Stage 4: Ponder.

Chaplin didn't publish his memoirs until 1964, when he would have been 75 years old. It took him a while; in the coda at the end, he makes reference to being on the sixth draft of the manuscript, and his poor secretary having to type the thing out time and again. There are a lot of things in that book that I don't think he could have published before the mid-1960s -- for context, in 1959, Errol Flynn's publishers were still carping endlessly over his, and flat refused to let him call it In Like Me. I don't think Chaplin would have published without them. He was not particularly good at taking direction, and one of the recurring motifs in his life was that whenever someone started telling him how he should run his project, he would say "Well, I guess you didn't really want me for this then, did you?" and then if they did it again he'd quit on the spot. In Hollywood especially, he had a tendency to blithely assume that he knew how to do things better than anyone else. He was forgiven this a lot, because he was mostly right.

The memoir isn't particularly lurid, although it does get disreputable in places. He was in vaudeville, after all -- they tended to book their cast parties in whorehouses, and being as they were already there it would have been kind of stupid to sit down and play Parcheesi all night. He doesn't glorify it, particularly, but neither does he present it as squalid. His arrogance seems to have run more towards the idea that he'd learned better than other people had, or was quicker to come up with better ideas than they were; talking about his early life especially, there is a faint but obstinate and pervasive resentment of the notion that your worth as a person had to do with your profession or the class into which you were born. The actors and whores were just the people he met and spent his time with. Nor is Chaplin vulgar; the nice thing about having a very large working vocabulary is that it gives you the ability to be accurate about your opinions to a point just short of being insulting, without necessarily being crude.

[I don't know how it stacked up against the education of the time, but the writing would be considered well-post-collegiate today. Chaplin professes to be a slow reader, or at least slow enough to annoy himself into quitting books if they were boring, and makes no particular pretense of being an intellectual; the book also gives a couple of anecdotes about dinner with Professor and Mrs. Einstein, and contains the sentence, "I also asked him if his theory of relativity conflicted with the Newtonian hypothesis," so I'm not sure exactly whose standards he's using here. I have seen no challenge to the authorship of various screenplays, musical compositions and pieces of public speaking attributed to Chaplin, and they're sufficiently sophisticated that I'd believe he wrote the entire 500pp autobiographical brick himself, although I'd also believe it took him a damned long time, and that his Swiss secretary may have functioned as an uncredited editor.]

No, the problem was indubitably that Chaplin had a great many opinions about people which were extremely unpopular with one set or another of The Powers That Be from somewhere around the First World War to somewhat after the Second. About half of what the Establishment accused him of was actually true. He wasn't Jewish, and was in fact rather confused when people started asking him that until he figured out that for some unfathomable reason they assumed that no one would be that upset about the Nazis unless they were one of the targets. (He hated the Nazis. Hated them. To the point of being openly rude, sometimes.) He also wasn't a Communist; that one stuck to him because when someone asked him to make some speeches on behalf of starving people who needed help, it didn't occur to him to say no on account of they were Russian.

Also probably because he annoyed the US government by not playing along with the witch hunts. Well, they were stupid. The government, and the witch hunts.

What he was, in some ways, was apparently a little bit out of step with the rest of his world. He recounts that one of his first tries at a solo comedy routine was a stereotypical "Jewish act" -- mocking the Jews was right up there with cricket as the English national pastime, back then -- which he notes with some amount of shame was rather "anti-Semitic", something he didn't properly realize at the time. (He also notes, more pragmatically, that it wasn't very funny.) He grouses once about someone he didn't like in the slightest, in part because the man was "antifeminist" and being a rude, disrespectful bastard to one of the women in his social circle. He doesn't really do any soliloquizing about it; it's just part of the fabric of the narrative, which makes me more inclined to believe it. Chaplin recounts no liminal moment, when it suddenly came to him that human beings were all the same inside. It seems to have been his default operating procedure. He came from English theater and London poverty, where if you were useful, you could work, and if you could work, you did. It was more a slow, aggravating realization that other people didn't think that way. Slow, because one of the nicer things about being egotistical is that you assume other people share your lack of prejudices; aggravating, because one of the less-nice things about being egotistical is being dumbfounded when you run into someone who doesn't understand your point of view at all.

This is the final speech from The Great Dictator, released 1940. He gives a transcript of the passage in his book. I'm not normally fond of movies manufactured specifically to piss someone off, but I think I can make an exception when the intended target was Adolf Hitler.

(Full thing here. The pacing and format are somewhat odd to a modern movie audience, but it's worth watching.)

It is rare when an actor gets away with dropping character at the climax of a film. To this point, he has been playing dual roles of the titular dictator and a confused little barber -- this is the latter, having stolen an officer's uniform to escape from prison. The barber sounds soft, and confused, and harmlessly mid-Atlantic; his rare lines are mostly counterpoint to extended pieces of pantomime comedy. This speech is delivered to the fourth wall in full English theater diction: This is Chaplin speaking, in makeup, but out of character. He wrote it, he directed it, he delivered it. And he had the clout to get away with it. There are worse ways to use Hollywood A-lister influence.

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