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Charlie Chaplain Book Review
About the book
Author: Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: Chatto & Windsor
Charlie Chaplain is a name that is known the world over. Yet, who was he? What was he like as a man? This book gives us a unique insight into the man, his life and career and his move to Switzerland in his latter years.
The book begins with Charlie's early life in South London. Although there is no official record of his birth, Charlie believes he was born in Walworth, South London. Both Charlie and his older brother Sydney was brought up in extreme poverty. Their mother, Hannah, had a short career as an entertainer. Unfortunately, she had mental health problems, an was sent to an asylum when Charlie was just a young boy. Both him and Sydney were sent to the workhouse for a while. Born in 1889, his childhood was fraught with continuous moving homes, different father figures in his life, his mother suffering with ill health and a spell of walking the streets of London. It was in 1989 that he joined The Eight Lancashire Lads, where he got his first experience of the entertainment industry.
The book covers the life of Charlie from his early childhood days in London, and his breakthrough onto the early days of television and the silent films. It was quite early on that he started directing his own movies, along with doing his own stunts and casting his own leading ladies in his film. It was when he moved to the USA when he really became famous and his name became known worldwide. Not only does the book cover his professional career, but also his personal life and the troubles he had with his girlfriends and wives. He had a very close relationship with his brother, Sydney. His mother, Hannah, had a lifelong battle with mental health, and although Charlie did not see a great deal of her, he did pay for her care.
It is easy to see why Charlie turned out to be the man he was when you consider his difficult upbringing. His stepfather, also called Charlie Chaplain, died at an early age due to alcoholism, and not knowing who his real father was. Yes, he could be a difficult man to work alongside with and would often lose his temper when things weren't done to perfection. People found him difficult to work with. This can also be said about the women he lived with. He would be extremely hard work and is known to have numerous affairs. But people would also comment on the fact that he always had that shy, sad look in his piercing eyes. It is understandable where he got the idea of 'The Little Tramp' look from looking back to his childhood. He strived for perfection in everything he did in life, as he was always scared of losing everything. He wasn't happy unless he was working.
The book ends with his final move to Switzerland and his long marriage to Oona and his role as a father to his many children. The book has a few pictures contained in it with photo's of himself as a young man, The Little Tramp, and as he was later on in life. Although The Little Tramp was far behind him, Chaplin was clearly a work-a-holic, and the book discusses in detail his love for making films and always thinking about his next project. There are notes and quotes in the book from his children, remembering their father and what he was like as a man.
A day without laughter is a day wasted.— Charlie Chaplin
The book gives us a unique insight into Charlie Chaplin. There's not many people on this planet who has not heard his name. But how many people know what he was like to work with and to live with? This book gives the reader about his life from the time he was born to his death in 1977. Having been born into extreme poverty, and with a mother who had suffered on and off all her life with mental health, it is interesting to know why he was the man he was. He had a close bond with his brother, Sydney, and this is discussed in the book. Charlie Chaplin was, indeed, a difficult man to live and work with. But, he was a genius in his work and throughout the course of his career, made so many films that is still remembered and watched today. Charlie always had this underlying fear that he would suffer with mental health problems like his mother, Hannah. And, although Charlie suffered with bouts of depressions and low points throughout his life, he proved to be a unique and colourful character in the film industry. He was, and still is, a very highly respected actor and man.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I couldn't put it down. I find Charlie a complicated and intriguing. He strived for perfection in everything he did and this book goes into great detail into telling us about Charlie Chaplin - the actor and the man.
Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd
© 2018 Louise Powles