[Terry: I’m not sure how I’ve missed this site for so long. Mark must write at light speed to cover all these topics. And to cover them so well.]
One hundred years ago this month, Charlie Chaplin developed his most important creation, the Tramp. He started with the costume, and with it came the character, or the beginnings of one. On January 10, 1914, the Tramp, wearing what soon would be his globally recognized outfit of baggy pants, too-small derby hat, bendy cane, and little mustache, made his public debut in front of a crowd at a youth car derby in Venice, California. A film of his antics, “Kid Auto Races in Venice” was released a couple weeks later, in February.
The Tramp came to Chaplin fully formed, it appears. Not only is the costume complete in the movie but his full array of gestures—the twirl of the cane, the dismissive tip of the hat, the flat-footed walk, a kick of the leg to turn his body entirely around—is seen. (There is one prop and one gesture that are unfamiliar to viewers of today, though, and they did not stay with the character: he is seen smoking cigarettes throughout the short.)
“Kid Auto Races in Venice” is merely a series of unrelated scenes of the Tramp interfering with a film “crew” recording the day’s “Junior Vanderbilt Cup” races, an actual event taking place that day; in reality, the crew were actors and the real crew was unseen, giving us a very early example of a film within a film, a fictional documentation of a real event. The Tramp keeps sneaking into the camera frame, as if he wants to be in the movie, any movie, but before he can do more than mouth a “Hi” into the lens or primp himself up, he is pushed to the ground, pulled away, chased off.
(Here is all six minutes and nine seconds of “Kid Auto Races at Venice”):
via 100 Years with The Tramp | The Gad About Town.
Cary Grant was born 110 years ago today.
Starting in the mid-1980s, Grant toured in a one-man question-and-answer show, “A Conversation with Cary Grant,” in which he spent ninety minutes or so answering questions from audience members. Several other movie stars and celebrities have since taken on similar productions in which they and their fans bask in an accepted and reflected adoration—Gregory Peck, for one—but Grant was the first. The show was an extended, and deserved, curtain call from beginning to end.
One cool feature to Grant’s tour was that it visited theaters in which he had performed during his vaudeville years in the 1920s. Thus it was that in April 1985 I found myself sitting in the balcony of the small (1500 seat) Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, NY, a stage on which he had performed. I was 16 and a movie nerd and Cary Grant was my idol.
Some of the evening is cemented in my memory. Judith Crist, the film reviewer for TV Guide, came on stage to introduce an introduction, the moment in 1970 in which Grant was awarded an honorary Oscar by Frank Sinatra. The movie screen dropped and we watched Sinatra introduce a well-edited reel of Grant’s “greatest” film moments that the Academy had compiled: five minutes of his seemingly endless supply of double-takes and reactions and several minutes of him being slapped by various leading ladies—a bit of good-natured ribbing by the Academy.
At the end of the clip, as Sinatra introduced, “Mr. Cary Grant,” the lights came on in our theater, and walking out stride by stride with his own oversize image on the screen was Mr. Cary Grant himself. It was a great stage moment. The greatest movie star of all time was magically walking off a screen and into our theater and our evening.
The stage was bare except for a stool, and he leaned against it, said hello and asked that the lights be brought up in the house so he could see us. “I’m here to answer some questions, but if you don’t have any we can dance and that would be fine.” From that moment on there was nothing he could do or say that we were not going to find delightful.