Charlie Chaplin and Peter Pan

This evening I watched probably the saddest comedy I’ve ever seen.  It had a happy ending, but only after the protagonist had survived a great deal of physical danger, loneliness, and mockery.  The film, a selection from my PhD candidacy exam “reading” list, was Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925).  It was only an hour and nine minutes long, and it was originally a silent film, though Netflix sent me a 1942 version that had a cheesy narrator and some dubbed-in dialogue in the narrator’s voice–even the female voices.  (If I were a silent film purist, which I’m not, that probably would have ruined the experience for me.  Fortunately, the narrator knew when to keep his mouth shut.)  Despite what might sound like obstacles to good storytelling (short running time and characters who don’t talk–even at the ending; you hear that,The Artist?), this turned out to be a hilarious comedy at times (I LOL-ed when the protagonist trashed the cabin in his joy after the girls promised to come over for New Year’s Eve dinner) and at other times a heart-breaking tale of man’s inhumanity to man.  Actually, it was mostly woman’s inhumanity to man; the men had guns and axes, but the women had cruel laughter, which the resilient “lone prospector” (Chaplin) was able to shake off less easily.  (Spoiler: The girls don’t show up for dinner.)

Other fun things about The Gold Rush: The special effects were pretty darn good for 1925.  (I didn’t even know they had special effects in 1925!)  Also, and perhaps most importantly, this is the movie from which Johnny Depp’s character in Benny and Joon draws his impression of the “dance” of two rolls on the ends of two forks.  Now I realize how stunningly accurate the homage is, right down to the facial expression.  If only for that reason, you should watch this movie.  But see if you can get the original version.

And now for my other, unrelated topic.  You know I love Peter Pan, the character, right?  You know how excited I was to see him at the Melbourne Zoo; you saw the picture I took as proof.  (See the post “Fairies in Melbourne.”)  I want to establish this because I’m going to share a poem I scribbled down Sunday night after watching the Alluvion Stage Company production of the musical Peter Pan.  The poem is rather critical of Peter, the character.  But my love for someone doesn’t mean that I can’t see the point of view of other characters who may not have such a rosy outlook on said person (eg. Harry Potter, Snape).  You can probably guess easily enough which character is speaking in this poem.  I’m probably reading more animosity into the story than is actually there, but I enjoy pulling out subtexts.  This poem isn’t great; I need to work more on the vocabulary and sentence structure because I want the voice to start out sounding like an adult (or someone who wants us to think he’s an adult) and descend gradually into childishness.  But, for now, here it is.

A clever chap, I suppose.

A good swordsman, you’d be a fool to deny it.

Very smart at plotting, and that sort of thing.

But really, what English young person doesn’t know the ending of Cinderella?

But he isn’t English, after all.

He’s some sort of heathen.

Probably doesn’t even know what the British Empire is.

And doesn’t understand how a shadow works?

Ridiculous, really.

Not as clever as Wendy thinks he is.

Not as clever as he thinks he is.

A horrid boy, actually.

Always has to be the father.

Always has to be the chief.

Always has to be the hero.

A horrible selfish boy

Who never,

Never

Lets anyone else be the leader.

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2 thoughts on “Charlie Chaplin and Peter Pan

  1. Tess, i want to see the Charlie Chaplin movie now! I enjoyed your poem! And is Mr. Darling the narrator? Or Jas. Hook? Also, I was a little disappointed that the Alluvion’s production did not continue the tradition of the same actor playing Mr. Darling and Hook.

  2. Yeah, I was a little disappointed about that too. But I think they made a lot of their casting decisions to avoid confusing children (e.g., casting a male Peter Pan, having Tinkerbell be a real person instead of a tiny little ball of light). Mr. Darling’s actor did play a minor pirate, though. Did you notice that?

    The narrator is actually John Darling. So, yes, it sounds kind of like the father, because John is picking up on phrases he’s heard his father use. But the last few lines are supposed to express a rivalry between peers. So I guess I need to work on making that clearer.

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