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Early Charlie Chaplin: The Artist as Apprentice at Keystone Studios Kindle Edition
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In only one year, Charlie Chaplin, a theatrical performer with no prior experience in film, learned the craft of filmmaking. He not only developed a sense of how to perform for the camera, but he learned all the various aspects of filmmaking, so that he would be directing and editing his own films within only a few months of his first day at the Keystone studio. James Neibaur gives us both the story of Chaplin's year at Keystone, and a perceptive commentary on the films themselves. He discusses both what is noteworthy about them, as well as their drawbacks. His book gives us the most complete list of each film's cast and crew, as well as biographical information about the many people who worked with Chaplin at Keystone. He has done an excellent job in researching and writing this book, and I am very glad to have read it.
If you want to treat yourself to a genuine piece of comedy film history, I strongly recommend that you purchase the "Chaplin at Keystone" DVD collection as well as James L. Neibaur's authoritative book, "Early Charlie Chaplin: Artist as Apprentice." After all the years of infamy, the Chaplin Keystones are finally receiving their due.
Many people are familiar with Chaplin's Mutuals (his masterpieces of his shorts, First National (A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms and The Kid), United Artists (The Gold rush, City Lights, Modern Times) but his early films (34 with Keystone & 14 with Essanay) have been largely ignored, this is in large part due to the fact most of these films before restoration were in deplorable condition in the public domain. Charlie Chaplin's artistry as it fully evolved was one of subtleties which due to the condition of these films was hard to appreciate and a strain to watch.
James Neibaur book "Early Charlie Chaplin" gives you a breakdown which is easy to follow and brings to light some things that were widely believed but not true.
Each chapter gives you the original title, also some of the titles they may have been known by as some were renamed upon being re released, films location, (many Keystones were at actual events in the area) , dates they were filmed, dates of the first American release, Keystone players and most interesting to note - directors, it was widely assumed even by Chaplin himself who speaks of this in his autobiography that from his tenth Keystone film (of which there were 34) "Twenty Minutes of Love" outside of Tillie's Punctured Romance" Charlie would direct the remaining approximately 70 films in his career.
James Neibaur's review and his resources tells a different story as to who directed , by camera placement, story structure and pace he is able to show who actually may have directed the film and many were Mack Sennett himself. Mack Sennett's Keystones were known to be fast paced and frantic in nature..
James Neibaur critiques which are the greats of his Keystones and the throw aways, I have viewed each of the Keystones, some once or twice other several and James Neibaur's assessment is really spot on.
As I read a review I have gone back and watched the film for scenes that he has highlighted, it is really enjoyable looking for these, some I did in fact miss, in a lot of Chaplin's films I sometimes notice something that I had not previously. As the tramp progressed he included more and more subtleties and subversive thoughts in his films that you really need to watch in order to catch.
A really fun fact that James Neibaur unfolded for me:
Peggy Pierce was a Keystone girl and Charlie had a short time chaste love affair with her. In his auto-biography he speaks to this:
"The moment we met we ignited; it was mutual, and my heart sang. How romantic were those morning's turning up for work with the anticipation of seeing her each day"
I had seen pictures of Peggy Pearce and she was known to be in his film "His Favorite Pastime" but in that film she had a hat on and was difficult to see her face.
In his Keystone "A Film Johnnie" Charlie plays a man that is crazy in love with the Keystone girl, he goes to watch a movie, thinks what is on screen is real, causes a ruckus in the movie theater, he promptly goes to the studio to save her, causes all kinds of problems as only the tramp can. The actress credited in that role was Virginia Kirtley but James Neibaur notes that it was Peggy Pearce. You get to see Charlie's reaction to her on screen in the movie theater, in the studio she comes and stands right next to him, he swoons at her presence and I don't think he was acting, he sits a watches a scene at the studio, she is getting roughed up by a villain so Charlie has to come to her rescue. Just a little bit of information I enjoyed and what makes James Neibur's book so enjoyable.
Whether you have seen the Keystone films or not, this wonderful book will make you go out and get them or make you go back and view them again. James Neibaur has done a book on Chaplin's Essanay films and now his Keystone's; I hope in the future he writes a book on his reviews of the Mutuals and beyond.
A must have for anyone interested in the Artistic evolution of Charlie Chaplin.
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