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Chaplin and American Culture

This is the first book focusing on the relationship between Chaplin and American public that was perhaps the stormiest in the History of American Stardom. Charles Maland traces the ups and downs of Chaplin’s star image from 1913 when he began his movie at Mac Sennett’s Keystone Studio to the 1980’s when his “Charlie” figure emerged in an advertisement campaign for personal computers. Examining the interplay between Chaplin’s reputation and the vicissitudes of the American political ans social climate, the book analyzes the cultural forces that led to the spectacular growth of his popularity, to the even more dramatic collapse of his reputation and his twenty year exile in Switzerland, and finally his restored prestige.

Who Fashioned the Chaplin “star image”? Maland shows that the film industry, the press, the public, and Chaplin himself created the complex and shifting set of meanings, attitudes, and mental pictures that represented not only Chaplin the man but also “Charlie” and the other characters he brought to life. Maland also makes it clear why bearer of such an image had to pay such a high price for breaking American norms: during the 40s Chaplin popularity was shattered both by a sensational paternity suit, in which the FBI and Hedda Hooper played prominent parts, and by the publicity given to his controversial progressive politics.