Charlie Chaplin (1951)

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■ ■ X I V Chaplin's method By now Chaplin's method of working had crystallized and his films were the full artistic expression of a single mind. The basis of his technique had been de- rived, as we have noted, from D. W. Griffith via Mack Sennett: the reliance upon improvisation on the set in- stead of a written script, photographing scenes from many angles and retaking if necessary, narrative and dialogue in terms of action and pictorial effects, the use of re- vealing pantomime or what Griffith termed "attitudes," building up of effects through editing, etc. Chaplin saw "The Birth of a Nation" nearly every week during its long Los Angeles run. Such scenes as the homecoming of the Little Colonel (where only the arm of the mother is shown reaching out and drawing her wounded son into the door of their damaged home) left their mark on cinematic expression. In his last years Griffith proudly repeated Charlie's comment that the couple of dead bodies in this film had been far more telling than the whole abattoir in "Gone With the Wind." The inspiration for Chaplin's comedies came from in- cidents or characters observed in everyday life. A visit to a department store suggested "The Floorwalker"; obser- vation of nrehouse routines led to "The Fireman"; meet- ing Jackie Coogan inspired "The Kid"; encounters dur- ing his trip around the world furnished ideas for "Mod- ern Times"; etc. All his films are built on real back-