Showing posts with label Thomas Burke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Burke. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Random Excerpt

Boston Globe journalist, Mayme Ober Peak, describes a visit with Chaplin at his home:
"I'm sorry to have kept a lady waiting," the comedian smiled on me with the bluest eyes I ever saw in a man's head--eyes that took my measure as they twinkled at me. While retaining a hold on one coat sleeve, I measure back. 
What I saw at this close range was a beautifully gray-crowned head above a sensitive face of high color and nervous features; a figure fine-strung, resilient, lithe, with well-defined curves tightly buttoned in a double-breasted, well-cut suit of gray. His tie was black with Roman stripes, and as usual he wore gray cloth, button-top, patent-leather shoes. 
In appearance, my immaculate host was the opposite of the figure he cuts on the screen. Unmasked, the cinema's clown has nothing in common with its creator. Not a graceful gesture or unconscious pose of the man connects with the world-famous waddling comedy king. I think he is sick to death of that film fool who "throws custard pies in the world's face as a gesture of protest." Soon he expects to do Napoleon Bonaparte, with some of the authentic backgrounds screened in France. Will this mean the turning point, and perhaps loss of the film's comic-pathetic character who comes from nowhere and never gets anywhere, who cloaks himself in mystery even in his pictures? His next production will have the working title "Nowhere."
Autographed photo of Chaplin inscribed to Ms. Peak.
"To Mayme Ober Peake [sic], with best wishes, Charlie Chaplin,
Hollywood 1930."
 (Photo by Homer Peyton)
Once you hear his exquisite speaking voice with its charming English accent; watch the birdlike fluttering of his classical hands, and the elfin movements of his body, you find yourself wishing this glamorous personality would go on the stage and make us believe in fairies again.  
As one of his biographers has aptly put it, your first impression of Charlie Chaplin is of "something very warm and bright and vivid." There is an endearing charm about him that you impulsively respond to. He has that rare gift of concentrating with flattering grace--and apparently keen enjoyment, all his charm and highly intelligent interest upon you and you only. 
Undoubtedly, the bitterness of those sordid years of struggle, during which Charlie's mother lost her reason, corroded Charlie's soul and haunts him still. There can't but be a tinge of sadness to his success. But he does not let you feel this when you meet him in his home, which reflects none of the ostentation his vast income would permit. 
His setting is one of perfect taste and refinement. Although a bachelor's home run by man servants, I immediately sensed its well-ordered harmony and repose. Hereafter, I shall smile when I hear people say, "I feel so sorry for Charlie living all alone in that big house on top of the hill." For he revels in solitude. His nervous make-up positively requires it. "My idea of luxury," the movie millionaire said to me, "is to be absolutely alone until 5 o'clock in the afternoon." ... 
Even when given the rare opportunity, it is impossible to interview Charles Spencer Chaplin, as impossible to pin him to paper. He is too fascinating a conversationalist, too clever a raconteur, too amazing a mimic. You can neither keep him, nor yourself on a question track. Before you know it, he has raced off--you with him, in the direction of some new idea or suggestion. ...
"You baffle me," I told him when I said goodbye. As I went down the hill in the big limousine lined in gray the color of Charlie's shoetops and driven by one of his inscrutable Japanese, I opened the book he had loaned me, "The London Spy," by Thomas Burke, suggesting that I might  find the answer to his personality in a brief paragraph he had marked. This is what I read: 
"Even were he obscure, a mere nobody, without the imposed coloring of "Charlie," and world popularity, he would be a notable subject, for he has that wonderful, impalpable gift of attraction which is the greater part of Mr. Lloyd George's power. You feel his presence in a room and are conscious of something wanting when he departs. He has a rich-hued quality of Alvan in "The Tragic Comedians." You feel he is capable of anything. And when you connect him with 'Charlie' the puzzle grows and you give it up. The ambition that served and guided him for 10 years is satisfied, but it is still unsatisfied. The world has discovered him, but he has not yet found himself. He is the shadow friend of millions throughout the world, and he is lonely--an exile, seeking for something the world cannot give him." 
--Mayme Ober Peak, "Finds Charlie Aged and Frightened: Screen's Foremost Artist Entertains Globe Writer at Beverly Hills Home...," Boston Globe, April 22, 1928

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Random Excerpt

From City Of Encounters by Thomas Burke (Little, Brown, 1932)
(Note: Except for one sentence, this section of Burke's essay--probably one of the best portraits ever written about Chaplin--is not part David Robinson's long excerpt in Chaplin: His Life & Art)
"Absorbing him as he sat in my room or moved about it (I never study people by looking at them; I can do it better by turning my eyes from them and absorbing them) I have been aware more than once of a touch of that dark, troubled quality which people have found in those artists who message was most clear and in those whose work was most "human."
There is the warm face and soft grey hair. There are the tiniest hands I have ever seen on a man. There are the clear eyes and the full-lipped, mobile mouth, and the sweet smile, a very different smile from that which he uses for public appearances and calls his "prop" smile. The hands are for ever fluttering, the sweet smile is for ever flashing, and the gentle voice for ever sending out nervous staccato sentences. These characteristics, crystallized by his electric personality (which almost makes a room vibrate) could and do command the friendship even of those few who think they dislike him. He is (still like Dickens) a man of that fierce vitality which is in itself a sign of genius. He seems to spend his last ounce on whatever he is doing, and never at any time to have any reserves. Compared with him, the little child that lightly draws its breath, and feels its life in every limb, is a study in apathy. After a few hours with him, otherwise interesting and brilliant people seem unaccountably dull. Such cascades of talk! Such inexhaustible activity! Such exuberance of spirits--so long as there is any company. Where he was here he was anxious that I should go with him to Berlin, and then to Spain. I refused. I knew that a fortnight of proximity to that million-voltage battery would have left me a cinder. But the gaiety is not spontaneous. It could not be. Charles is a brune, and the cast of our natures is described in our complexions. The easy-going people, those who quickly make friends and are thoroughly at home in the social life, the good mixers, are the blonde. An introspective blonde is as rare as a sanguine brune. The blondes turn outward. The brunes, though more vigorous and often more healthy than the blondes, turn inward. Charles, therefore, despite his vitality, cannot escape being difficult and reserved. 
He is interesting enough to listen to--he is not only a copious, but a stimulating talker, agreeably acid and aerated--but he is still more interesting to watch and absorb. His movements are as piquant and precise as a ballerina's. He is slim as a faun and as graceful; so slim and light that he seems scarcely human; and it is recognizing this that one is aware of that touch of the bizarre. Warm as his fascination is, and kind as he can be, you perceive that he is withdrawn from life. He is not much interested in people, either individually or as humanity. The spectacle of life amuses or disturbs him as an artist, but its constituents are of no account to him. There is nothing, I think, that he deeply cares about. But he fears illness."

This photo of Chaplin accompanied an article in a 1922 issue of
Pearson's magazine called "The Tragic Comedian."