Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Write a Book?

Well, about two years ago I got back to watching Gene Kelly movies, as I had always been a fan. I started reading more about him as it was coming up on his 100th birthday and I went into full research mode, reading anything and everything, scouring the web, ordering books, looking at those who worked with him and just loving my research.  I even got in touch with his widow and we have had several conversations about him.  She has supposedly been writing a book on him since 1985 when they met.  He died in 1996 and still no book so I decided to write one.

I felt that a book on one man might not be as viable as one on two or three men and I'd developed an idea or profile on perfectionism, being a control freak and a task master.  I'd always been fascinated with computers and loved Apple and Steve Jobs, so the research started again doing the same drill with Steve Jobs and Apple.  

I needed a third man.  Howard Hughes came to mind and he fit the profile, but as I read the first few books on him, I realized he was just too out there and maybe too fringe.  He was not a likable guy.  As I was reading about Hughes, Chaplin's name came up as they worked in Hollywood about the same time and I started reading and found that Chaplin fit the profile of a perfectionist control freak and even more so than Kelly or Hughes.

I knew of Chaplin, knew he was the best of the silent comedians, but knew little else.  I had seen some clips of Chaplin's movies way back in the 1970s, but those were the copies of copies of copies that were shown at 24 frames per second (fps) and not adjusted to make them look normal.  Most Chaplin films were made at 17fps, but when shown at today's standard rate of 24fps, they were way too fast and it made them look silly.   Chaplin did use a technique called under cranking, which is filming at an even slower rate, thereby having the effect of speeding up the action, but this was only done for certain scenes.  As a result of this flaw, I didn't take the earlier movies seriously, not seeing them as they would have been shown at the theater back in the silent era.  Then about five years ago I saw Modern Times, having never seen a Chaplin film in it's entirety.  I laughed out loud more than for any comedy I'd watched in recent years, but I stopped there and didn't watch another one.

15 books in, hundreds of essays, all 87 movies and tidbits and Chaplin became the third man.  I could truly write a book on Chaplin, but it would be a rehash with all that is out there and nothing new.  As David Gill, the author of Unknown Chaplin, said, "Most people who write a book on Chaplin read five and put out a sixth."  I don't want to do that.  My profile and combination of these three men is new in that it is the only thing I'll really cover in depth comparing him to Kelly and Jobs.  It is almost a study in management.  I'll talk about his basic biographical info, but more in passing.  

I'm finishing Unknown Chaplin now and just finished Theodore Huff's book as well as Georgia Hale's book.  

He is amazing and I wish I lived in that time.  I love old Hollywood and the feel it had compared to today.  Watching The Kid with Chaplin's score gives the viewer that wonderful balance of a laugh and maybe a tear.  I also can barely watch, but do watch over and over and over again the last scene in City Lights where the former blind girl, who can now see, recognizes Charlie from only her touch. I gladly well up each and every time.  Just imagining the hundreds of takes it took to get there.  I is so perfect and one of the most powerful scene ever put on film.  The final Kid scene also.

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