Charlie Chaplin (1951)

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"Monsieur Verdoux" 295 Joseph Vogel, general manager of the Loew's chain, ex- plained that the picture lost money: "It's amazing how little the Chaplin picture could do. . . . Maybe what they want is the old clown." In this reception to "Monsieur Verdoux" many felt that the man was being attacked through his film. Chaplin ordered United Artists to withdraw the picture from fur- ther distribution after a disappointing two years in which it played only 2,075 dates and grossed a mere $325,000 in domestic rentals. Normally a Chaplin film could count on between twelve thousand and thirteen thousand dates and an average of $150 an engagement. In Europe the picture was better received and w T as awarded prizes. Except for three scenes, in which the obstreperous Annabella participated (Chaplin created the part with Martha Raye in mind), and occasional flashes of droll wit, there is little in "Verdoux" of the sort of comedy associated with Chaplin. Nor is its social criticism new or revolutionary. As Parker Tyler points out in the Kenyon Review: "One might, from the broad view, even call it paltry. In certain radical circles, not necessarily politically denominated, 'War' as 'a business,' which is Chaplin's chief indictment of modern society in 'Monsieur Ver- doux,' is a hoary platitude and in itself not heating to the blood. But patently it is a considerable novelty on the movie screen, w T here it is stated verbally by Chaplin in the bluntest possible terms and with a bitterness of into- nation carrying with it, astonishingly enough, a grain or two of smugness. Monsieur Verdoux's death-cell justifica- tion is to assert that his crimes of having murdered some fifteen innocently bigamous wives for their money has been only a small private enterprise compared with the wholesale murder of wars. A certain naivete, naturally, appears amid the coarse integument of the comic murder- er's too serious 'last words.' " Yet Chaplin must be commended for attempting some-