Charlie Chaplin (1951)

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cc 294 war is the logical extension of diplomacy; M. Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business. He should express the feeling of the times we live in—out of catastrophe come people like him. He typifies the psycho- logical disease of depression. He is frustrated, bitter, and at the end, pessimistic. But he is never morbid; and the picture is by no means morbid in treatment. . . . Under the proper circumstances, murder can be comic." His treatment of the subject he felt was in ''good taste." When "Monsieur Verdoux" opened on April 11, 1947, more than six years after the last Chaplin film, its critical reception was divided and its box-office reception disas- trous. Critical comment ranged from blast to eulogy: "It has little entertainment weight, either as somber symbol- ism or sheer nonsense. ... It is also something of an af- front to the intelligence" (Howard Barnes in the Herald Tribune)', "The film is staged like an early talkie with fairly immobile camera, self-conscious dialogue, acting that looks like the late twenties ... an old-fashioned production, almost quaint in some of its moments" (Ei- leen Creelman in The Sun); "It is permanent if any work done during the past twenty years is permanent (James Agee in The Nation); and "Totally successful. . . a landmark not only in Chaplin's long career but in the progress of the American screen" (Lewis Jacobs in Cin- ema). The picture became a cause celebre for a small group of intellectuals who found much depth and significance in it, but the general public was not entertained. It had a very short New York run and in many other places it was banned. Ohio theatre owners proposed to make their ban nation-wide. The Memphis Tennessee Board of Cen- sors barred it as "a comedy that makes murder a joke." Catholic War Veterans picketed it in several cities. Loew's, Inc., however, in barring it from their circuit, denied having been swayed by pressure from any group.