Charlie Chaplin vs America by Scott Eyman (Amazon link)
As I often say, I love reading old Hollywood biographies and autobiographies as much as I love watching old movies – and that is truly saying something.
I especially love it when a biography is as edge-of-your-seat spellbinding as a Boris Karloff film, as compelling as a Humphrey Bogart film, and as fascinating as old school Godzilla.
Are you kidding me? Sign me up to read this type of biography every single week!
I also love doing old Hollywood biography book reviews as much as I love watching old movies, and that isn’t just saying something, that’s saying everything.
After reading this particular biography, I was reminded of a question someone asked me many years ago… “Does reading a biography or a star ever make you less of a fan of their work if you read negative things OR, on the flip side, make you more a fan if you read positive things?”
I thought it was a great question THEN and, over the years, as I’ve read countless biographies and autobiographies (which, well, you know… tend to point out that these were actual blood and bone human beings!) I think it’s a great question NOW.
Here’s the answer, bullet-point style, because I love bullet points like I invented them:
- I may lose or gain respect for an individual after reading more about them. Case in point, I gained more respect for Ann Dvorak and Olivia de Havilland after reading all that they fought against.
- I may even like a star more or less, on a personal level after “meeting them” through the pages of a great biography. Example: I honestly like Cary Grant even better after reading a biography by the author of this particular Charlie Chaplin bio, Scott Eyman.
- I NEVER judge people.. I leave that to the One who is actually able to so lovingly and accordingly. If we haven’t walked in their shoes, we surely cannot tell them how they should have stepped or in which direction they should have pointed their feet. (In the same vein… I absolutely detest a judgmental attitude.. one of the ugliest traits in a human in my opinion).
- Something I always remind people, too, is never draw conclusions from one book (especially if it’s one old Hollywood star about another… sometimes emotions get in the way of accuracy!). If it’s a thorough book, by an exceptional author, sure… draw conclusions from that. But, even then, to get the most accurate profile of an individual, the best thing to do is to read quotes by them, quotes about them, and as many books on the star as you can find.
- I am able to enjoy an actor’s, actress’, or directors work without so much as thinking a single time, “He was a scoundrel…,” “She was a terrible mom!”, or “What a nasty tempered director he was! Never watching his work again!” Please. People who say things like that need to get out more.
Scott Eyman’s Definitive Charlie Chaplin Biography
I’ve read a great, great deal about Charlie Chaplin, as he is one of my favorite stars. His films, his acting, his passion, and the man, himself, fascinate me. Always have.
I realized just how exceptional Charlie Chaplin vs America by Scott Eyman (Amazon link) was when, after finishing the last page, I found myself more fascinated by him than ever.
Was he perfect? Heck no… but where’s the fascination in that? To be fascinated by someone is to mean you wonder what made them tick, what made them act the way they did or say the things they said, how did they go from “where they started” to “where they ended” – things like that.
I am, truth be told, often even fascinated by their weaknesses. I always ask myself, “How can someone who was such a genius about this and that be so blitheringly wrong about so many other things??” Like so many stars, Charlie Chaplin often (quite often) got in his own way.
If it were to come down to a contest between Ann Dvorak and Charlie Chaplin over who got in their own way the most, I think I’d give her the edge, but that’s just because her self-harming choices (which only affected her I might add) harmed her career more. Our dear Chaplin managed to have a successful career and is, to this day, a household name in spite of his terrible.. okay, very terrible.. weaknesses and misfires.
There were many times, while reading this wonderfully engaging biography, that I had to simply close the book to process what I’d read. The research that went into this definitive biography astounds me and I would imagine that the author had, himself, many times he had to pause and process what he was uncovering. Eyman paints as perfect a profile of an individual any one person can of another in the pages of this extraordinary book and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in old Hollywood, silent films, biographies.. and, most certainly, to other fans of Charlie Chaplin’s work.
The actor was an absolute genius and I cannot imagine either silent films or comedies without what he meant to either.
Many times – MANY TIMES – while reading Charlie Chaplin vs America, I thought of one of my all-time favorite quotes. It’s from Mary Pickford, about Charlie Chaplin, and it couldn’t possibly sum up this particular actor any better: “That obstinate, suspicious, egocentric, maddening and lovable genius of a problem child.”
Charlie Chaplin vs America by Scott Eyman (Amazon link) will be available on Halloween Day – October 31, 2023 and I think the timing would amuse Chaplin. He may have been a problem child, as his friend Mary Pickford said, but by gosh he was a fascinating one.
You’re going to love this book,
~ Joi (“Joy”)
Charlie Chaplin vs America by Scott Eyman (Amazon link)