Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charlie Chaplin: showing today's 'stars' how it's done!, 27 Mar 2009
This review is from: My Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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...
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