The final Chaplin Keystone film marks a final return by Mack Sennett to directing Charlie, also is the first feature-length production with Chaplin's involvement. It is one of the vulgar-worst of the Chaplin-Keystone films, a histrionic, 81-minute tit-flap notable only for its historical status as Chaplin's send-off from the studio. But no harm done — from here, Chaplin was free. If you know this film, neutralize your ghastly shivers in remembrance with passages from two of the recent Roth novels, high-summit controls against kitsch which rank among his concentrated-best work. (I've been especially 'indignant' about contemporary critical reception of 2009's 140-page-long The Humbling, which only testified to the fact that most American book critics don't know how to closely read: wands, magick, performance surely aren't the stuff of most marble kitchen-islands, but they are transforming motifs within Roth's novel; Milton Glaser's brilliant sleeve art for the U.S. hardcover unifies the lot. An essential Roth novel, and one of the finest American artworks of the last five years.)
"Here she took me in those arms of hers, arms as strong as mine, if not stronger, and she said, 'You are an emotional boy. Emotional like your father and all of his brothers. You are a Messner like all the Messners. Once your father was the sensible one, the reasonable one, the only one with a head on his shoulders. Now, for whatever reason, he's as crazy as the rest. The Messners aren't just a family of butchers. They're a family of shouters and a family of screamers and a family of putting their foot down and banging their heads against the wall, and now, out of the blue, your father is as bad as the rest of them. Don't you be. You be greater than your feelings. I don't demand this of you—life does. Otherwise you'll be washed away by feelings. You'll be washed out to sea and never seen again. Feelings can be life's biggest problem. Feelings can play the most terrible tricks. They played them on me when I came to you and said I was going to divorce your father. Now I have dealt with those feelings. Promise me you will deal the same with yours.' "
— Philip Roth, Indignation
"He was asked to play Prospero and Macbeth at the Kennedy Center—it was hard to think of a more ambitious double bill—and he failed appallingly in both, but especially as Macbeth. He couldn't do low-intensity Shakespeare and he couldn't do high-intensity Shakespeare—and he'd been doing Shakespeare all his life. His Macbeth was ludicrous and everyone who saw it said as much, and so did many who hadn't seen it. 'No, they don't even have to have been there,' he said, 'to insult you.' A lot of actors would have turned to drink to help themselves out; an old joke had it that there was an actor who would always drink before he went onstage, and when he was warned 'You mustn't drink,' he replied, 'What, and go out there alone?' But Axler didn't drink, and so he collapsed instead. His breakdown was colossal."
— Philip Roth, The Humbling
Previous pieces on Chaplin at Cinemasparagus: