Thursday, January 8, 2015

Charlie and Elvis


I have always felt that Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley had very similar stories. Besides the fact that they died the same year, both were brought up very poor, found worldwide fame, suffered from depression, were deep thinkers, and very shy. Elvis' story is much more tragic, of course. Both had to deal with mass adoration but Elvis seemed to need more of an escape from it. Thus he died too young and too soon. But I digress...

In the early 1950s, a friend brought Chaplin a copy of Elvis' first record. Jerry Epstein recalls Charlie's reaction:
Charlie was always aware of the public. While at the Manoir in 1954, a friend visited him and brought him a record of a new singer called Elvis Presley. Charlie hadn't heard of him. "This man has made a sensation in the States," his friend said. "I can't understand it. He wiggles his hips and sings and people go mad." "If he's made such an impact," Charlie replied, "he must have something. You can't fool the public." --Remembering Charlie by Jerry Epstein

4 comments:

  1. I really like hearing what Chaplin had to say about it being hard to fool the public, and that Elvis must have something if he was getting such a big response. In some later interviews he comes across as rather dismissive of pop culture, especially in the Sixties with his comments about swinging London.

    I also like the comparisons you've drawn between Chaplin and Elvis. I think another similarity between Chaplin and Elvis was that they were both popularizers of forms that had been sort of marginalized; Chaplin helped make the movies a respectable art form that even high-brow critics could praise, while Elvis made African-American and country/gospel sounds palatable for a wider audience. And they're both still so iconic, whether it's Elvis's pelvis wiggle and his sneer or Chaplin's look and walk. Oh, and of course, they both enjoyed playing the role of lover/teacher to young girls. . .

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    1. Yes, can't forget that!

      I think history has been kinder to Chaplin as far as his image. Sadly, most people only remember Elvis as the fat guy in a jumpsuit. He was so much more.

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  2. I know! I read a very sad biography of Elvis that was written for teens, and it really seemed as if he lost his soul when he started making movies--he lost touch with his musical self and became a product rather than a creator.

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    1. I'm sorry, I'm just now seeing this comment. For some reason, I haven't been getting email notifications of comments.
      By the mid-1960s, he hated making those movies. And it seems other people (Col. Parker) were controlling his career & for some reason, Elvis didn't know how to say no to him. At least he was able to make a strong musical comeback in the late '60s-early '70s, but it was short-lived.

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