Here’s to a century of Charlie Chaplin.
The silent film legend debuted his first movies in Feb. 1914 — 100 years ago, almost to the day. “Making a Living,” “Kid Auto Races at Venice,” and “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” were all released in theaters a little more than a week apart. And on Feb. 15, you can also watch these shorts in close proximity, when Park Slope’s Brooklyn Lyceum hosts “Charlie Chaplin: 100 Years in Comedy Films.”
“It all starts with Charlie Chaplin,” said Park Slope resident Trav S.D., the author of “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,” who is putting together the screening. “He was influential right away, kind of like the Beatles or Elvis or some other phenomenon.”
S.D. has been enthralled with Chaplin since childhood, thanks in part to the comic actor’s universal slapstick humor, with moves such as kicking people in the pants or characters thumbing their noses at each other.
“He was very irreverent and would go for a laugh in this very earthy way that people still respond to,” said S.D. “Because they’re silent, they learned to try and make a lot of laughter happen second by second. They have a madcap quality.”
In Chaplin’s first film, “Making a Living,” he portrays a reporter. It wasn’t until his second and third films, “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” and “Kid Auto Races at Venice,” that audiences met his famous “Little Tramp” character, in which the comedy great sported his signature mustache, derby hat, and cane. In “Kid Auto Races,” he also shows off his comedic skills as a drunk.
“Chaplin was one of the best comical drunks ever in movies,” said S.D. “He was just a really good clown.”
In between films, S.D. plans on giving introductions to the shorts, and will hold a Q&A and book-signing afterwards. Kids are encouraged to attend — given the slapstick nature of movies, S.D. hopes they might even fall in love with Chaplin as he did as a child.
“It’s important for young people to know who Charlie Chaplin was,” said S.D. “He was one of the most famous people of the 20th century.”
“Charlie Chaplin: 100 Years in Comedy Films” at Brooklyn Lyceum (277 Fourth Ave. at First Street in Park Slope, brooklynlyceum.com), Feb. 15 at 3 pm. $5.