cover image Chaplin: The Tramp's Odyssey

Chaplin: The Tramp's Odyssey

Simon Louvish, . . St. Martin's/ Dunne, $27.99 (412pp) ISBN 978-0-312-58169-5

Along with his 11 novels, the London-based Louvish writes biographies of cinematic comedians (Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, the Marx Brothers). Amid the many books about Chaplin published since the 1920s, Louvish offers fresh insights as he focuses on the famed, iconic cane-twirling Tramp character. He documents Chaplin's costuming, the development and evolution of the Tramp through the earliest films, plus departures to experiment with other characters. The book opens with the 1914 Keystone comedies and films Chaplin directed for Essanay, followed by Mutual titles and his creative expansion at First National, where he moved from shorts to features. The book often parallels film plots with similar situations in Chaplin's life, such as the 1919 death of his first child (who lived only three days). That event “galvanized him into action,” and he immediately began “auditioning babies” for his first feature, The Kid (1921). Louvish writes with an authoritative, nonacademic clarity, and his remarkable research benefits both from the “vast collection” at the Chaplin Research Centre in Bologna, Italy, and a close study of recent film restorations, “seeing the films as they were seen and known in their first releases.” Interweaving reviews, interviews and early screenplay drafts, Louvish unveils an impressive, prismatic portrait of Hollywood's majestic jester. (Oct. 13)