Charles Chaplin, the dark side of the tyrannical, hurtful genius

The various and continuous biographies that have been published about Charles Chaplin over time tend to coincide with several unique aspects of his personal life.

For example, apart from the movies, he rarely smiled in his personal interactions with the people he had around him, and when he did, it was with a bitter expression. Many people who knew him have described him using adjectives such as controlling, tyrant, petty, and hurtful, not only when he was giving orders behind the camera – which is a trait shared with many other directors, who when they are filming like Napoleon, but when they have finished the work, they are beautiful people – but at all times of the day.

There is an explanation for this character, supported by many biographers, that has to do with the trauma that Chaplin suffered from his painful journey through childhood: born in 1889 in a wagon belonging to a traveling show company founded by a gypsy family, 130 years after this, his life was, from the first minute, an example of uprooting.

His mother gave birth in an imprecise place, on a dirt road, and that feeling of not belonging to either a place or a happy environment was accentuated as both his father, an incurable drunk who left the family home when he He was barely three years old, like his mother, they were neglecting their obligations. For several long periods before reaching adolescence, he had to be fostered in orphanages.

Although he knew personal success when he took up the family profession, he made it his own and perfected it as a comedy actor in vaudeville shows and, once in the United States, at just over 20 years old, he became the great comic star of cinema. of the 1910s, that did not translate into a fundamental change. His bitterness was still there, and his cosmic vision was a fragile shell. Chaplin became rich early on, helping to lay the foundations of Golden Age Hollywood – thanks to the start of the United Artists company and studio – but his smile rarely returned to his face.

He married several times, and all of his marriages followed a fixed pattern: his partners were teenagers, even when he married for the fourth time with Oona O’Neill; She was 18 years old, and he was 54. This, which can also be interpreted in the Freudian way – that is, the attempt to recover childhood and transform it into a happy time through the search for a young maternal figure – can also be interpreted following the DiCaprio guideline: Chaplin liked young women and nothing more, which has subsequently served to cast over his life the shadow that he was a potential abuser or an unforgivably vicious person.

There was nothing illicit in his romantic relationships, although he was always on the verge of legal age. His marriages were not free of bitterness: he divorced his first three wives, in some cases, barely the first year of their relationship had passed, and he had children who died a few months after giving birth. In total, he had 11, from three different mothers.

Chaplin, who will be the host son of the next Festimatge 2020 festival, died rich, and unanimously recognized as a genius, although without generating that same unanimity in the people who knew him, who suffered their anger and his lack of sympathy. He was also a kind of stateless person who did not fit in either in the United States or in his native England, and at the end of his life, he had to go live in Switzerland, where he died on Christmas Day 1977 at the age of 88 years old.

Even after he died, he starred in one last “comic” act: some criminals dug up his coffin and asked his family for a ransom in exchange for returning it in one piece. The family did not want to pay and the resurrectionists – a term from 19th century England applied to body snatchers – had to stay with the stiff in the middle of the room until the police stopped them and the body could be returned to the grave. this time inside a theft-proof coffin.