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Charlie Chaplin

ENGL 292.601

Charlie Chaplin, in the baggy pants, derby, little mustache and cane of his great creation, the Little Tramp, is the most universally-recognized figure in film history.  His influence on the development of film and the very genre of film comedy is overlooked by those unversed in early cinema, but his influence can be readily remarked in the work of diverse directors, from Lubitsch and Pasini to Ozu and Woody Allen.  Mingling pathos with humor and sharp social critique, the perfectionist Chaplin showed filmmakers and audiences alike that film was the perfect vehicle for turning comedy into a serious art form. Contemporary viewers are invariably startled by how fresh, funny, and moving his films remain. Born in the slums of London, abandoned in early childhood, Chaplin’s is a true rags-to-riches story, as he made his way from a stage career at the age of ten to almost single-handedly showing how film could be an immensely profitable business.  Chaplin wrote, acted, directed, photographed, and even scored his own films, along the way co-founding United Artists and becoming a hero and spokesperson for the poor and working-classes throughout the world.  Inventing slapstick and feature-length comedy films, he moved from one to three-reelers and from silent to talkies, culminating in brilliant, innovative, touching social comedies and satires, such as City Lights, Modern Times, and the first parody of Hitler, The Great Dictator (1940), which Hitler reportedly screened twice.  In this course we will explore how Chaplin made comedy a serious/and/popular art form. Along the way we will learn a history of early cinema and of the US, which shamefully exiled this extraordinary man in the 1950s because of his outspoken views and left leanings.

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major