Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Without the Cane & Derby"

In 1921, Carl Sandburg1 wrote a profile of Chaplin for the Chicago Daily News called "A Visit With Chaplin." Within the piece he describes a pantomime Chaplin put on for his friends during an after-dinner game of charades:

Charades is a favorite game when there is company in the house. After the Japanese cook and waiters have served "everything there is," the guests go in for pantomimes, sketches, travesties, what they will.
Charlie was paired with a young woman who has done remarkable work in art photography "stills."2 All lights went out, both in the drawing room where the spectators sat and in the dining room, which was the improvised stage. 
A door opened. Here was Charlie in a gray shirt, candle in his right hand, lighting his face and throwing shadows about the room. He stepped to a table with a white sheet over it. He drew back the sheet. A woman's head of hair, then a woman's face appeared. He slipped his hand down under the sheet and drew out his fingers full of pearls of a necklace into his pocket, covered the face and head, picked up the candle and started for the door. 
Then came a knocking, louder, lower, a knocking in about the timebeat of the human heartbeat. The man in the gray shirt set down the candle, leaped toward the white sheet, put his fingers at the throat and executed three slow, fierce motions of strangling. Then he started for the door, listening. He stepped out. The door closed. All was dark. 
The guests were glad the lights were thrown on, glad to give their applause to the mocking, smiling, friendly host. 
At the dinner Charlie mentioned how he was once riding with Douglas Fairbanks in a cab past some crowded street corner. And one of them said in a voice the passing crowds could not hear: "Ah, you do know who is passing: it is the marvelous urchin, the little genius of the screen."
The ineffable mockery that Charlie Chaplin can throw into this little sentence is worth hearing. He holds the clues to the wisdom and humility of his way. 
Every once in a while, at some proper moment, he would ejaculate, "The marvelous urchin, the little genius of the screen." with an up-and-down slide of the voice on the words, "little genius" and "marvelous urchin."
Fame and pride play tricks with men. Charlie Chaplin is one not caught in the webs of miasma.3 
A year later, in 1922, Sandburg reworked this article into a poem called "Without the Cane and Derby" which was published in his book Slabs of the Sunburnt West" and dedicated it "For C.C." It was also published in Vanity Fair. Here is the poem:

Vanity Fair, May 1922 (click to enlarge)

1Incidentally, Sandburg was the brother-in-law of Edward Steichen who took the famous portrait of Chaplin as himself with the Tramp in shadow behind him.

2 The artist was probably Margrethe Mather a friend of Florence Deshon's. Chaplin had been introduced to her through Deshon and her companion, Max Eastman, in 1919. Eastman wrote in his book, Love & Revolution, that it was a "nightly habit" during this time for the foursome (Eastman, Deshon, Mather, and Chaplin) along with other friends from the movie colony to come together for a game of charades.

3The Movies Are: Carl Sandburg's Film Reviews and Essays, 1920-1928, Lake Claremont Press, 2000

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chaplin appears outside of the Lyric Theater in New York to promote A WOMAN OF PARIS, 1923

Chaplin is posing next to an announcement outside of the theater that reads: "To the public: In an effort to avoid any misunderstanding , I wish to announce that I do not appear in this picture. It is the first serious drama written and directed by myself. Charles Chaplin" This caveat also appears as the first title card in the film.

The New York premiere of A Woman Of Paris was held 70 years ago today.

After the show, Waldo Frank took Chaplin to the Greenwich Village apartment of poet Hart Crane, who was still in his pajamas. Crane described the scene in a letter to his mother the next day:
"I had just got my pajamas on last night when there was a rap on the door. I opened and in walked Waldo Frank--behind him came a most pleasant-looking, twinkling, little man in a black derby--"Let me introduce you to Mr. Charles Chaplin," said Waldo, and I was smiling into one of the most beautiful faces I ever expect to see." Well! I was quickly urged out of my nightclothes and the three of us walked arm in arm over to where Waldo is staying at 77 Irving Place. All the way we were trailed by enthusiastic youngsters. People seem to spot Charlie in the darkness. He is so very gracious that he never discourages anything but rude advances.
At five o'clock this morning Charlie was letting me out of his taxi before my humble abode. "It's been so nice," he said in that soft, crisp voice of his, modulated with an accent that is something like Padraic Colum's in its correctness. Then he, blinking and sleepy, was swung around and was probably soon in his bed up at the Ritz."*
A few years later, Crane sent Chaplin a book of his poems called White Buildings. One poem was called "Chaplinesque," which he was inspired to write after he saw The Kid. Chaplin reprinted the poem in My Autobiography.

*The Letters Of Hart Crane 1916-1932, Berkeley, U of C Press, 1965

Monday, September 10, 2012


This poem was printed in Rob Wagner’s Script magazine, November 10, 1934.

by Charlie Chaplin

Beneath an oak
     Beside a lake
Through shimmering lace
     I see a moon.
And silver notes
     Of mirrored stars
Trill upon a resonant pool.
The distant rhythmic mountain
Symphonize the unknown theme,
Man’s destination—
     Why and Where
     Eternal Truth
The Real; the Dream.
Across the sky
     An eagle high
Conducts the silent symphony.