The 3 reasons Chaplin was so successful

Charlie Chaplin rose from poverty to become the first international superstar. How did he do it? Here’s how I see it.

1. Extraordinary Talent. Duh.

2. Extraordinary Hard Work. Chaplin had to work very hard because he had extraordinarily high standards.  While Mack Sennett would want most of the shots in his films done in 1 take, Charlie began asking for more tries.  When he gained control of his own production, he would spend enormous time developing his ideas with an entire crew there shooting everything.  The documentary “Unknown Chaplin” show some of these outtakes, which are quite rare.

Sometimes, he would shut down production at considerable cost, in order to rethink the entire film. No producer would allow this today.  But Chaplin’s reputation was on the line. He owned the work.

3.   Extraordinary luck.  Yes, luck.  It was luck that he happened to be seen on stage by Keystone Studio owner Mack Sennett, and was offered enough money to lure him away. The movies were a new technology, a risky venture. But when the right person finds the potential in a new technology, fantastic things can happen. While Chaplin had enormous confidence in himself, he could not have imagined what movies would do for him.  As I wrote in yesterday’s post, he, like many stage actors, thought the movies would be a passing fad. He was wrong, but he was lucky.

The point is, new technologies are coming at us faster than ever. If you have talent, work really hard, and own what you do, the technology might be there waiting to take you someplace you never dreamed of.

Comic Obsession

I must recommend the blog by Mark Kennedy, “The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels.” It is packed full of images and information from an active story artist. His post about comic obsession is particularly interesting to me. He describes the development of the horse Maximus in the film “Tangled”, including the inspiration from Tommy Lee Jone’s character from “The Fugitive.”

Comic Obsession

It is easy to think of comic obsession in cartoons. Wile E. Coyote’s obsession with the Roadrunner, Sylvester with Tweety, Scrat with the acorn.

If we consider the old expression “Nobody likes a quitter” to be true, then the inverse, “Everybody likes a character who will not quit no matter what” would also be true. Such characters earn our admiration.

Rowan Atkinson’s Guide to Visual Comedy

Several years ago I read about an English television special from Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean).   It was his Guide to Visual Comedy.  I eventually found a company that produced NTSC VHS tapes of British imports, and I got a copy.  It is a fun and informative introduction to some basic techniques of physical comedy.  He shows clips and acts out examples of what he is talking about.

It was uploaded to youtube, but 1 of the 5 parts has been blocked.  I’m guessing because it contained a clip that the original producers didn’t want online.   Also, embedding is disabled.  The program was called “Laughing Matters.” and here it has subtitles in Dutch, I’m guessing.

Laughing Matters part 1

Laughing Matters part 2

Laughing Matters part 3

Laughing Matters part 5

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