The Art of Charlie Chaplin: A Film-By-Film Analysis (2007)

About the book:

This thorough critical study of Chaplin’s films traces his acting career chronologically, from his initial appearance in 1914’s Making a Living to his final starring role in 1957’s A King in New York. Emphasizing Chaplin’s technique and the steady evolution of his Tramp character, the author frames the biographical details of Chaplin’s life within the context of his acting and filmmaking career, giving special attention to the films Chaplin directed/produced.

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Customer Reviews:

5 stars…by J. Tigert (Amazon Customer / Sacramento, CA)
A penetrating and judicious assessment of Chaplin’s achievement. No glossy photos, and only those biographical details deemed relevant to the analysis of the films, this book was a genuine pleasure to read. It prompted me to revisit some of the classic films in addition to tracking down a few I had not heard of. The chapter on The Great Dictator is superb. Includes a filmography.

5 stars… by Dan Kamin (Amazon Customer / Pittsburgh, PA)
There have been hundreds of books on Chaplin. I’ve read most of them, wrote two of them, and trained Robert Downey, Jr. for his performance in the Chaplin biopic. I’m an expert on the subject, so I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by what I thought would be just another survey book that rehashes the plots of Chaplin’s many films.

But Kyp Harness goes much deeper. In lucid, elegant prose he provides a guided tour into the very heart of Chaplin’s cinematic achievement–the evolution of his character, his comedy, his thematic development and his genius as a producer and director. He demonstrates, quite convincingly, the nature of Chaplin’s greatness, rather than simply stating it as a given. Harness gets to the essence, shrewdly combining plot and theme analysis with a canny sense of such practical performance matters as how Chaplin persuades audiences that his character is real, despite the fact that his performances are so highly stylized. He’s particularly good at tracing how Chaplin’s best comedy grows from the most serious subject matter. While these topics have all been covered by other books, notably Walter Kerr’s The Silent Clowns and John Kimber’s The Art of Charlie Chaplin, Harness brings a clear, fresh viewpoint to the discussion.

His book is, paradoxically, a basic primer on Chaplin, summarizing and discussing every one of his films, yet one that’s also entirely satisfying to the expert reader. This is due to Harness’ many brilliant insights into Chaplin’s art. It’s exhilarating to read, as though we’re present at the moment of creation. I would count it among the best books ever written on the comedian.

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