The Kid, Charles Chaplin and Jackie Coogan (1919–1921)
© Roy Export SAS. Scan courtesy Cineteca di Bologna
Chaplin in pictures
14 Feb – 13 Jul 2014
It is a hundred years from the birth of the most beloved character in the history of cinema, Charles Chaplin’s Tramp. Wearing an odd assortment of clothes and a bowler hat, the figure became hugely popular right from the start and made Chaplin one of the most famous persons on the planet. Through photographs and film clips, Chaplin in Pictures tells about the incredible life and career of the mythic artist.
Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889–1977) began his life in the slums of London and died a living legend in Switzerland. What happened in between is a big part of the history of film. Chaplin made most of his films in the United States, yet he was refused a visa for re-entry in 1952 on political and moral grounds when he was on a trip to London. Before his exile, he had made his most famous films in America, from the silent shorts to his first sound films. The Hollywood star cult was created in Chaplin’s time, when the prominence of actors and directors was put to use in marketing. There was even talk of a world-wide epidemic of ‘Chaplinitis’. Chaplin himself was one of the best-paid people in the United States in 1915.
Thanks to Chaplin, comedy was transformed from cheap entertainment into an artform to rival Shakespeare. Chaplin was a demanding and uncompromising prodigy of the silver screen who acted in, directed, scripted and produced, and even wrote the music for his films. The secret of Chaplin’s success was in his ability to connect the private to the public. In his films, the everyday life of the ordinary man in the street is paralleled by momentous historical events. The co-existence of the two worlds was also apparent in the character of the Tramp, who was simultaneously a seedy vagabond and a man of the world with the dignity and manners of a gentleman. Chaplin’s view of society was critical, yet the vehicle for his stories was comedy. His entire output is characterised by a warm, humane spirit.
The prestige of Chaplin’s films has had its ups and downs over the decades, reaching the nadir in the 1940s–50s. The scandals in his private life also undermined his popularity during his American years, yet he began receiving new honours again in the 1960s.
Chaplin in Pictures gives the audience a glimpse behind the scenes during the shooting of the films. The exhibition approaches Chaplin’s career through a number of themes that range from the creation of the little Tramp to the advent of sound in film. Chaplin was also an inspiration to countless other artists, including Fernand Legér and Robert Capa, who are both featured in the exhibition. The Chaplin phenomenon was prominent in Finland as well, as attested to the film posters, film magazines and photographs included in the show.
The exhibition is presented with the backing of the Chaplin Association organised in conjunction with the Cineteca di Bologna – progetto Chaplin and MK2. The exhibition curator is Sam Stourdzé.
Charlie poses (c. 1915)
© From the Archives of the Roy Export Company Establishment, courtesy NBC Photographie, Paris
Charles Chaplin, City Lights (1931)
© Roy Export S.A.S., courtesy NBC Photographie, Paris