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Charles J. McGuirk, Motion Picture Cover, New York, July 1915.

The New Fox Trot Song

Charlie Chaplin Walk

Words by Wm. A. Downs

Music by Roy Barton


Harold Rossiter Music Company Chicago-New York

1915, Margaret Herrick Library,

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Part 1

„Once in every century or so“

Editorial content. „Chaplinitis

      By Charles J. McGuirk

      A little Englishman, quiet, unassuming, but surcharged

with dynamite, is influencing the world right now. You can

feel him in the theater; you read of him in the magazines; you

get a glimpse of his idiosyncrasies in some twist of

fashion. Among the happy youths of the slums, or the dandies

of clubdom or college, an imitation of a Chaplin flirt of the

coat, or the funny little waddle of the comedian, is considered

the last word in humor. To be Chaplinesque is to be

funny; to waddle a few steps, and then look naively at your

audience, is a recognized form to which successfull

comedy is trending. You are artistic, perhaps. You were born

with the gift of drawing or painting, or maybe you are

a sculptor. Your gifts run to other lines. Maybe you are a poet

or a writer. Very well; the thing to do now is to paint

a portrait of Charles Chaplin in one of his characteristic poses,

or to model him in clay. A poet can always sell

a Chaplin poem; a writer finds a market for a Chaplin story.

Any form of expressing Chaplin is what the public

wants. The days of the minstrel‘s lay have come again.

The world has Chaplinitis.

      Once in every century or so a man is born

who is able to color and influence his world. Brummel, fop and adventurer, did it in the Georgian days, when the world

went  mad over a correctly tied stock or the turn of a dandy‘s

ankle. Andrew Jackson, President and backwoods

politician, did it in the days of unrest that attended the winning

of an empire from the wilderness and an oppressive

mother-country. And now in these laughter-loving days

Charles Chaplin is doing it with pantomime and

personality – a finished actor, a master of his art, a comedian

who has compelled the world to laugh with him

and to love him.

      Now, what is the idea – the Chaplin idea? How does

Charlie Chaplin do it? Is it the man, or is it his work,

or is his personality the embodiment of a world-thought?

Does a war-sick universe turn from the horrors of

wholesale slaughter to the rib-tickling situation of a man

hit on the head by a mallet in the hands of this

gentle little Englishman who never smiles and who looks

out on the world with the naive wonder of a little

child? Let‘s try to find out why you snicker?

      There is a lame beginning in my statement that Charlie

Chaplin cant explain his own humor. He has tried

a couple of times, and he has said some very interesting

things. He confesses that his humor depends almost

wholly on contrast and timeliness. It does, to a certain extent.

But you or I could go thru the same actions, use the

same gestures and wade thru the same situations as he does.

Would we bring the laughter that Charlie Chaplin does?

I rather think not. Laugh-getting is Charlie‘s monopolistic gift.

He was born to laughter as much as Edison was born

to invention and Tolstoi was born to world literature. He cant

explain his methods – genius has no prompt-book.

Chaplin is bubbling over with fun, and it has to slop over.

It is as inevitable as the budding leaf or the downhill

rush of water to the sea.

      When you see Chaplin, you laugh. When you know

him, or when you see him making his own pictures,

you have a glimmering idea of why you laugh at him and his

antics. But for the life of you, you cant analyze the

reason for your laughter and for Chaplin‘s success in comedy.

The fact of the matter is that there is some unlocated

spot in you which Chaplin touches and which responds to that

appeal by making you laugh. That is the best explanation

you can get, even tho you go to Johns Hopkins and get the

results of a professional laugh-dissector‘s researches.

Chaplin draws laughter out of you as the sun draws water from

the sea. It is a matter of attraction, and that‘s all there

is to it. So much for philosophy.

      When Chaplin first came to the Essanay studio, he almost

stopped the works. Every person in the studio – actors,

and actresses, property men, scenario writers, the publicity

department and even the business office – side-stepped

their tasks and stole down to the studio floor to watch the genius

apply his methods. Even then he was comparatively

unknown. The world had just begun to recognize that the

funny little man with original methods could make

whole audiences hold their abdominal muscles and go home

sore from uncontrolled laughter.

      But the wiseacres in Moving Pictures knew Chaplin

and knew his possibilities. Hence the interest

that manifested itself in the Essanay studio and the impromptu

recesses that passed unrebuked. When Charlie

finally came on the floor, there was an audience that cluttered

entrances and lined itself stolidly and silently against

the studio wall. There were far too many on the floor. Chaplin

didn‘t notice it, but somebody else did. Orders came

forth, and the crowd melted. The comedian was ready to go

to work.

      And do you know how he started his comedy,

His New Job? He stood out in the center of his set, pulled

three of his fingers out of joint, and then, crouching

into the professional dancer‘s pose, he executed a clog-dance.

He danced for five minutes while the actors and

actresses of the company that was to play with him gazed

at him. They didn‘t know whether he was crazy or

doing it just for their amusement. Some laughed; the rest were

dumb with amazement. As a matter of fact, they were

all wrong. Just why he did it will be told in an illustrated continuation

of this article in the August issue of this magazine.“

      Three photos.

      (To be cotinued)

      Continued Motion Picture, New York, August 1915

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