Monsieur Verdoux

I spent a lot of time grading papers.  I walked pretty slowly and didn’t quite finish.  I went over to the record store and bought the Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of “The Seventh Seal” and a vinyl copy of John Fogerty’s first album.  I watched Charlie Chaplin’s “Monsieur Verdoux” again.  I had forgotten that Martha Raye was in it. She seemed to be playing a role that was like Paulette Goddard.  It’s funny how Verdoux tells his son not to pull on his cat’s tail, and that he is a vegetarian.  It’s really amazing how he can rationalize his actions, but then all people are in denial about themselves.  His actions are despicable, but most of us root for him because the women around him are foolish.  The first shot of the movie is a cemetery, and staring at it seemed to give it a 3D effect.  I had the same feeling seeing the trees in “The Emigrants.”  I big flaw in the print of “Monsieur Verdoux” is a black streak which is quite distracting.  Generally, though the movie does look good in high definition.  The music on the soundtrack I had heard before, and I was trying to recall whether it was from “Modern Times” or something else.  I noticed some ideas that were modified from “Modern Times” and “The Great Dictator.”  There is a woman who is down and out while Verdoux is flying high, and their roles are reversed late in the story.  That seemed like a touch of “City Lights” right there.  Verdoux’s speech at the end was like the negative image of the barber’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator.”  One scene had Verdoux drinking some wine that he thinks is poisoned.  That made me think about the cocaine in “Modern Times.”  Charlie’s characters are often ingesting things that are unknown and harmful.  I thought that scene was funny, and so was Verdoux trying to avoid Annabella at the wedding.  Edna Purviance was an extra, and it might have been interesting to see her in a bigger role.  I thought one strange thing is that we see a photo of Verdoux, and then it somehow accidentally gets thrown into a fire.  A lot of things in this movie happen off camera.  Verdoux seemed awfully aggressive and suspicious when he first pursued Marie Grosnay.  When Verdoux spared the girl he brought from the street, it made me think of “No Country for Old Men.”  The situation of the main character being married to different women made me think of Blake Edwards.  Some of the people pursuing Verdoux seemed inept in the manner of Inspector Clouseau.  Martha Raye sometimes reminded me of Sandra Bernhard.  One notable person in the cast was William Frawley.  Whenever I see him, I think of how he died after seeing a Natalie Wood movie.  Most of the magic that Chaplin had left in him after “The Great Dictator” went into this movie.  He hadn’t quite reached the point where he would talk too much, and there is the right balance of comedy with the darkness.  It was really apparent that he went into some uncharted territory when his main character gave himself up in order to die.  This is in such contrast to the end of “Modern Times.”  Charlie had gone from being the most popular person in the world to something much less by this time of 1947.  The U.S. isn’t a country for dark comedy, generally.  It wasn’t the case in 1947, and I still don’t think Americans get this kind of humor today.  It’s not something for the heartland.  “Little Miss Sunshine” had its appeal a few years ago, but even that wasn’t for everyone.  The theft of a dead body isn’t good for laughs everywhere.  It would be five years until Chaplin’s last American film, “Limelight,” would be released.  It took him more than two years to write the screenplay.  Like “Monsieur Verdoux,” it would be financially unsuccessful, at least in the United States.  Chaplin had become too controversial and unpopular at that point.  I’m still rather fond of “A King in New York” because I first saw it during happier times.  “A Countess from Hong Kong” certainly is not great, but it brings back some good memories, too.  Some of the people who died on May 27 include Niccolo Paganini (1840), Jeffrey Hunter (1969), Jeff Conaway (2011), and Gil Scott-Heron (2011).  Today is a birthday for Louis Gossett, Jr. (80).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 27, Frank Sinatra made his television debut with Bob Hope in 1950.  In 1957, Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” single was released on Brunswick Records.  In 1977, the Sex Pistols’ single “God Save the Queen” was released.  In 1995, Christopher Reeve suffered the accident at an equestrian competition in Virginia that resulted in a spinal cord injury and paralysis.

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