"Humour heightens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity” – Douglas Fairbanks quoted Charles Chaplin when he presented an honorary Oscar to the artist in 1972.
Fairbanks continued by underscoring Chaplin's humour and humanity, the bonding elements of his artistic conscience and unparalleled talent as an actor, writer, director, producer and composer. "Chaplin is more than a name; it is a word in a dictionary. Anyone who has ever seen a movie is in his debt," Fairbanks continued.
It is worth adding that in 1999, Times magazine listed Chaplin as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, placing him alongside figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Nelson Mandela.
During his 75-year career and while making millions laugh, Chaplin created many immortal characters, yet the iconic Little Tramp, personified by Chaplin himself, is among the best-known and the most studied cinematic characters of all times. Recognised by his distinctive appearance, baggy pants, moustache, bowler hat and a cane, Chaplin described this recurring vagabond as "a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, and a lonely fellow always hopeful of romance and adventure."
It is in celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of the world's most renowned film artist and the centenary of creation of the Tramp, that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's Arts Centre will screen Chaplin's four iconic features, ranked among cinema's most important works of all times: The Gold Rush (1925), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940) and Limelight (1952).
The first appearance of the Tramp was in the 1914 movie Kid Auto Races at Venice directed by Henry Lehrman where Chaplin played the role of the tramp. It was Chaplin himself who infused the character with appearance elements, gags and behavioral traits that were yet to be recognised in many movies directed by the artist.
The Little Tramp is also the protagonist of The Gold Rush, and returns as a worker struggling in the industrialised world in the Modern Times. Chaplin used some characteristic of the tramp persona to draw parallels to the appearance of Adolf Hitler – particularly his moustache – and to challenge the dictator's behavioral traits with the utopian idealism of the tramp in The Great Dictator, his first fully all-talking film.
And though characters of Chaplin's movie Limelight do not borrow much from the little tramp, the movie was awarded Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score 20 years after its release. The film's score was composed by Chaplin in collaboration with Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell and was released in 1952 during the most turbulent times of the artist, when he was accused of affiliation with the communists and refused entry to the USA. Though the film was very popular across Europe and Japan, it had to wait until 1972 to be finally screened in Los Angeles becoming eligible for the Oscars award, alas with Rasch and Russell receiving the recognition posthumously.
"The Charlie Chapin retrospective is an idea proposed by Samir Farid, renowned film critic and BA Consultant for Cinema Affairs. We celebrate one of the most important artists and definitely an unprecedented pillar of the international cinema." Ahmed Nabil, responsible of the BA's film programming commented to Ahram Online, comparing the artist to inventor Thomas Edison due to the many creative cinematic inventions that should are attributed to Chaplin.
"The Alexandria retrospective touches on the several talents of Chaplin," Nabil continues, adding that he comes as an amazing actor infusing his character with many theatrical skills in Limelight, and a director that aimed at an absolute perfection in the Gold Rush, a film that had many scenes reshot in a new location that Chaplin found to suit the production more.
"Chaplin was a multifaceted artist, whose talents were equally captivating in his performance as an actor, director and a musician. Probably the only artistic role that he did not play in his life is one of a cameraman," Nabil adds.
The Charlie Chaplin retrospective will screen four movies on four consecutive days between 19 and 22 October, at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's auditorium hall at 8pm.
Sunday 19 October
The Gold Rush (1925)
USA - Fiction - 95 min.
Monday 20 October
Modern Times (1936)
USA - Fiction - 87 min.
Tuesday 21 October
USA - Fiction - 137 min.
Wednesday 22 October
The Great Dictator (1940)
USA - Fiction - 125 min.