On Charles Chaplin’s Birthday

Irina Pino

Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid  (1921).
Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (1921).

HAVANA TIMES — April 16th was the anniversary of Chaplin’s birth. The date went uncelebrated by Cuban television, which didn’t even pay tribute to the actor by airing one of his films. I consider this an unforgivable omission.

The Tramp has been a kind of amulet that inspires us to fight against anything we consider unjust, oppressive, discriminatory and humiliating. The character in this film is a human being that encourages human and spiritual values, that standardizes truth rather than wealth.

I’ve grown up next to this immense figure, next to the man and the character, who are ultimately the same person. Facing extreme poverty during childhood and adolescence, having been raised in a world of theater performers (his parents were music hall artists) he found the ideal environment for his early maturity. With a sick mother interned in an asylum, he led a haphazard, nomadic life that give him the determination to struggle for survival.

He had innate talent, which he nourished though observation and hard work, distancing himself from the industry to make his own films in an independent fashion.

Driven by perfectionism, he wrote, directed, acted in and composed the music for his films, which exhibit incomparable originality.

I haven’t met anyone who is immune to his charms, who isn’t drawn into his stories, peopled by simple, flesh-and-blood characters, who doesn’t laugh and reflect at the same time. It is a unique experience, stepping into the skin of Charlot or any other character Chaplin played, feeling that we are on the other side, that we are part of the story and wish to help the character overcome his problems.

Beauty and attention to detail are characteristics of his films. The profoundness of his ideas, conveyed through images that, though silent, express life’s episodes truthfully.

The transition from silent to sound cinema did not represent a barrier to his work or its distinctive language, developed within a social context from which he never distanced himself, and which led him to raise the banner of the dispossessed. A refined satirist, he criticized inequality, Nazism and other no less terrible “isms.”

His work will live on thanks to the intensity of its feelings, the effort to rescue humanity from its dark side. Love, solidarity, happiness, pain and death: all of these color his legacy and make it eternal.

His phrases had the conviction we find in something like: “Never forget to smile, because one day you do not smile is one day lost.”

“Life is a play that does not allow testing. So, sing, cry, dance, laugh and live intensely, before the curtain closes and the piece ends with no applauses.”

We will never say goodbye to Chaplin. We will continue to see him embrace The Kid, his sublime tenderness on receiving a flower from the woman who has regained her sight in City Lights, making buns dance in The Gold Rush or while playing and tearing pillows apart out of love and joy.

4 thoughts on “On Charles Chaplin’s Birthday

  • Maybe TV didn’t recognize it but we did! We watch Charlie all day and concluded with The Circus which I only watch on Charlie’s Birthday. Great article!

  • This is my profile picture for Chaplin events.

  • This is a beautifully written tribute to the great Charlie Chaplin. I was intrigued to hear Irina’s thoughts, how she relates to The Tramp and to Chaplin, given her life in Cuba. Yes, it is unfortunate that Chaplin’s birthday went unrecognized, but through articles like this, perhaps that will change the tide. I hope so. Thanks for writing this, Irina, on behalf of a life-long fan of Chaplin.

  • I remember one of my favorite childhood movies was The Gold Rush, 1925 film by C.C. He was investigated by FBI for over 30 years, and it was said that FBI has spend more money and effort to investigate him than the Mafias.

    Another reason to believe the freedom promised by the U.S.

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