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Charlie Chaplin's Red Letter Days

At Work with the Comic Genius

Fred Goodwins - Edited by David James - Notes by Dan Kamin

Hardback
By the end of 1914, Charlie Chaplin had become the most popular actor in films, and reporters were clamoring for interviews with the comedy sensation. But no reporter had more access than Fred Goodwins. A British actor who joined Chaplin’s stock company in early 1915, Goodwins began writing short accounts of life at the studio and submitted them to publications. In February 1916 the British magazine Red Letter published the first of what became a series of more than thirty-five of Goodwins’s articles. Written in breezy prose, the articles cover a two-year period during which Chaplin’s popularity and creativity reached new heights. Only one copy of the complete series is known to exist, and its recent rediscovery marks a significant find for Chaplin fans.

Charlie Chaplin’s Red Letter Days: At Work with the Comic Genius is a vivid account of the ebb and flow of life at the Chaplin studio. Goodwins was an astute observer who deepens our understanding of Chaplin’s artistry and sheds new light on his personality. He also provides charming and revealing portraits of Chaplin’s unsung collaborators, such as his beloved costar Edna Purviance, his burly nemesis Eric Campbell, and other familiar faces that populate his films. Goodwins depicts Chaplin in the white heat of artistic creation, an indefatigable imp entertaining and inspiring the company on the set. He also describes gloomy, agonizing periods when Chaplin was paralyzed with indecision or exhaustion, or simply frustrated that it was raining and they couldn’t shoot.

Reproduced here for the first time, the articles have been edited by film historian David James and annotated by Chaplin expert Dan Kamin to highlight their revelations. Illustrated with a selection of rare images that reflect the Chaplin craze, including posters, sheet music, and magazine covers, Charlie Chaplin’s Red Letter Days provides a fascinating excursion into the private world of the iconic superstar whose films move and delight audiences to this day. It will appeal to movie fans, comedy buffs, and anyone who wants to know what really went on behind the scenes with Chaplin and his crew.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 338Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-7808-0 • Hardback • April 2017 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-7809-7 • eBook • April 2017 • $37.99 • (£24.95) (coming soon)
Fred Goodwins (1891–1923) was a former New York Times London correspondent who became an actor, writer, and director during the silent film era.

David James is a film historian and senior lecturer in film and media studies at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.

Dan Kamin created the physical comedy sequences for Chaplin and Benny and Joon and trained Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp for their acclaimed performances. He is the author of The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin (Scarecrow Press, 2008).
[T]his compilation of articles, republished exactly as they appeared in the English movie-fan magazine Red Letter in 1916, is of significance for students of Charlie Chaplin and the history of film. Goodwins, a member of Chaplin’s acting troupe, gives a weekly account of the screen’s first superstar. His praise can be fawning, but his account makes Chaplin’s genius undeniable as the comic brings a deft comic twist to commonplace situations while also filling the roles of writer, director, editor, set designer, and prop master. Chaplin’s artistic development is chronicled as he moves from mere slapstick to romance and even drama tinged with social criticism, with his Little Tramp character taking on upper-class villains. For context and a more dispassionate perspective, editors’ notes are sprinkled throughout. The only real criticism here, offered by the editors, is that Chaplin rarely gave credit to others for providing him with ideas. Despite Goodwins’s lack of objectivity, his look at the mechanics and techniques of silent filmmaking is informed and informative.... [H]is access makes the book enjoyably breezy and personal.
Publishers Weekly


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