DVD cover - Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin
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Chaplin (1992) starring Robert Downey Jr.

Chaplin, Directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Kevin Kline

Synopsis of Chaplin:

A biography of Charlie Chaplin, told in flashback by the elderly Chaplin, played unexpectedly well by Robert Downey Jr. A very good film, relatively balanced, displaying Charlie Chaplin’s creativity, as well as his private life. It shows Charlie Chaplin’s good and bad sides, including his penchant for underage girls.

DVD cover - Robert Downey Jr. as ChaplinIn short, it was a very well done movie; it captured the atmosphere of the time well, and I was frankly astonished at Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. I’ve never been of fan of his, or Kevin Kline’s for that matter, but everyone gave bravura performances.

Editorial Reviews of Chaplin (referring to the DVD version), courtesy of Amazon.com

Sir Richard Attenborough’s biographical film of the life and times of Charles Chaplin is a little thin as a narrative, but it is so charmingly creative and ultimately moving, it’s hard to care about any deficits. Robert Downey Jr. does an excellent job re-creating Chaplin’s graceful slapstick and getting inside the silent-film superstar’s head over many years of triumph, defeat, scandal, official persecution, exile, and inner peace.

A huge cast portray the allies, friends, lovers, and enemies in Chaplin’s life, including Moira Kelly as his final, longtime wife, Oona, Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks, Geraldine Chaplin as Charlie’s mother, and James Woods as a prosecutor working hard to nail Chaplin for anti-American sentiments. Attenborough declines to tell the story in a flat, linear way, employing such clever techniques as detailing one chapter in Chaplin’s life as a silent comedy. The climactic scene set at an Oscar tribute for Chaplin will get the tears flowing. —Tom Keogh

Product Description of Chaplin

Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin, the Little TrampROBERT DOWNEY, JR. captures the essence of comic genius Charlie Chaplin in a compelling, nuanced performance that earned him Oscar(r) and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor. Director Richard Attenborough’s well-crafted portrait traces Chaplin’s impoverished London upbringing, extraordinary success as an actor and director, his troubled marriages, scandalous affairs, shocking exile to Switzerland and his triumphant return to Hollywood. The huge star-studded cast includes KEVIN KLINE, DAN AYKROYD, MILLA JOVOVICH, DIANE LANE and GERALDINE CHAPLIN (as her own grandmother), and Downey’s astonishing mimicry of Chaplin’s gait, gestures and accents complete a dazzlingly authentic portrait of one of cinema’s first pop culture icons.

Funny movie quotes from Chaplin:

[Chaplin tells Sennett he intends to leave Sennett’s employ and open his own studio.]
Mack Sennett (Dan Ackroyd): Charlie, I’ve been so rotten to you. I don’t know if you can forgive me. I forced you to leave Butte Montana. I made you accept a hundred and fifty per. You mentioned directing and I stuffed that down your throat too. Now tell me how else Uncle Mack can make it up to you!

Douglas Fairbanks (Kevin Kline): Say, are you two still married or what? I find it all very confusing.
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): Mmm… it’s not at all confusing. You see, when everyone thought we were having an affair, we were married. Now that everyone realizes we’re married, we’re getting divorced.
Douglas Fairbanks (Kevin Kline): Man’s a wizard with women. No question about it.

Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): If you want to understand me, watch my movies.

[Sennett is explaining the film industry to Chaplin as Rollie edits a film.]
Mack Sennett: Now I know this is all new to ya, but remember something, we’re all new. This is not an ancient industry. This whole place here is built around speed. Start the story, start the chase. I get bored easy.
Rollie Totheroh (David Duchovny): How much you reckon Mack? Couple yards of Mabel?
Mack Sennett: Hmm, yeah. Nah, make it three. But don’t go thinking we sacrifice quality. I never make more than two motion pictures a week, but I’ll spend up to a thousand dollars on each of ’em if I have to.

Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): Nothing quite like it. The feeling of film.

Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): I’m sorry, I prefer not to shake hands with Nazis.
Nazi: What have you got against us, Mr. Chaplin?
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): What have you got against everybody else?

Paulette Goddard: Did you lose your other wives this way?
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): I think so. But you’d have to ask them.

Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): Syd, I love this country. That’s why I can make fun of it!

[about Hetty Kelly]
George Hayden: But you didn’t even kiss her!
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): Don’t you think I know that?

Douglas Fairbanks (Kevin Kline): Charles, you’re a foreigner; you’re still an outsider. You’ve never understood this country.
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): It’s a good country underneath, Doug.
Douglas Fairbanks (Kevin Kline): No, it’s a good country on top. Underneath, that’s what starts showing when we’re scared.

Nazi: Are you a Jew?
Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.): I’m not so honored.

Sydney Chaplin: Nobody wants to see a movie about Adolf Hitler.

Notes on Chaplin:

  • Geraldine Chaplin plays her own real-life grandmother.
  • Robert Downey, Jr., recorded the song “Smile” however this was not used in the film. This song can be heard on the soundtrack from the movie.
  • A body double had to be brought in for the nude scene between Charlie (Downey) and Mildred Harris (Jovovich). Milla Jovovich was only 16 years old at the time, and therefore too young to participate in a nude scene.
  • Over 200 hours of footage was shot, the original cut of the film was nearly 4 hours long.
  • The Oscar montage at the end uses footage of the real Charlie Chaplin.
  • George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins) is the only principal character in the entire film who is fictional and never existed.
  • Antony Sher was considered for the title role.

I rate it 4 clowns on a 5-clown scale.


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