated by the life of this unique, intelligent little man and his consuming interest in entertaining the masses with his films, of which he was writer, director, composer, actor and everything in between. I have never seen a Chaplin film in its entirety, but after reading his autobiography I have a list of movies to see and enough knowledge to fully appreciate them. I didn't want the book to end, long though it may be, and as I closed its pages I was reminded of Truman Capote's famous remark about finishing a book being like you've taken a child out in the yard and shot it. That feeling of looking at your bookshelf, wondering what on earth could top that? Oh, and in case you were wondering - Capote gets a name-drop too...
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2007
In early Hollywood cinema there were only a few leading lights and Charlie Chaplin was one of them.Famous for his clowning and mime,he has been copied and imitated right into the twenty first century.This book take us by the land and leads us from the poverty of Victorian England to the glam and glitz of Hollywood.
Charlie was born in South London in the latter part of the 19th century and both of his parents were music hall entertainers.He lived mainly with his mother and first stepped onto the stage as a young boy after his mother lost her voice and could no longer sing.After spells in Victorian workhouses and pauper schools,Charlie and his brother Sydney fell into life on the road as part of several troups of touring productions,one of which took them to America....
To review this book in total would take pages and pages.He writes beautifully and if selective memory kicks in on occasion, well,that's his perogative.His life story is a fascinating insight into so many things,Victorian London~Victorian Music Hall~Early Cinema and much more.He recounts conversations and meetings with many historical figures including Winston Churchill and Ghandi.
I would highly recommend this book for many reasons but to sum up ~ buy this book 'cause it's a thumping good read!!.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2006
I've never been a fan of Chaplin but I watched the broadcast of 'Chaplin' the movie recently and I was sufficiently impressed to buy this autobiography upon which it was allegedly based. I thought the film to be quite good until I read the book and realised that much of the screenplay is invented or warped. Chaplins own version of events is informative, well written and engaging. He spends some time explaining his impoverished early years in Victorian London and its facinating stuff: really brings the era to colourful life. His mother, portrayed very negatively in the the film, was actually a warm and imaginative character who I would love to meet (way too late of course).
Chaplin describes the early days of movie making with great eloquence (he did NOT make his Keystone debut by walking into a shoot by mistake - that's pure invention for the movie) and again it is fascinating. If the past is a foreign country we can never visit then this is the definitive travelogue for early 20th Century Hollywood. Great stuff and recommended. I even might buy a Chaplin DVD!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2011
I read it first when I was about 16-17 and even now after many years I sill like to come back to it to read it again. One can feel Chaplin's spirit of it and well writen book just invites you to spend a couple of nights with it instead of waching all the TV nonsense. The same as in his movies also in his writing Chaplin has the touch that can reach both viewer and reader/listener. Don't expet any wild actions or surprises to be revealed. It is simply a description of the guy's life both with his sorrows and joys. Rich life. Recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2014
As a huge fan of CC I try to read everything I get and this autobiography, bought in a remote shop in Windsor cannot be an exeption. Author s vocabulary is very rich and sometimes presents a difficulty for me as English is not my mother tongue but I do not want to spend my time searching for unknown words in my dictionary and rather try to find out their meaning. Anyhow, sometimes I cannot resist, I look after a word, write it down and try to remember it. It can be a vay of enriching my own vocabulary, isn t it? We are learnt from a preface that CC deliberately skipped some chapters of his life, he even did not mention some people he worked with and I am astonished he did not mention Georgia Hale, his leading lady in The Gold Rush, while she wrote such a warm and loving book called Intimate close-ups. If you want to know more about CC there are only two books you need to read: My father Charlie Chaplin, written by his son Charlie, Jr. and Charlie and Oona, the story of a mariage by Frederick Sands and you have all as far as CC s life is concerned. Both books are difficult to find, especially latter one and I am glad to have it translated in Slovene. As there is also a chapter about how this autobiography was written I would like to bestow some details with you, but please consider, I am not English speaking and my translation is not always innovative.
CC began to write it at 67 and it was Graham Green then a director of a London publishing house Bodley Head who persuaded him to do so. The first title was to be The stories of my life and he wanted to show readers the world from his own perspective. It took him 8 years to complete, he put all his energy in writing and editing almost 200.000 words. He was offended and angry when some critics hinted he probably had not written it all himself. Sands confirms that, as a frequent visitor in his house, he was a witness of creative periode as he was sometimes taken in CC s office where CC would show him the listed yellow pages, saying: "I will tell you sometning, my old fella,- now I respect writers when I see how hard is to make something that stands. I think I do a good job if I manage to put 500 words on a paper, after tearing them up 10 times." As a perfectionist, never satisfied with his work writing a book he used the same "technique" like when making films: he wrote, cut out, rewrote, cut out again, saying: "You cannot do anything without enthusiasm. If you have not got it, quit!"
He was gifted an exeptional memory and rarely needed more than 3 hours of sleeping. This combination enabled him, that when he was working late in the night, he remembered entire situations, and next morning, he impatiently waited for a secretary to dictate her a text. He would excitingly call: "Rush, rush, take your notebook I have a wonderful idea... I am so nervous I cannot hold a pen in my hand!"
Nothing could disturb his daily rhythm, even a birth of a child. A work was somehow rendered more difficult for his lack of education. He had troubles with grammar and sometimers spelled words as pronounced. Although aware of that he was offended when a secretary benevolently corrected him, saying: "I deliberately did it so, I like it this way."
When he at last finished a work he found a manuscript very bitter and as "I do not want to sound like the young angry fellas, about whom we can read today", he rewrote a big part of a book again, trying to eliminate all signs of anger and discontent. "It took me almost a year as there was a pile of anger, you see."
What a pity, we cannot buy this wonderful book on CC and Oona s private life in Switzerland anymore!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 1999
If you have an interest in Chaplin at all this book will do nothing but culture it. The book is well put together and has many many moments that allow you to bask in the greatness his comedy, wit and shear need to entertain. But make no mistake the book doesn't skate around the sensitive issues that it could have i.e the fact that chaplin was deported from America for being suspected of having communist ideals, the women in his life (quite a few) e.t.c. In summing up I completly and unaquivickley Recommend this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2010
This was a brilliant read, well written and vastly illuminating. I am so glad I found it. I certainly had no idea of the political furore that this creative genius engendered or how bigoted 1950's America was. It was a complete eye opener, from the start in late 19th century london to the end in 20th century Switzerland.
If you study film history or have a passing interest in the early years of a new medium, then there are a few biographies you should consider reading. David Niven's The Moon is a Balloon, Groucho Marx's Grouch and Me, Swanson on Swanson and this one.
Born into relative comfort, but descending quickly into utter poverty, in 1889 Victorian London, Charlie's mother and father, both fairly successful vaudevillians, separated after his father succumbed to the demon drink. Unable to provide for two growing kids, his mother, probably under intense pressure, was forced into the workhouse. Charlie and his brother were separated. When the older brother was sent to sea, Charlie found himself all alone in the world.
Luckily Charlie had talent and lots of it. He soon found a place for those talents on the stage and flourished under the wing of a professional who could guide his career. America soon called and he travelled over the pond looking to make his fortune, traveling with an as yet unknown Stan Laurel. The "Flickers" soon came calling and he was off working for the famous Keystone Company, makers of the highly successful Keystone Cops series. Within a year of arriving in the USA he was the most famous man in the whole country, shortly after he was making a million dollars a year (remember this is 1913) and had autonomy to make whatever he wanted in his own purpose built studio.
This literal rags to riches packed full of big names, loves, loves lost, inspiration, frustration, soaring success and dismal failure. His candour, for the most part, is refreshing as is his insistence that he hated being pigeonholed as an artist or a human. He always insisted he was a humanist not fettered by notions of religion, nationality or class. He was once asked by a suspected Nazi if he was a Jew, his reply "I do not have that honour" rather floored the questioner.
Without doubt an important book about an important man.