Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Father, Charlie Chaplin

1960, possibly first edition, from Random House
Charles Chaplin, Jr., with N. and M. Rau
My Father, Charlie Chaplin
Original and purchase price unknown
Worn hardcover

This biography tries to put a positive spin on the elder Chaplin's controversial life, but there's a thread of Charles, Jr.'s unhappiness throughout, from nightmares as a child to alcoholism as an adult, and much of that unhappiness seems to come from his father's distancing himself, sometimes literally, as with months-long travel.  Chaplin clearly was funny and talented, but his own unhappy childhood of poverty and neglect left its scars and seems to have made it hard for him to be close to his wives, children, or anyone else.

The book doesn't spend much time on the 1950s, although it does address the comic's self-exile during and after McCarthyism.  Even the author's year-long marriage and resulting child don't get much attention.  The elder Chaplin was married for a much longer period, the fourth time's the charm, to Oona O'Neill (Eugene's daughter).  They had eight children, the last born when Charlie was 73.  At that point, Charles, Jr. had only five years to live, dying in 1968 of a pulmonary embolism.  His father lived till 1977, although I have no memories of him being alive in my lifetime.

I can't tell you anything more about the Raus, with their initials, except that they were a married couple with five children, and they'd been reporting on "the Hollywood scene" for more than 20 years at that point.

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