Comedy films of the 1940’s were a fairly diverse group from social commentary, satire to slapstick. From the sophistication of Ernest Lubitsch to vaudeville based films of Abbott and Costello. I love it all. Abbott and Costello narrowly missed the list, as did so many others. The 1940’s was a rich period for comedy in films. It wasn’t easy narrowing the list down to just ten. This is the fourth post in the series. You can read about them here. Continue reading
Note: A couple of years ago I did a series of reviews for Halo-17, an Australian music and arts website which from what I can tell is no longer out there in cyber space. In the past I have occasionally linked to some of these reviews here at Twenty Four Frames. Recently, it seems all the links lead to an internet void; subsequently I have been occasionally posting these reviews here in updated versions. The original postings with broken links have or will be deleted.
Dare I say that “Monsieur Verdoux: A Comedy of Murders” is Charlie Chaplin’s best film? If not, his best certainly one of the best, a brilliant black comedy unlike anything else in his portfolio. It was not his first feature film without The Little Tramp character, that would be “The Great Dictator,” though the Jewish barber may be a close relative. Verdoux is a completely different characterization with little trace of sentimentality., In its place, he had a mass murderer.
It must have been a strange film to the American public of 1947, only two years after the end of World War II; black comedies were rare back in those days. I can only think of “Arsenic and Old Lace” as an early example. Besides that, Chaplin was on the outs with the U.S. politically. Chaplin leaned toward the left and from the 1930’s on his films took on a definite political slant. “Modern Times” depicts poor workers and striking labor unions and in “The Great Dictator,” Chaplin practically stops the film cold with a dramatic political speech where he addresses the audience as comrades. During World War II, he did not support the Allied war effort, which led to a public outcry. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover had been keeping a file on Chaplin for years. In addition, he was fighting off a scandal with a very young actress named Joan Barry who claimed she fathered his child. Blood test would prove the child was not his though damage to his career was done. By the time “Monsieur Verdoux” was released, two years after the end of WW II, with its attack on capitalism, many critics attacked back and the crowds stayed away. Some theaters even refused to play the film. While there were many critics who disliked the movie, and or Chaplin, the film did have its supporters. James Agee wrote an extended three part essay in “The Nation” calling it, “One of the best films ever made.” Continue reading
In my review I wrote for Halo-17, linked below, I said, “Monsieur Verdoux: A Comedy of Errors may be Chaplin’s greatest film.” To elaborate, if I had to put them in order it would be a close race however, Monsieur Verdoux, is a brilliant dark, thought provoking comedy, as powerful now as it was over sixty years ago. It is Chaplin’s greatest film. In my Chaplin hierarchy City Lights would be second with The Gold Rush right behind. They are three brilliant films at three different stages in the artist’s life. In Verdoux, Chaplin’s message is that war is nothing but a business done for profit. If an individual takes the same approach, as Verdoux does, he is a murderer. Kill millions it’s business, kill one or two it’s murder. “Numbers sanctify” as Verdoux says in his own defense.
Attached here is my original review.
Attached here is a review by David Denby .