Chaplin, the Movies, and Charlie Essay - Critical Context

David Jacobs

Critical Context

Chaplin, the Movies, and Charlie has been popular with young adult readers because it deals with two things that young people instinctively enjoy: comedy and motion pictures. Jacobs undertook the writing of this book as a labor of love in more than one sense: He loved Chaplin and he wanted to introduce the great comedian’s films to his daughter Alben, who was only seven years old when he started taking her to see Chaplin’s films in New York City. Like many parents, Jacobs had the double pleasure of enjoying films that he had seen in his youth and seeing them vicariously through the eyes of his young child.

Jacobs considered his daughter to be his collaborator for this biography, an unusual approach that probably would be attempted only by an author with Jacobs’ professional qualifications. By sharing his ideas with his daughter and by trying to incorporate her impressions as well as his own into his biography, Jacobs has created a work that is sympathetic to young readers. His aim is not to be didactic or sententious but to introduce a great comedian to readers who may know of Chaplin only by name and to offer information that is intended to maximize the enjoyment of his films.

Jacobs presents only enough of the facts about Chaplin’s life to make the reader aware of the connection between his art and his personal experience. The natural effect of Jacobs’ book is to make the young reader want to see more of Chaplin’s films. Fortunately, the development of videotapes has made it much easier to view these classic comedies than it was when Jacobs published Chaplin, the Movies, and Charlie in 1975.