Greetings HH followers – I know I’ve slightly neglected you all recently, but I have been busy working on my new film on 100 years of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Get excited. I have also written a not-insubstantial article on the subject for the Norwich Film Festival, which you can view by clicking the taster-text below, if it takes your fancy. It not only features an actual illustration by me (Jack of all trades etc), but also outlines what you’ll see in the film – so check it out.
From culturally illiterate education minister Michael Gove’s humourless panning of comedy classic Blackadder Goes Forth, to the banal, Buzzfeed-esque ten point summary of the war by BBC historian Dan Snow (great-great-grandson of war-time Prime Minister Lloyd George) – there has been a concerted effort to reinvent the horrors of WW1’s mechanised conflict as not only necessary, but actually a bit of a lark.
Caught recently in the crossfire of this ideological conflict, having characteristically stumbled into a tricky situation not of his making, is Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp – who reached his own historical landmark last month. The beloved character, who first appeared on screens in February 1914, is no stranger to this historical process himself of course. The Tramp, once revered by the poor and reviled by the rich as a figure of rebellion, has become so shrouded in historical mystification that he can be warmly remembered by the very people he was once a statement against. Even the Daily Mail, who backed the Nazis around the time of Chaplin’s anti-fascist classic The Great Dictator (1940) now fondly remember the Tramp’s antics, in an ideological shift akin to Royalists 100 years from now warmly recalling that rascal Frankie Boyle’s jokes about the Queen’s haunted vagina!
Yet even now there is something troublesome about the man in the bowler hat, big shoes and baggy trousers – something that remains unreconciled with dominant accounts of history, which disturbs the rich and powerful. This is where Chaplin’s legacy enters the war debate...