Chaplin: A Life - Stephen Weissman - 26/12/09
The cheeky little clown who won the hearts of millions with his silver screen antics was, as we all now know, a troubled genius...
But now we can peer even further into the mind of this film legend through the eyes of psychiatrist Dr Stephen Weissman who reveals in this illuminating biography how Charlie Chaplin's personality and art were shaped by his tragic childhood.Born in London in 1889, Chaplin grew up in dire poverty. Both his parents were in
showbusiness but severe alcoholism cut short his father's flourishing career and his beloved mother first lost her voice ... and then her mind.At the age of seven, Charlie was committed to the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children but, against all the odds, he found his way into the music halls and was an instant success.Spotted by the famous Mack Sennett of Keystone Films, he was whisked off to Hollywood and three years later was a millionaire.So how did this poor, lonely child become such an extraordinary comedian, known and celebrated the whole world over?Weissman traces Chaplin's life and the turbulent era through which he lived and worked to unearth the sources of his unquestioning genius and the events and tragedies that made him what he was.He also contextualises Chaplin's notorious politics and scandalous sex life, analyses his actions and motivations and reveals a much more complex and contradictory character than has hitherto been recognised.Using a psychoanalytic perspective, he shows, for example, how the rescue of the downtrodden female manifests itself in many of his films and how Limelight, one of Chaplin's most famous films, is full of references to his alcoholic father.This is a revealing and brilliantly worked take on an extraordinary character as well as a fascinating portrait of how the early cinema stars were manufactured and honed by their studio masters.(JR Books, hardback, £18.99)