(Sir) Charles (Spencer) Chaplin G. W. Stonier - Essay

G. W. Stonier

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I do not think that [Chaplin] is a great genius or that in a hundred years' time his films, if they still exist, will excite the amusement they do to-day; but of this I am certain, that no other living person, writer or actor, exhibits as truly the particular element of city life which we call Cockney.

In this sense he is in the long tradition of English humour, starting with Chaucer and ending in the last century with Dickens and the music-halls…. His material is of the slightest, his tricks are the commonplace of every vaudeville comedian, he has created only one character, and that a theatrical one; yet he is as much above the Robeys and Fratellinis as Bach is above the usual village organist. None of his films, not even The Gold Rush or The Circus, can be properly judged by a standard which is purely artistic. That is not to say that Mr. Chaplin is not an artist, for he undoubtedly is, in his treatment, for instance, of pathos, and in the direction of his latest films; but all those positive qualities, which made him popular fifteen years ago, are as remote from any literary or artistic standard as a music-hall performance or a holiday fair.

G. W. Stonier, "Charlie Chaplin," in New Statesman (© 1928 The Statesman Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. XXI, No. 778, March 24, 1928, p. 763.