In celebration of Charlie Chaplin's 122nd birthday on April 16th, here are ten of my favorite Chaplin clips. Of course, his genius needs no explanation other than what you see here:
(from The Circus, 1928; Chaplin did over 200 takes inside the cage with the lion, and never trembles once. My favorite moment: when the dog comes up barking, and Chaplin puts his fingers in his ears as if that'll make the problem go away.)
(The inimitable globe scene, from The Great Dictator, 1940; here Chaplin deftly spoofs the guy that stole his mustache, Adolf Hitler, by playing Hynkel, ruler of Tomania, mad with power as he toys with the Earth.)
(the first part of A Dog's Life, 1918, in which the Tramp teams up with a little thoroughbred mongrel named Scraps. Chaplin's chase scene, with that pit bull hanging onto the Tramp's pants seat no matter what, is the very definition of athletic hilarity.)
(Chaplin's famous table ballet--using forks and rolls--from The Gold Rush, 1925.)
(from Shoulder Arms, 1918; Chaplin as a WWI soldier making all the wrong moves to the tune of "Over There.")
(Chaplin's darkest role was as the murderer of rich women in Monsieur Verdoux, 1947; here's perhaps Chaplin's sharpest dialogue scene, as he discusses death with The Girl, played by Marilyn Nash, and then thinks again about sending her to her own demise.)
(from Modern Times,1936; Chaplin as the put-upon factory worker testing out the new eating machine. I love the Oscar-nominated sound effects here in this famously late-period silent movie!)
(the meeting of two greats: Chaplin and Buster Keaton do a stage performance in what is arguably the filmmakers last major work: Limelight, 1952).
(from The Kid, 1921; the denouement of this magnificent comedy is at once exciting, moving, and funny. It also contains one of the greatest of all screen kisses, between Chaplin and his young co-star Jackie Coogan--that's Uncle Fester to most of you.)
(And, finally and fittingly, from City Lights, 1931, one of the finest endings to any movie, and seriously a tearjerker, even if you've never seen the whole movie. The flower girl--an extraordinary Virginia Cherrill--has regained her sight thanks to Chaplin's Tramp. She has never seen him, and thinks that a rich man helped her. And then she and the Tramp meet. Incredible.)
Again, happy birthday, Charlie! Thanks for the laughs and tears.