I was okay with The Real Charlie Chaplin, a Showtime doc by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. All my life I’ve been fascinated by the Chaplin saga…his well-known genius, traits, peccadilloes, contradictions and dark sides. I was especially keen on absorbing whatever might might come forth about his glory years — roughly the quarter-century between the mid teens and the release of 1940’s The Great Dictator.
There are a few renactments, which I despise in documentaries. I managed, however, to put this resentment aside for the most part.
The film charts his gradual decline starting in ’51 or thereabouts, when Chaplin, falsely accused of being a Communist and previously under fire for personal behaviors regarding younger women, was officially informed that he would not be allowed back in the U.S. If #MeToo had been a thing back then, Chaplin would’ve been roasted on a stick. But even without it, Chaplin’s fall from grace was quite the historical fork in the road.
In keeping with this general tone of candor, I was naturally expecting that the doc would explore the horrific making and calamitous release of Chaplin’s final feature film, The Countess From Hong Kong (’67), which starred Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. And yet oddly, this misbegotten romantic comedy is completely ignored.