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4.7 out of 5 stars
90
4.7 out of 5 stars
My Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 24 April 2014
For a boy who grew up on the streets of London with little education Chaplin writes very well, the trouble is he does not go into any of the interesting things that happened to him; he speaks very little about his films and his relationships with his ex-wives and even some of the more personal things he does go into, are actually talked about in a boring way. At times he seems a bit of a pretentious old fart, but I still love him
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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!
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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.
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on 21 May 2017
I have never really trusted 'auto' biographies...who tells the truth about themselves...I love all the Chaplin films but this is very labourious,it would seem that he spent the 'lifetime' that it took him to write this dreary read,looking up any and all the 'big' words that he could find...never using 2 words when he could use 10.bragging or what ? yawn.!
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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.
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on 14 June 2012
Ok first off - am I the only person who didn't know what Charlie Chaplin actually looked like? I mean in real life, not his famous tramp character. I have recently taken to reading autobiographies and have absolutely no reason for having picked up this book. Neither had ever consciously watched a Charlie Chaplin movie before reading this book (I have now) but I am so glad I did.

In my opinion this is the best book I have ever read ...without exception!!.

This is an absolutley amazing story of a man (a very famous man) which begins in the late 1800's, predating World Wars, motor vehicles, television....MOVIES, Hollywood.....and how he literally pioneered an age and a new medium. Charlie's own prose are captivating and romantic and he comes across as a true artist. He acknowledges his own gifts and charms as well as his fortune and personal faults. It is a very honest account from the most famous actor of a bygone age. As a young boy he was brought up in the vaudeville theatre circle where the actors seemed to be charictures of people and all human emotion was conveyed live on stage to intimate audiences. Charlie absorbed this as a craft and a way of life
It is interesting how and why the movie industry established itself in Holywood in the early 1900's and how the early theatre companies muscled in on the new moving picture industry. Charlie was a founding member of United Artists which effectively came about by chance and circumstance after Charlie was a recognised comedy actor. Its founders were reacting to the seemingly monopolistic tactics of the theatre groups and stumped up their own cash to establish the company. The money Charlie was earning per week 100 years ago is more than I earn per year in 2012!!! That shows how huge the industry which Chaplin was instrumental in creating became. You have to read this in the context of the time where Charlies movies were of the first movies ever to be created but you only have to watch the likes of `City Lights' to understand how his portrayal of human emotions, the comedy and the tragedy are still recognisable today and are conveyed more strongly than todays actors could ever achieve.

This leads me to the reason Charlie was so in touch with his emotions, he had a very tough childhood, his mother was so poor that she signed herself, Sydney (Charlies brother) and Charlie into a Victorian work house in London where they worked under terrible conditions (effectively enslaved) and had to apply for leave to spend time together, which happened only infrequently. At the other end of Charlies life he was viewed by the USA as being sympathetic to socialist values, possibly due to his tough childhood and was deemed to be a communist. This marred his career and relationship with the newspapers and resulted in his leaving America where he had lived for decades and retiring to Switzerland.

First and foremost, Charlie Chaplins style of writing will captivate you, whoever you are and it has lead me to begin to watch his films -was was a true genius and my only regret is that I am only realising his genius now!!
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VINE VOICEon 22 May 2015
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.
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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2009
I am delighted to see that this book is back in print. I read it some time ago when I took it on holiday as my only non-fiction reading together with a bunch of novels. I only intended to dip into this occasionally but I found I couldn't put it down. It turned into the most interesting and fascinating book of all. The details of his early years, as mentioned by other reviewers, are particularly absorbing, but the whole book is a good read. Probably one of the best autobiographies I have ever read and highly recommended whether you are a fan of Chaplin's films or not.
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on 2 November 2012
Wonderful autobiography and very well written as you would expect from Mr Chaplin. I am not the biggest fan of the actor, although I appreciate his brilliance. I really enjoyed the book and thought it was full of vivid imagery, especially the section of the book that recalled his early years. Despite living through what must have been a harrowing miserable existence as a child, he writes with a kind of warmth and sentimentality which is quite charming. I found the book to be sad, funny, inspiring. Disappointing that he left out chunks of his life relating to his two marriages, but understandable in consideration for his children. That said, still a totally good read.
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on 11 April 2009
I'm still happily reading this and its exactly what I was looking for.... I had kind of forgotten Charlie Chaplin until I came across him doing a dance sequence with vegetables for feet on Youtube....and then the Lion cage sketch.....brilliant.... and I wanted to know who he really was and this book is just the trick. Its amazing what he started . His ideas are the origional ones, noone else had had them but it all comes from him.....I highly reccommed this book to fill in a corner of culture that you dont know you are missing.
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