Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chaplin Footage: Practice or Deleted Scene

This previously unknown footage came from a French documentary called, La Nuissance de Charlot.  The scene shows Chaplin packing up his Treasures; cane, hat, pants and shoes, into a suitcase and leaving an office.  This was shot on a lighted set and is virtually identical to a promo that was made in 1918 called, How to Make Movies.  The promo was shot to celebrate his new studio on La Brea in West Hollywood at his corner office with all of his aides and workers.  The other scene was shot with one actor.

The question is; was this a dry run practice for the later film or was it a deleted scene from the promo.

I believe it to be a deleted scene.  It didn't match the documentary style nature of the promo and was almost laughable in it's setting and mood with the butler.  In the actual promo, his real personal assistant was used as well as his secretary, posse of actors and other workers.

It is so nice to see something new on Chaplin over 100 years old.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Negotiating with Steve Jobs: A Story

Steve Jobs Mustache

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a legendarily tough nut to crack in negotiations, in part because of his temper and in part because he tended to want all or nothing.
This, after all, was the man who vowed to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston that he would kill Dropbox when Houston declined to sell his company to Apple. Jobs also walked away from a medical app partnership even though he believed it would be a great idea because he felt it would distract him from the main mission of making great desktop devices.
But Heidi Roizen, a professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford who also reportedly dated Jobs at one point, saw a different side to Jobs when she was negotiating with him over the license to a word-processing product for Next, the computer company Job created when he was forced out of Apple in 1985.
Turns out that if you had some inside info, Jobs could be a pushover. At the time, Roizen was running a publishing company for software company T/Maker, which had made WriteNow, word processing program for the Next machine. Jobs wanted to do a deal for the application, Roizen says:
On the appointed day, after waiting in the lobby for 45 minutes (this, I would come to learn, was par for the course for meetings with Steve), I was called up to Steve’s cubicle. I remember to this day how completely nervous I felt. But I had my contract in hand and I knew my numbers cold.
Shortly into my pitch, Steve took the contract from me and scanned down to the key term, the royalty rate. I had pitched 15%, our standard. Steve pointed at it and said,
“15%? That is ridiculous. I want 50%.”
I was stunned. There was no way I could run my business giving him 50% of my product revenues.
Sounds like a typical Jobs moment: he saw something he didn't like and blew up like a brat.
But it turns out the grandstanding was just that. Jobs had earlier promised that he would pay developers 50% of revenues, and did not want to be seen accepting less. A colleague within Next told Roizen to come up with some creative accounting that would allow her to pay Next 15% of net revenues, not gross revenues:
To do so, I reduced the nut to split by first deducting the cost of packaging, of technical support, the salaries for some developers on my side of the business to implement fixes, and when I still couldn’t get the math to pencil out, I added a $6 per unit ‘handling fee’ thanks to some inspiration from an infomercial on the Home Shopping Network.   My new “Hollywood net” number read 50%, but fully-loaded it was pretty close to the 15% of gross I needed to make the deal work.  Magic!
After that, Jobs said yes.

Read more:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More 100 Years of Chaplin


A Century of Charlie Chaplin

His darkest moment and what began the rapid downfall of his popularity.  Chaplin on trial  in the early 40s.  A paternity suit by a lunatic actress, Joan Barry, and a trumped up false accusation on violating the Mann Act destroyed Chaplin's image in the press and for much of the public.  He beat both charges with proof of his innocence, but his ground breaking movie in which he starred, not as the Tramp, but as a serial murderer of woman was the last straw for the public.  His genius was still intact and his legacy, but much of the nation was against him with protests and the Red Scare.  By 1952, when he went to London to premiere his brilliant movie, Limelight, J. Edgar Hoover had his reentry visa revoked and Chaplin was exiled for 20 years, living a peaceful life in Vevey, Switzerland.  Finally, in 1972, Hollywood brought him back for an honorary Oscar and Chaplin was again on top.  

Remember him for his genius, his humor and his contribution to laughter and as one of the pioneers of movie making along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith.  

The Tramp was his creation and made him the most famous man on earth for a time.

"Soldiers!!! Don't give yourselves to these brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle and use you as cannon fodder! Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! With the love of humanity in your hearts! Don't hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural!"

Charles Spencer Chaplin
Concluding speech of The Great Dictator 

Charlie Chaplin was one of the the bravest man who ever lived. That speech, more than anything else I can think of, was my political awakening. Think about it: The greatest speech in all recorded human history was not made by a politician. It was not made by a king. It was not made by a queen. It was not made by a prince or a princess. It was not made by a preacher. It was not made by a businessman or woman. It was not made by an old soldier or a young one. It was not made by a billionaire. It was not made by a potentate. It was not made by a senator or a congressman. It was not made by a president....

The greatest speech in all recorded human history was made by a little tramp. Go figure.

In January of 1914 - one-hundred years ago this month - an obscure, twenty-four-year-old English music hall comedian named Charles Chaplin walked through the entrance of the Keystone Film Company in Eden, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He had been offered one-hundred-and-fifty dollars a week by producer Mack Sennett to have a go at the infant movie industry. By year's end he would be one of the most famous men on the planet.

With Eric Campbell in "The Rink"
My discovery of Charlie Chaplin can be traced to Christmas Day 1968. At a get-together at the home of a Notre Dame classmate of my father's, a bunch of us kids were getting ice-skating lessons on a small pond that adjoined the house. When it became apparent that I utterly lacked any aptitude for the ice, I wondered inside and spied a small television set on a bookshelf. When I turned it on, by accident or destiny, the channel was set to public television - Channel Thirteen. On the screen a little man was wrecking havoc on a pair of skates - this time of the roller variety. What I was watching was a short from 1916 called "The Rink". That was all I needed to see, I've been hooked ever since. 

There wasn't much substance to film comedy prior to the moment Charlie Chaplin entered the international consciousness one-hundred years ago. He proved that it could be viewed as great art - something to be taken seriously by audiences and critics alike. By 1917 he (and his Little Tramp) had evolved from the fast-paced, knockabout mayhem of his early Keystone films, to a more subtle and sympathetic character. The tramp by this time was funnier than he had ever been, but there was a passion and soul that had not revealed itself in his earliest films. Each of the twelve films he made for the Mutual Film Corporation in the years 1916-1917 are the cinematic equivalent of precious gems; twelve mini-masterpieces. 

Toward the end of the silent era, while the quantity declined, the quality of his films was nearly universally agreed upon. All these decades later serious film critics are still in agreement. Chaplin was an artist. One of the greatest of the twentieth century.

The Great Dictator (1940)
The political persecution of Charles Chaplin began in 1940 when he released the bravest film ever made. "The Great Dictator" depicted the story of two very different people (both played by Chaplin) who could be (but are not) identical twins: A timid little Jewish barber and Adenoid Hinkle, the dictator of a fictional country called Ptomainia. The film was a satirical attack on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Toward the movie's end, the two men are mistaken for one another and the little barber is taken to speak at a massive rally that the dictator had called for on the eve of the invasion of an entire continent. The speech he gives, which is really Chaplin's plea to the world for peace and understanding, still resonates across the decades:

"Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people."

On trial, 1942
This was Communistic stuff - at least according to the jackasses on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The official forces of darkness went after Charlie in a way that reminds one of the persecution of another comedian, Lenny Bruce, a generation later. Chaplin's FBI file is encyclopedic. Although Al Capone was never a priority for J. Edgar Hoover, Charlie Chaplin was somehow seen as a threat to the peace and security of the free world. Although he was not a Communist, his views on matters social, economic and racial weredecidedly left-of-center. In other words, this was a man decades ahead of his time.

No part of his private life was off-limits. When a blood test ordered for a paternity suit proved that he could not be the father of the child he was accused of siring, he was ordered to pay for her maintenance until she reached adulthood nonetheless. On another occasion he was prosecuted for a violation of the "Mann Act". His crime was the fact that he took a grown woman across state lines for the purpose of sex. As Walter Matthau said of the incident many years later, "It was that kind of time in America." 

His 1947 film, Monsieur Verdoux, only added to his problems. Henri Verdoux is a former employee of a bank whose job has been eliminated by a faceless bureaucracy. In order to care for his crippled wife and son, he goes into the "business". of marrying rich widows and murdering them for their money. At the film's conclusion, Verdoux is to be executed for murder. As he offers his final words, Chaplin the humanist emerges from behind the mask of Henri Verdoux:

Monsieur Verdoux
"However remiss the prosecutor has been in complimenting me, he at least admits that I have brains.Thank you, Monsieur, I have; and for thirty-five years I used them honestly. After that, nobody wanted them. So I was forced to go into business for myself. As for being a mass-killer? Does not the world encourage it? Is it not building weapons of destruction for the sole purpose of mass killing? Has it not blown unsuspecting women and little children to pieces? And done it very scientifically! Ha! As a mass-killer, I'm an amateur by comparison." 

I'll say it again: Charlie Chaplin was one of the bravest men who ever lived.

In September of 1952 he sailed with his family to England for the premiere of his film, "Limelight". While on board the ship he was informed by wire that he would not be allowed back into the Unites States. Said one nitwit on HUAC, he had yet to prove his "moral worth". Charlie Chaplin became an exile.

Charlie and wife Oona, 1972
Twenty years later, in April of 1972, Chaplin was invited back to the states to receive a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Before traveling to Hollywood for the reward ceremonies, there was a gala celebration for him at Lincoln Center in New York City. My brother Pete and I were there for it. We saw Charles Spencer Chaplin in the flesh - and up close - making eye contact with him and even getting a kiss blown at us for good measure. Forty-two years later and that night is as clear as yesterday. It was one of those mountaintop moments that doesn't go away very easily, you know? "Moral worth" indeed.

I always associate Charlie Chaplin with Christmas Day. It was on Christmas Day 1968 that I discovered him. Nine years later, on Christmas Day 1977, it was a bittersweet thing to hear that he had passed away - peacefully and with his family by his side.

In addition to being the centennial of his screen debut, April 16 of this year will also mark the one-hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of his birth. The legacy he leaves us should be treasured and celebrated. We're indeed lucky that he came our way. He's not coming back.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


My Autobiography
by Charles Chaplin

The best show business memoirs ever written. Future scholarship on the man's life would reveal that this book was very accurate and not as self-serving as most autobiographies. A great read - in fact I just might read it again now.


The final scene from The Great Dictator (1940) 

In my opinion, the greatest speech of all time. Charles Spencer Chaplin on the mountaintop - at the conclusion of The Great Dictator.

Gene Kelly Remembered

THE STAGE WAS JUST AN OLD cement tennis court with a missing net. The performers were a father and his young daughter roller-skating on a sunny afternoon in Beverly Hills in the '50s. As the girl made steady, tight circles around the court, her father crossed and recrossed her path, swooping, gliding, waltzing, tangoing and shimmying with seamless ease. All the while, he sported a winsome crooked grin. 

Watching Gene Kelly that day "was an incredible sight," recalls stage and film writer Betty Comden, who, with her partner Adolph Green, had worked with Kelly on 1949's On the Town and '52's Singin' in the Rain and had invited the star and his daughter Kerry to use the improvised rink on the grounds of their rented bungalow. "Adolph and I just looked at each other and said, 'We have to get this into a movie.' " 

And so they did. Inspired by the sight, Comden and Green inserted a skating number into 1955's It's Always Fair Weather, a movie in which Kelly starred. "The words 'poetry in motion' are a cliché," Comden says today, "but that day Gene was fantastic." 

Simple things like roller skates and rain puddles brought out the best in Gene Kelly, a self-described "working-class stiff" from Pittsburgh who died in his sleep at his Beverly Hills home on Feb. 2 at age 83, debilitated by a recent series of strokes. In turn, he imparted a sense of grace to the ordinary stuff of life: The raucous joy of a sailor on shore leave in 1945's Anchors Aweigh, in which he cavorted with Frank Sinatra. Trash-can lids that could become tap shoes in It's Always Fair Weather. The ridiculous bliss of a guy in love in Singin' in the Rain. To complement his impeccable hoofing, Kelly had a singing voice that was wobbly, weak—and strangely effective. "His appeal was his simplicity. He wasn't the elite, he didn't play a gentleman," says Leslie Caron, 64, who starred with Kelly in his Oscar-winning An American in Paris (1951). "Gene was the everyday man." 

He came by that naturally. The third of five children—three sons and two daughters—born to Patrick J. Kelly, a salesman for a gramophone company, and his wife, Harriet, a housewife and sometime actress in a local stock company, Kelly had his education interrupted by the Depression while a freshman at Penn State. He dropped out in 1930 and took any job he could to help his family get by. He pumped gas, dug ditches. When he had saved enough, he studied journalism at the University of Pittsburgh while living at home. 

To help make ends meet, Kelly, who began dancing at age 8 and was a leading light in college musicals, offered classmates 50-cents-an-hour dance instruction in the family basement. The lessons proved so popular that, after he graduated in 1933, he opened the loftily named Gene Kelly Studios of the Dance in a rented hall. These found a thriving trade among schoolchildren. "We were making good money," Kelly once recalled. "A lot of this was due to Shirley Temple—every mother thought her kid could be better." 

Kelly certainly felt confident about his own abilities. At 26, he headed for Broadway, but with no mooncalf awe. "I wasn't worried about getting a job," Kelly once recalled. "The other dancers weren't that good." He quickly won a chorus part in Leave It to Me, with Mary Martin, and by 1940 he was starring in the musical Pal Joey and catching the eye of Hollywood. 

In 1941 he arrived in Los Angeles, under contract to MGM and newly married to actress Betsy Blair, whom he had met while both worked in a Manhattan club. (Their daughter Kerry, now an Ann Arbor, Mich., psychotherapist, was born a year later.) For a time, MGM—famed for its big, splashy musicals—didn't know what to make of him. Fred Astaire's nimble footwork and tuxedo-clad elegance had set a standard for male dancers, but Kelly bounded through numbers in huge, athletic strides, performing in polo shirts, khakis and white socks, whose dazzle drew the eye to his fancy footwork. As he told The New York Times in 1980, "As a Depression-era kid who went to school in some very bad times, I didn't want to move or dance like a rich man." 

Kelly made his screen debut in 1942's For Me and My Gal, opposite Judy Garland. MGM also tried him out in two 1943 wartime dramas, Pilot Number Five and The Cross of Lorraine. But his breakthrough didn't come until he was loaned to Columbia for the 1944 musical Cover Girl, with Rita Hay worth. For the film, Kelly conceived a tricky routine—dancing with a double-exposed image of himself to symbolize a character battling his alter ego. "He was able to build a character through things that came out in dancing," recalls Comden. "He became a tremendous creative force." 

Eventually he won control over his projects. He choreographed, as well as starred in, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), On the Town and An American in Paris—in the latter, performing a 17-minute ballet that won him a special Oscar in 1952. That year he was also signed as codirector, with Stanley Donen, of an original backstage musical, Singin' in the Rain. 

"Gene threw himself into it," Adolph Green recalls. "He was playing a spoiled movie star, and he played it to the hilt." As Kelly recalled for PEOPLE in 1992, the hardest part of the stroll through the rain wasn't the dancing—"I just danced in the water," he said. "Any good dancer could do that"—it was that he had a bad cold that day and spent every break trying to warm himself outside in the sun. 

Singin' in the Rain, Kelly's most highly regarded film, was also, ironically, his last truly great musical. After the box-office failure of Brigadoon in 1954, Kelly enjoyed only minor successes with It's Always Fair Weather and 1957's Les Girls. That year he divorced his wife, Betsy, and as the decade turned, he was married again, to dancer Jeanne Coyne. Kelly began to concentrate on choreography and directing—fields, he told PEOPLE, that were his true loves. "Doing the dancing," he said, "that's work. Creating it is a joy." 

He directed Jackie Gleason in the tearjerker Gigot in 1962 and Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! in 1969. His career was put on hold for a time when, in 1973, Jeanne died of leukemia, and he devoted himself to their children, Timothy, now 33 and a film director, and Bridget, who is 31 and a costume designer. After that, he appeared as a narrator of 1974's That's Entertainment! and its two sequels; in the 1980 bomb Xanadu, he did a soft-shoe routine with Olivia Newton-John. 

In recent years, trouble visited Kelly often. His Beverly Hills home was gutted in 1984 when a Christmas tree caught fire. (Kelly was dragged from the burning house by his son.) And by the time he narrated the third That's Entertainment! in 1994, age had overtaken him. "He could hardly see, he had this bad back," recalls dancer and longtime friend Ann Miller. "It was just so heartbreaking." In July of 1994, Kelly had his first major stroke. Another followed last year. Kelly died with his third wife, writer Patricia Ward, 37, whom he had married in 1990, at his side. "Hollywood lost one of its great, great creators," says dancer Cyd Charisse, 72, who performed with Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and Brigadoon. 

Many would agree. But Gene Kelly saw himself differently:—as a simple man doing a few simple things well. Speaking of Singin in the Rain, he told PEOPLE, "the picture was done with joy, and it brings joy. That's what I always tried to do." 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Oscars Mostly Ignored Chaplin and Kelly

The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences all but ignored Charlie Chaplin and Gene Kelly in spite of their work being the best of their chosen genre.  

While it is true that most of Chaplin's earlier work, 78 of his 87 movies were made before the Academy Awards were invented, the Academy did not even nominate City Lights for an award. This may have been a slap at him for not embracing talkies.  All of the other studios and stars made talkies regardless of any artistic decisions and simply threw dialogue into movies.  Chaplin agonized about making a talkie after the movie, The Circus (1928), but decided, in the end, to keep City Lights (1931) silent and never to let The Little Fellow talk. His unique brand of pantomime did not need dialogue aside from the occasional title card. His movies were universal and could play the world over and be understood from Japan to Russia to Africa.  He did take a swipe at talkies in the opening of the movie with the trumpeting sounds as distorted voices in the statue dedication. City Lights did have synchronized sound and score, but no talking.  Chaplin made use of the new technology to enhance the lack of dialogue with an orchestral score of mostly his own compositions.

Modern Times (1936) was also ignored by the Academy.  Not until The Great Dictator (1940), was Chaplin up for an award for best actor.  He lost out to Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story.  Later, in Limelight, (1952) was only nominated for the score.  Not until his Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 was he finally given the honor he deserved for his pioneering body of work as the master of comedy and film making.

Gene Kelly's movies were not necessarily the box office record makers of Chaplin's.  Chaplin's City Lights beat out all of the talkies of the day when it came out in 31.  Kelly's movies had a strong following among women, but they did not have the broad appeal of Chaplin or other stars of the 1940s and 50s. Nevertheless, Kelly was the master of his craft, just as Chaplin was a generation before.  They did have some overlap, but Chaplin was in his one movie every five years or so period when Kelly was in his heyday.  
Gene Kelly was on the move in the mid 1940s and did get a nomination for best actor for Anchors Aweigh in 1945.  He lost out to Ray Milland for The Lost Weekend.  There has always been a prejudice against musicals in the Oscars as if dramatic roles are somehow better rather than simply being a different genre. The musicals from MGM's Arthur Freed Unit, were the best of the breed with Kelly, Stanley Donen and Vincente Minnelli at the helm.  The musicals of that time were very popular and Kelly was on top, replacing Fred Astaire as the singular song and dance man in movies.

Not until An American in Paris (1951), did Kelly get his due, but not for best actor, rather for his versatility as a Choreographer and dancer.  The movie also got Best Picture and several other awards. Kelly's award was similar to the award Chaplin got in 28 for The Circus for his own versatility as an all around film maker.  

These men deserved much more than they received, not for their popular appeal, but for their pioneering work in film.  They were the best of their chosen avocation.  Both Kelly and Chaplin were true masters. They did it all.  Kelly sang, danced, directed, acted and even wrote a screenplay.  His integration of the camera into the choreography was groundbreaking when compared to the work of Fred Astaire's earlier movies.  He and Stanley Donen were an unstoppable team.  

Chaplin did it all, from writing, directing, producing, acting, composing scores, owning his own studio and controlling every aspect of his movies.  No other artist has ever had this kind of creative and artistic control. Kelly got close, but was part of the studio system.  

We may never see the kind of talent and genius these men displayed over their respective careers.