Tony Bennett on Chaplin & Chaplin on The Best Years Of Our Lives

At 10:30 tonight on TCM, guest programmer Tony Bennett will introduce Modern Times, starring one of his heroes, Charlie Chaplin. In his autobiography, Bennett wrote that Chaplin “never made a movie without love, and as a result, each of his films is a masterpiece.” Because of his admiration for Chaplin, he was touched by a gift he received from him in the early 1970s:

One day a package arrived in the mail for me. I opened it to find a canister that held an original copy of the last ten minutes of Modern Times, the film in which the song “Smile” (composed by Chaplin) first appeared. Chaplin had heard my recorded version, and out of appreciation sent me this treasured gift. Imagine that. 1

Another of Mr. Bennett’s picks tonight is William Wyler’s 1946 post-World War II classic The Best Years Of Our Lives, a film Chaplin once called “the most significant picture to come out of Hollywood in years–significant not only for what the film itself accomplishes but also for the encouragement the film’s success will give to other producers [to make daring and out-of-the-ordinary films]. 2

Below is a humorous anecdote told by German philosopher Theodor Adorno involving himself, Chaplin, and one of the stars of the film, Harold Russell:

Perhaps I may justify my speaking about [Chaplin] by recounting a certain privilege which I was granted, entirely without having earned it. He once imitated me, and surely I am one of the few intellectuals to whom this happened and to be able to account for it when it happened. Together with many others we were invited to a villa in Malibu, on the coast outside of Los Angeles. While Chaplin stood next to me, one of the guests was taking his leave early. Unlike Chaplin, I extended my hand to him a bit absent-mindedly, and, almost instantly, started violently back. The man was one of the lead actors from The Best Years of Our Lives, a film famous shortly after the war; he lost a hand during the war, and in its place bore practicable claws made of iron. When I shook his right hand and felt it return the pressure, I was extremely startled, but sensed immediately that I could not reveal my shock to the injured man at any price. In a split second I transformed my frightened expression into an obliging grimace that must have been far ghastlier. The actor had hardly moved away when Chaplin was already playing the scene back. 3

1Tony Bennett,  Life Is a Gift, 2014
2Thomas Pryor, “Trail’s End For The Tramp,” New York Times, April 13, 1947
3Theodor Adorno, “Chaplin Times Two,” reprinted in The Essential Chaplin, 2006

1 Comment

  1. Oh my. I cannot imagine Charlie doing that imitation.I have seen Wm Wyler's film several times. His characters were so poignant. I could not believe the girl waited!

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