Friday, 14 September 2012

Hello Charlie!

Charlie the man! Perfectly turned out in his studio.

Hey there everyone! Thanks for coming back for another instalment of Charlie's London. As you may already be aware, my interest in Charlie comes from a background of love and admiration that travels through two generations of my family. It is very hard at times to separate Charlie from my own childhood memories, he has always been around: on the TV, in books, pictures - the list goes on...

Charlie and a toy of his alter ego, the Tramp.

A lot has been written about him over the years. Some works are ground-breaking, innovative and truly amazing. Some are, shall we say ... interesting. Let's leave it that for now. Charlie is a point of fascination for many people. As I often say, many people look at Charlie, but they don't see Charlie. Growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s was hard for many Chaplin fans - TV nearly killed the silent movie star. When the films wwere shown, the prints were often so damaged an and faded that they were virtually impossible to watch. If this wasn't bad enough, they were usually played sped up, with soundtracks of cheap, second-rate stock music. They were also shown in poor time slots and got lost in the listings. In short, it was made very hard work to watch. 

I was lucky enough to have someone who almost gave me a running commentary, my own DVD extra before DVDs were even invented - my Grandmother. "Now Ayse, you see this set of ladders, watch what he does with the other man, he lands the ladder on him and uses it to hold him, look! Isn't that funny!" Her voice almost as clear in my head now as it was 26 years ago. I was sat on the floor, the palms of my hands resting on my chin and my elbows rested on my knees as I sat cross legged on the floor. I remember laughing so much I almost hyperventilated!

This was back in the days before the Internet as we know it (not that long ago - anyone under the age of 20!). All I had was her, anyone else that liked Charlie, and of course the Library. I remember looking at a book at home, a small book with less than 30 pages, almost a picture book and being completely fascinated. I was fascinated because in my young mind (I was about 6 or 7 by this time) Charlie and Chaplin were two separate people.

Charlie was the smart man who smiled as he departed the Olympic in 1921, before getting a train to Waterloo and seeing the Lambeth he loved so dear.

Chaplin was the film star who put on a little toothbrush moustache, a bowler hat, cane and baggy trousers, and embarked on a funny little walk - with silly, but often near-genius, consequences. The most recognisable man in the world, the biggest celebrity of his day and the highest paid (at one time) star of the screen was omce also a complete unknown to many who wished to write about him. He was a grey area in a world that saw its stars in black and white. He was a figure of honesty and hate, all wrapped up into one big bundle of comedy perfection.

But I didn't see him that way. I saw him as a man with monkeys crawling all over him, I saw him climb over buildings to retrieve his son, and I saw him flit through cogs of a massive industrialised and cruel world.

I have been asked many time before if my love for Chaplin would be so great if I wasn't a South Londoner? I can't answer that really, because I am a South Londoner. And a very proud one! My grandmother was the same. I think her love for Charlie came from being alive when he was at his height, something I wish I had experienced - sadly, he died five years before I was born. Yet through everything she told me, I got to feel just what she meant.

Charlie in 1921!

In writing this blog, I always promised myself that I would be true to my roots and I would bring something very personal to the "Chaplin table." Charlie means something very different to everyone - and this is what he means to me:

"Hello Charlie, and welcome back! The world may have been a very different one to the one you brightened! But your star still shines on! They once sung The Moon Shines Bright On Charlie Chaplin. Well, I beg to differ - London shines bright on Charlie Chaplin, especially when it comes to a little girl, her Grandmother and a bunch of beautiful childhood memories."

See you next time everyone!

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