The early 1900s mark a great boom within the genre of the silent comedy. By the 1920s it was not uncommon to see B list silent comedies ringing bigger bucks then the more prestigious features. As the decade would progress feature length comedies become more and more common place and stars are born. Stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. This paper aims to contrast the two comedian’s/director’s art forms. While doing so I will draw on a film for each, Charles’ feature, Modern Times as well as Buster’s the General.
Born the son of a music hall singer Chaplin was no stranger to entertainment, his love affair with comedy. He would later balloon into one of the most well known comedians of his time. Looking at Modern Times we see cater his act to the viewer. Pressured by the public to reflect social and political discrepancies of the world Charlie develops a topical approach to his art. Buster also developed his act to appeal to the masses as I will later discuss but when comparing our two films Charlie’s Modern Times is the one which caters to both the social and political issues of the day. Beyond the realm of film Charlie holds his own personal commentary about his world and the issues faced as his book A Comedian Sees the World demonstrates.1 Still despite his views initially Charlie saw a clear separation between his art and politics. “Art is the treatment applied to work and has nothing to do with the subject matter.”2 Despite this by the mid 1930s it was not enough to be political yourself as an artist it was also expected to be seen in your art. It was following his world tour that he became more out spoken about the condition the Depression had left the world, and decided to give into outside pressures.
Like other Charlie films the film Modern Times took straight from the textbook of Chaplin’s aesthetic contract where comedy, romance and pathos, would meet.3 As stated the difference between other early films by Charlie and Modern...
Bibliography: Maland, Charles J., Chaplin and American Culture: The Evoltion of a Star Image (Princeton University Press, Princeton: 1989)
MacGregor, Laura: Buster Keaton 's "The General" (1927). Foreign Language Teaching and Research Centre Bulletin, 9 (2011). Gakushuin University.
Robinson, David, Buster Keaton (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1969)
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