Category Archives: Theatre

Richard III is at it again!

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory Richard III promotional coaster. *

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory Richard III promotional coaster features the King’s crest and a White Boar, his symbol. *

Everybody’s favorite Shakespearian villain is haunting the streets of Baltimore again. This time at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s indoor performance space, The Great Hall Theatre at St. Mary’s on Roland Ave.

The Factory presents the Bard’s works as they were originally presented:

  • Universal lighting
  • Minimal sets
  • Music period to the time
  • Cross gender casting
  • And actors taking on multiple roles.

Given The Great Hall’s thrust stage and the the fact that they keep the lights up it is no wonder that as an audience you feel very engaged in the play. The players can see YOU as much as you can see them, and when Richard cracks some scheme or Elizabeth pleads to the heavens for mercy… they are talking to you.

This production snaps along at about 2 hours and 45 minutes (plus intermission) and stars Chris Cotterman as Richard. Cotterman is ruthless and –somehow– heartbreaking in the role. I (very unexpectedly) found myself (kind of) routing for the guy. Ian Blackwell Rogers– who won me over as Macbeth and Hamlet in past Factory productions — is delightfully oily as the power hunger Buckingham. And Lily Kerrigan, Kelly Dowling and Barbara Madison Hauck do justice to the trio of women (Lady Anne, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Margaret) who have their lives torn apart by Richard’s ambitions. The show is directed by Tom Delise.

You’ve got one more weekend to catch it as the show runs through April April 19.

Poster for Richard. *

Poster for Richard. *



*I was lucky enough to design the promotional materials for the Factory’s production.


Thinking about playwright David Ives 11.7.13 Thought of the Day

My smart, funny, creative daughter is directing/producing a tribute to David Ives at St. Mary’s College of Maryland this weekend. That got me thinking about the brilliant, strange playwright David Ives.

The two one acts they will be doing at St. Mary's are "Words, Words, Words" and "The Death of Trotsky."

The two one acts they will be doing at St. Mary’s are “Words, Words, Words” and “Variations on The Death of Trotsky.”

David Ives was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA on July 11, 1950. He grew up on the south side of Chicago and attended Northwestern University. He worked for a few years as an editor at Foreign Affairs Magazine before entering the Yale School of Drama where he earned his MFA in playwriting. Ives is a Guggenheim Fellow and he currently lives in New York City.

Playwright David Ives [Image courtesy:]

Playwright David Ives [Image courtesy:]

He is…

probably best known for his evenings of one-act comedies called All In The Timing and Time Flies. All In The Timing won the Outer Critics Circle Playwriting Award, ran for two years Off-Broadway, and in the 1995-96 season was the most performed play in the country after Shakespeare productions. His full-length plays include Venus In Fur, which recently enjoyed a vast critical and audience success Off-Broadway; New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza, which won the prestigious Hull-Warriner Award; Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain); Irving Berlin’s White Christmas; Polish Joke; and Ancient History. He has translated Feydeau’s classic farce A Flea In Her Ear as well as Yazmina Reza’s drama A Spanish Play, and his translation/adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s The Liar premieres this spring at Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company. He is also the author of three young-adult novels, Monsieur Eek, Scrib, and Voss. [American Theatre]

He was nominated for a Tony Award for his play Venus In Fur which he later turned into a film script.


How many monkeys would it take to write Hamlet? I guess it depends on the monkey. [Image purchased from]

Words, Words, Words features three monkeys in a large cage with typewriters. The monkeys, Kafka, Milton and Swift, are part of a scientific experiment which hopes to prove that given enough time three apes hitting random keys on a typewriter will produce great literature — in this case, Hamlet.

Trotsky cor 05

Trotsky cor 05 (Photo credit: Luiz Fernando / Sonia Maria)

Variations on the Death of Trotsky is (as its title indicates) a series of fictional variations on a very real historic event, the death of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. There are eight variations that echo both high and low brow literature.

Words is a long time Ive’s favorite of mine (along with Philadelphia and Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread) But I’ve never seen  or read Trotsky so I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s showcase. If you are reading this at SMCM I’ll see you at the White Room (theatre).

Peter Dinklage

“I like playing the guy on the sidelines. They have more fun.” — Peter Dinklage

[Image courtesy: MTV]

[Image courtesy: MTV]

Peter Hayden Dinklage was born on this day in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. in 1969. He is 44 years old.

He is the youngest child born to Diane an John Dinklage. He attended Delbarton School then  received a degree in drama from Bennington College in 1991. He went on to study in London and Wales.

His stage work includes time at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic arts and shows Off-Broadway in New York, like:

  • The Killing Act
  • Imperfect Love
  • Richard III*
  • Uncle Vanya
  • A Doll’s House
  • Evolution

In 1995 he made his film debut in Living In Oblivion. He played an actor who resents being cast as a dwarf in a dream sequence. He calls the movie inside the movie’s director — Steve Buschemi — on the blantantly campy choice.

“Why does my character have to be a dwarf? … Is that the only way you can make this a dream? Put a dwarf in it? Have YOU ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know any one who has had a dream with a dwarf in it?’ NO. I DON’T even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I’ve seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this…” [dialog from Living In Oblivion]

Cover of "The Station Agent"

Cover of The Station Agent

His breakthrough movie was The Station Agent. Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a man who inherits a defunct, rural train station.  He…

moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own personal loss.    [IMDb]

The movie won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award. Dinklage was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award  and a Screen Actors Guild Award for the role.

[Image courtesy: Bing]

[Image courtesy: Bing]

He followed that with smaller roles in such films as:
  • Elf
  • Find Me guilty
  • Surviving Eden
  • The Baxter
  • Escape Artists
  • Lassie
  • Penelope
  • Death at a Funeral
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

And starring roles in smaller movies like:

  • Pete Smalls is Dad
  • I Love You Too

In between he built his television resume with guest spots and recurring story arches on shows like:

  • Threshold
  • I’m With Her
  • Life As We Know It
  • Nip/Tuck
  • 30 Rock
{Image courtesy: HBO]

{Image courtesy: HBO]

In 2011 he took on the role of Tyrion Lannister, the drinking, womanizing, black sheep of the powerful, rich Lannister family in Game of Thrones. He sums up his character in this exchange…

Dwarfs don’t have to be tactful. Generations of capering fools in motley have won me the right to dress badly and say any damn thing that comes into my head….Let me give you some counsel …Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” [Geroge R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones]

Dinklidge won an Emmy  and Golden Globe (along with other acolades) for his performance as Tyrion.

[Image courtesy: Bing]

[Image courtesy: Bing]

Next up for the actor, besides another season of Game of Thrones, are:

Personally I’d like to see him in a period drama. Might I suggest the role of Mr. Benson in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth?

I was seriously thinking of choosing Tyrion Lannister for this Saturday’s Secondary Character. But then Dinklage went and had his birthday today, so I went with a bioBLOG instead.  Unfortunately there’s a lot NOT to like about Game of Thrones (the way women are treated / portrayed, the violence, the graphic … well everything, the author’s amoral determination to casually and cruelly kill off just about every honorable character) but Dinklage’s Tyrion is fantasic gem.

Dinklage visiting the NPR studios  [Image courtesy: NPR] [Yes Maggie, I put this on in just for you.]

Dinklage visiting the NPR studios [Image courtesy: NPR] [Yes Maggie, I put this on in just for you.]

• ritaLOVEStoWRITE Secondary Character Saturday: Ned Stark.

* I don’t know which role he played in Richard III, but oh how wonderful he would be as Richard. Am I right?

Idina Menzel 5.30.13 Thought of the Day

“I’ve been singing since I was born. It’s something I do everywhere I go. In the shower, walking down the street. I don’t need any impetus to do it. I just sing” — Idina Menzel

English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside t...
English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside the Today Show studios following an appearance and performance promoting the release of her debut Warner Bros album “I Stand.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Idina Kim Menzel  was born in Queens, New York City, New York, in  1971. She is 42 years old.

She is one of two girls born to Helene and Stuart Mentzel. She grew up in New Jersey and Syosset, New York. She attended the Tisch School of the Arts and earned her Bachelors of fine Arts from New York University.  A singer since childhood Menzel began to perform professionally at weddings and bar mitzvahs as a teenager.

She had her first Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes of fame as Maureen Johnson in RENT in 1996. She originated the role in New York Theatre Workshop and moved with the show to Broadway. Menzel later played Maureen in the 2005 movie version of the play. She earned a Tony nomination the role.

Here’s Take Me or Leave Me...

Menzel had a string of smaller, but successful gigs both on and off Broadway  (including: Tha Vagina Monologues, Aida, The Wild party, Summer of ‘42, and a Hair encore concert) but she really defied gravity with her second big role as Elphaba in Wicked.

The show, based on the Gregory Maguire novel, hit the Great White Way in 2003. She won the 2004 Tony for her role as the green witch.

Her post Wicked stage resume includes See What I Wana See, Chess and Nero. Next year she will return to Broadway to open in Tom Kit and Brian Yorkey’s musuical If/Then.

In 2008 Menzel released I Stand on Warner Bros. Records. The album is a …

powerful collection of exquisite new songs written by the Tony Award winning actress/singer/songwriter…filled with pop tunes and heartfelt ballads—intimate yet universal stories of life, its challenges, relationships and of course – the subject of love. [Idena ]

Here’s Brave from I Stand:

She tours domestically and internationally to promote both her original work from the album and her Broadway work.

Most recently Menzel has appeared on television’s Glee’s.

Summer fun with Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

The BSF's Summer with Shakespeare: Performance Workshops take place  July 29 - Aug 16.

The BSF’s Summer with Shakespeare: Performance Workshops take place July 29 – Aug 16.

If you:

  • live near Baltimore, Maryland,
  • are kid about to start 3rd to 12th grade,
  • and you like Shakespeare

… boy do I have a deal for you!

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is offering three, one week long workshops that will allow kids to experience what it might be like to travel back in time to the 1600s and be a part of the fun and excitement of Shakespeare’s acting company–The King’s Men. The BSF’s  “Summer with Shakespeare:Performance Workshops” will help students develop acting skills, make friends, build confidence, and develop an appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare’s work.

The campers will:

  • Work one-on-one with professional actors and educators
  • Learn and practice the same acting techniques Baltimore Shakespeare Factory uses in its productions
  • Study Shakespeare’s poetic language in ways that make it easy to understand, and learn how to use to enrich performance
  • Bring some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters to life!

“Shakespeare is a wonderful platform to get the kids active and engaged in group activity that stretches their imaginations as well as their ability to interpret complex language.  And it is a ton of fun!” says Wendy Meetze, Director of Education for the BSF.

This is the second year for the camp in Baltimore City (the camp is held in the Meadow at Evergreen House on Charles). The group, which began in Carroll County, hosted a similar camp starting in 2006 and have taught over 500 students. That Carroll County camp is still going strong on the campus of Century High School.

Students come in all shapes, sizes and from various backgrounds and skill levels. “Kids who are interested in theatre are especially attracted to the workshops” says Meetze, but “we truly believe there is no “typical” Shakespearean student or audience member. Shakespeare wrote for EVERYONE in his time, from peasants to princes.”

The camp will offer a small group setting with lots of one on one coaching. As a non-musical theatre performance camp the focus is squarely on the script, something that sets this camp apart from other performing arts camps in the area. “While the outcome is a production, the curriculum is a healthy mix of various skills needed to make that production a reality,” said Meetze. The campers perform their production prior to the professional company’s Friday performance. “We find the kids learn so much more by comparing and contrasting their version to a full production. There have certainly been occasions where our professional actors have discovered something new during the student’s performance!”

For more information on the camp, including a link to register  CLICK HERE.

Summer clipping

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory  is dedicated to bringing the works of William Shakespeare to life for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. In Shakespeare’s time (1564-1616), the theater was accessible to everyone, and The Factory prides itself on continuing that tradition by presenting professional quality work at affordable prices.

This year, the group, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, will present Hamlet and Mid Summer Night’s Dream this summer in the Meadow at Evergreen House on Charles Street and at other locals around town.  Click HERE for Hamlet’s schedule. Click HERE for Mid Summer’s Schedule.

Factory productions bring Shakespeare’s works to life in a way that is accessible to modern audiences without compromising the cornerstone of their artistic and literary merit—Shakespeare’s original language. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is built on a love of language, and productions are designed to not only help audiences understand Shakespeare’s words, but to love them, too.

This year the BSF launched it’s “4 free, 4 ever!” campaign which hopes to raise $750,000 by April , 2016–the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death> This will allow the group to present its shows at no cost to the public the following season.

Play on 4 free

L. Frank Baum 5.15.13 Thought of the Day

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity.”– L. Frank Baum

[Image courtesy: xyz
[Image courtesy:]

Lyman Frank Baum was born on this day in Chittenango, New York, USA in 1856. today is the 157th anniversary of his birth.

Frank was the seventh of nine children born to Benjamin and Cynthia Baum. The Baums were wealthy. Benjamin made his fortune in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. And Frank grew up happy at the family estate of Rose Lawn. He was a shy child, and, because of a “weak heart,”  he was home schooled for most of his life. He loved to read and spent hours in his father’s library. He didn’t like classical fairy tales — their goblins and villains were too scary — so he made up his own stories and shared them with his brothers and sisters.

When he was twelve his father… hoping to toughen Frank up and cure him of his ‘daydreaming,’ sent him to the Peekskill Military Academy. Baum was miserable there for over a year, and the only results of the experiment were a physical (and possibly also psychological) breakdown, and a lifelong aversion to both formal education and the military. [The Oddness of Oz]

Once home he turned to creative writing. His father bought him a small printing press and, along with his little brother Harry, “he started his own newspaper, the Rose Lawn Home Journal” [the Literary Network]. Frank filled the pages, honing his craft by cranking out articles, fiction and poetry. Other publications included Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers’ Directory an 11 page  booklet for amateur philatelist and The Poultry Record in which Baum wrote about Hamburg chickens. “He would also write about the raising and breeding of chickens in The Book of Hamburgs. (1896)” [Ibid]

He became fascinated with acting and the theater.

He developed an intense and enduring fascination with the theater. In 1878, he began to work as a professional actor. Four years later his father bought him a small dramatic company, and Baum was soon adapting and starring in a romantic melodrama, The Maid of Arran [The Oddness of Oz]

Baum as Hugh Holcomb in Maid from Arran. [Image courtesy: Hungry Tiger]
Baum as Hugh Holcomb in Maid from Arran. [Image courtesy: Hungry Tiger]

But Baum had bad luck in almost every business endeavor he put his hand to. The Maid of Arran was a moderate success, but while he was touring with the play his theater back home (the one his father bought him) burned down. The company lost the building, all the sets and costumes, and all of the scripts (except those they were traveling with). Ironically the Baum play that was running at the time was called “Matches.”

Other short-lived opportunities soon soured. And he struggled for long-term success. In 1882 he married Maud Gage. Now he had a family to provide for. The time of being a daydreamer were over.

The family moved Aberdeen, South Dakota where he opened a department store, Baum’s Bazaar. The store failed — Frank let people have too much store credit. He became an editor of The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where, after the Massacre at Wounded Knee, he wrote (what one hopes was) a Swiftian inspired modest proposal that all Native Americans be exterminated…

“Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

He tried his hand at managing a baseball club and worked as a buyer for a department store. Nothing seemed to stick.

Baum moved the family to the Humboldt Park neighborhood of  Chicago in 1891. He worked as a reported for the Evening Post, edited a magazine on window displays and worked as traveling salesman.

In 1897, he finally started to have some success with his writing.   Mother Goose in Prose, stories based on traditional Mother Goose poems paired with lovely Maxfield Parrish illustrations, sold well enough that he could quit his door-to-door salesman job. Two years later Baum published Father Goose, His Book this time with W.W. Denslow as his illustrator and had even greater success.

Cover of the first edition of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz [Image courtesy:]

Cover of the first edition of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz [Image courtesy:]

In 1989 he wrote the Wizard of Oz. It was published in 1900, again with Denslow as illustrator, and cost $1.50 a copy.

Unlike other books for children, The Wizard of Oz was pleasingly informal; characters were defined by their actions rather than authorial discourse; and morality was a subtext rather than a juggernaut rolling through the text. []

Baum wrote 13 more Oz books (some coming as frequently as one a year.) He had done more than write a best seller, he had created a new genre of fiction… The American Fairy Tale.

He wrote dozens of other books, from Dot and Tot of Merryland to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to his last book Phoebe Daring: A Story for Young Folk, but the Oz books were his bread a butter best sellers.

The family moved to Hollywood, California and Baum tried his hand at making silent films with the creation of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. He wrote, directed and acted with the company which used experimental film effects to capture some of Baum’s fantastic themes. He also  worked with the Uplifters theatre troupe.

L. Frank Baum died of a stroke on May  6th, 1919.

“To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing

that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.”

–L. Frank Baum

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wond...
An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, also known as The Wizard of Oz, a 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katharine Hepburn 5.11.13 Thought of the Day

“. . . as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”–Katharine Hepburn

From Woman of the Year [Image courtesy: Wikimedia]

From Woman of the Year [Image courtesy: Wikimedia]

Katharine Houghton Hepburn was born on this day in Hartford, Connecticut, USA in 1907. Today is the 106th anniversary of her birth.

She was the second of six children born to Thomas and Katharine Hepburn. Her father was a urologist, her mother was a suffragette. Her parents “encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential.” [IMDb] She decided to become an actress while attending Bryn Mawr College.

Upon graduation  in 1928 (she got her degree in history and philosophy) she went to Broadway  where she got a number of small roles before starring as Antiope, the Amazon princess, in A Warrior’s Husband in 1932. The same year she made her first film A Bill of Divorce with John Barrymore. She won her first Academy Award for 1933’s Morning Glory.

Hepburn was always her own woman. She wore pants, but didn’t wear makeup. She spoke her mind and she certainly didn’t fit into the Hollywood starlet mold. That made for a difficult road for the actress in the mid to late 1930’s. Although she had a few stage and screen successes  she struggled until she starred in The Philadelphia Story on Broadway in 1938.

Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphi...

Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphia Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She quickly bought the film rights, and so was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars. The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940), was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again. For her next film, Woman of the Year (1942), she was paired with Spencer Tracy, and the chemistry between them lasted for eight more films, spanning the course of 25 years, and a romance that lasted that long off-screen. (She received her fourth Oscar nomination for the film.) Their films included the very successful Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957). [Ibid]

Cover of "The Hepburn & Tracy Signature C...

Cover via Amazon

By the 1950’s she was pegged for more mature roles like Oscar nominated role opposite Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.

She won her second Oscar opposite Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Tracy’s last movie) in 1967. And repeated the walk down the red carpet to pick up Oscar #3 the following year for The Lion In Winter.

Hepburn added more TV work to she schedule in the 1970s, but still found some plum film work  including Rooster Cogburn and On Golden Pond. She won her 4th Oscar for Golden Pond.

From On Golden Pond [Image courtesy: The]

From On Golden Pond [Image courtesy: The]

Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, 2003. She was 96 years old.

Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day Part two

[Continued from Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part One]


The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush (1925) (Photo credit: quicheisinsane)

Having fulfilled his contract with National, Chaplin  was free to work on independent projects for United Artists, a group he formed with  Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D. W. Griffith in 1919. With the Gold Rush in 1925 he made the movie he wanted to be remembered by.


Through his work, Chaplin came to be known as a grueling perfectionist. His love for experimentation often meant countless retakes and it was not uncommon for him to order the rebuilding of an entire set. It also wasn’t rare for him to begin with one leading actor, realize he’d made a mistake in his casting, and start again with someone new…But the results were hard to refute. [Biography]


The Tramp working on the giant machine in the ...

The Tramp working on the giant machine in the film’s most famous scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Modern times

His later films include City Lights, 1931, Modern Times, 1936 and The Great Dictator, 1940. He made a half dozen more films (most noteably Lime Light co starring Buster Keaton) but they paled  in comparison to his earlier work. No one, it seemed, was interested in Chaplin sans bowler hat and mustache.


Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictat...

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator (with “double cross” emblem in background and on cap). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chaplin’s personal life was always in the spot light. He was married 4 times to women decades his junior. He had numerous affairs with his leading ladies. He didn’t join the British Army in WWI (which caused a lot of controversy back home in England. –Chaplin had registered for the draft, but had not been called up. He also worked for the War effort raising money through Liberty Bonds and producing propaganda films — but it wasn’t enough to satiate the flag waving mania sweeping his home country.) He was never afraid to voice his political views and after The Great Dictator (with it’s brilliant, but preachy six-minute closing speech) he was branded a radical. In the 1950’s he was a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee who “saw him as a nonconformist and therefore a communist.” [] When he tried to return to the States after a trip  abroad he was denied entry. (He went to live in Switzerland.)


Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland - Project ...

Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland – Project 1/365 (Photo credit: Airflore)

He stayed away… until 1972 when he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award. He was given a 12 minuted standing ovation at the ceremony.


Chaplin also composed music. He wrote the songs “Smile” and “This is My Song” along with 500 other melodies.


After finishing his last film A Countess from Hong Kong … he composed the music to many of his silent movies, among them The Circus,… The Kidand A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate [IMDb]

Charlie Chaplin died of a stroke on Christmas morning 1977.




  • 1929 WON Special Academy Award “for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Actor Oscar  for his dual role in The Great Dictator.
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Writing Oscar for The Great Dictator..
  • 1948 Nominated for Best Screenplay Oscar for Monsieur Verdoux.
  • 1972 WON Special Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he  has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”.
  • 1973 WON The Academy Award for Best Original Score for Limelight. (The film had not been released in the US until 1972).

CLICK HERE for Charlie Chaplin Part One


Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part ONE

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” — Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 -- p...

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 — pre-1923 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on this day in 1889 in London, England. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

He was practically born to the stage. Both his parents were musical hall entertainers. His father, Charles Chaplin, Sr.  was a singer and actor, his mother, Hannah Chaplin — her stage name was Lily Harley — sang light opera. The marriage didn’t last long, and Chaplin, Sr. abandoned the family when Charlie was an infant. He had two half brothers. Sydney Hill Chaplin was four years older than Charlie and was born to Hannah a year before she married Chaplin, Sr. (who was not his father.) Hannah had another baby, George Wheeler Dryden in 1892, by entertainer Leo Dryden. Sydney and Charlie hardly knew this brother, however, because Leo took the boy away when he was 6 months old. George didn’t resurface until his mid thirties.

Hannah continued her stage career for a few years, but…

in a performance that would introduce her youngest boy to the world of performance, Hannah inexplicably lost her voice in the middle of a show, prompting the stage manager to push the five-year-old Chaplin, whom he’d heard sing, onto the stage to replace her…[Biography]

The audience loved little Charlie, but it was a disaster for Hannah…

Her singing voice never returned and she eventually ran out of money. For a time, Charlie and Sydney had to make a new, temporary home for themselves in London’s tough workhouses. [Ibid]

Hannah was in and out of mental institutions until 1905 when she was committed permanently. With the exception of one disastrous stint with their alcoholic father, the boys were left to fend for themselves,  and, eventually, thrown into the workhouse. Sydney was trained as a seaman, but both boys wanted to act. Charlie charmed his way into a clog dancing group called the Eight Lancashire Lads in 1897.

It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could…”I (was) newsvendor, printer, toymaker, doctor’s boy, etc., but during these occupational digressions, I never lost sight of my ultimate aim to become an actor,” Chaplin later recounted. “So, between jobs I would polish my shoes, brush my clothes, put on a clean collar and make periodic calls at a theatrical agency.” [Ibid]

His first play was  Jim, a Romance of Cockayne by H.A. Saintsbury in 1903.  Although the show closed after two weeks Chaplin’s comedic performance  as the newsboy received good reviews. Real stage experience came later that year with a 2.5 year run with  Sherlock Holmes in which Chaplin played the Page-boy.

He toured with a vaudeville outfit named Casey’s Court Circus and in 1908 teamed up with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, where Chaplin became one of its stars as The Drunk in the comedic sketch, A Night in an English Music Hall. [Ibid]

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charle...

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charles Spencer Chaplin tomada en Estados Unidos, durante su juventud, en un momento en el que, como se aprecia, se encontraba al natural, tal como era, sin los clasicos caracteres que usaba para protagonizar a su recordado personaje de cine mudo Charlot. Français : Charles Chaplin, acteur américain, célèbre pour son personnage Charlot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He twice came to America on tour with the Karno troupe and film producer Mack Sennett promptly signed Chaplin to a contract for a $150 a week with Keystone Pictures. Chaplin didn’t like his first film, Making a Living, and it wasn’t a hit, but he was singled out for his comic timing and presence.

He wanted to create a persona that made him stand out from the crowd of comedic actors at Keystone, so he borrowed Fatty Arbuckle’s pants, Ford Sterling’s size 14 shoes and Arbuckle’s father-in-law’s bowler to invent the Little Tramp. The Tramp made his debut in  Kid Auto Races at Venice.

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (...

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (1917) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charlie yearned for more creative input in his film and finally got a chance to direct in 1914. With the caveat that Chaplin would return $1,500 to producer Sennett should the film fail, he helmed Caught in the Rain . (He did not have to return the money. )

When Keystone wouldn’t give him a raise (he wanted $1,000 a week)  he went to Essanay Film Manufacturing Company  (they gave him $1,250 a week.) He made 14 films with Essanay.

By the age of 26, Chaplin, just three years removed from his vaudeville days was a movie superstar. He’d moved over to the Mutual Company, which paid him a whopping $670,000 a year. The money made Chaplin a wealthy man, but it didn’t seem to derail his artistic drive. With Mutual, he made some of his best work, including One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond(1916), and Easy Street (1917). [Biography]

He got a million dollar deal with First National Exhibitors’ Circuit to make 8 films. (His brother Sydney was his financial manager by then, and he was instrumental in making the deal.) Two of the eight movies broke the old show business rule about not working with children and animals, and those films — The Kid and A Dog’s Life were two of Chaplin’s best.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click HERE for Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part TWO

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