Jérôme Larcher takes us through Chaplin’s extraordinary life, pausing at key points to survey the cinematic and social landscape. His major works have their turn under the spotlight, with Chaplin’s iconic characters deconstructed with The Tramp in particular commented on by Andre Bazin and Chaplin himself.
As Chaplin was at the forefront of cinema through its early development it is the story behind the scenes, battles with outlandish figures from old Hollywood and the discovery of a muse in Edna Purviance there is much to be learned about the man and the industry he helped popularise and instill in the public consciousness.
There is no doubting the majesty of Chaplin’s work, but there is more to the man beyond the early films, and Larcher’s book is particularly illuminating on the final films, notably 1952’s Limelight.
How to contain the mighty Orson Welles in one book? Paolo Mereghetti gives it his all here and the result is a rich and captivating look at the mercurial, theatrical life of Orson Welles.
Pleasingly Mereghetti starts with Welles’ radio career before joining his meteoric rise in Hollywood to his later years, through his Shakespeare adaptations and ‘exile’ when he produced some of his greatest and most divisive work.
With an expected focus on the world of Citizen Kane, in particular the expectation and legacy of the troubled relationship between director and studio the early section of the book is a lot of fun, I’m a fan of Welles’ earlier films and the productions of The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey into Fear are also covered in detail with, something which each of the Masters of Cinemas collection benefits from, lots of images from the films and behind the scenes. The text sidesteps the obvious and there are useful insets with additional information, for example about the life of William Randolph Hearst.
As with the Chaplin book above the most interesting section comes at the end with a look at Welles at the end of his career, having changed cinema forever, with the productions of Chimes at Midnight, The Immortal Story and F for Fake show a still furious creative presence under varying degrees of control. An iconic figure of cinema, Welles has the last word with a description of one of his final projects The Other Side of the Wind, which is a fascinating story that never made it to the screen.
An illuminating look at an incredible story of a life in cinema, Welles’ genius and explosive talents made for a great life and this book is an excellent and thorough examination of the man and the legend.
For more information and to order any of these books click here to go to Phaidon Press At £5.95 each you can’t go far wrong.