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Scott Eyman

Autor(a) de John Wayne: The Life and Legend

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About the Author

Scott Eyman is the literary critic of the Palm Beach Post and has written for numerous publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of numerous books including Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer, Print the Legend: The Life mostrar mais and Times of John Ford, Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise, John Wayne: The Life and Legend, and Pieces of My Heart with Robert Wagner. (Bowker Author Biography) mostrar menos

Obras por Scott Eyman

Associated Works

Pieces of My Heart: A Life (2008) 263 exemplares
A Day of Silents 2023 : (December 2, 2023, Castro Theatre) (2023) — Contribuidor — 1 exemplar


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Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Scott Eyman, a prolific biographer of figures from Hollywood’s so-called golden age, always wanted to write about Charlie Chaplin, but he admits in the acknowledgments to this book that he had a bit of a problem: “… bookshelves groan under the weight of books about Charlie Chaplin, and I didn’t have an approach. What could be said about him that hadn’t already been said?”

Considering the age of alternative facts we’re living in, Eyman found a timely angle: “Focus on the process by which Chaplin segued from the status of beloved icon to despised ingrate; focus on him being converted from one of America’s prized immigrants to a man without a country.”

And while Eyman does indeed focus on the scarifying process of Chaplin’s downfall, hastened by a press campaign as unloosened from the facts as Fox News on a daily basis, he does backtrack to give an underpinning of biography in his Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art Sex and Politics Collided.

That’s good for those of us who have not previously scanned that groaning bookshelf and have less familiarity with Chaplin’s oeuvre than we’d like to admit. So we’re taken back to Chaplin’s early days in England, growing up with alcoholic and largely absent father, a mentally unstable mother, and a life of grinding poverty and days in Dickensian workhouses.

One way out for the young Charlie and his older brother, Sydney, was in performing on the music hall stages of the day. Once he crossed the Atlantic he took those performing skills to vaudeville, and by 1914 he was a contract player with Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio. A suggestion by Sennett that Chaplin head to wardrobe for some kind of getup to enliven a scene being worked on led to the creation of Chaplin’s the Tramp character.

That gradually, but fully, launched his rags to riches story, as he graduated from bits in two-reelers to owning his own studio and turning out classics like “The Kid,” “The Gold Rush,” “The Circus,” “City Lights” and “Modern Times.”

It was when Chaplin left the U.S. for Europe in September 1952 to promote his latest film, “Limelight,” that his re-entry permit was revoked. It was the beginning of his exile from the U.S.

What led to such a point? Eyman spells it out in well-researched detail. Chaplin had two strikes against him, as least as far as his antagonists in the press were concerned—his refusal to become a U.S. citizen, and his penchant for women far younger than he.

Neither a crime, mind you. But the former became entwined with Chaplin’s progressive leanings, his production of “The Great Dictator” before WW2 (when the U.S. was still in an isolationist mood), and his suggestion during the war that a second front be opened to help out Russia, then our allies. The isolationist mood had gradually evolved into an anti-communist stance, and Chaplin was repeatedly suspected—without a shred of proof—of being Communist.

Hedda Hopper presided over a cabal of columnists—Westbrook Pegler, Walter Winchell, Ed Sullivan—the social media influencers of the day, who worked Chaplin over for a decade. And they had help; their fulminations led to countless FBI investigations of Chaplin. The agency, then headed by J. Edgar Hoover and operating on rumor as much as fact, occasionally fed back to the columnists suspected leads from their files. Files which eventually ran to 1,900 pages, all of them read by Eyman, and none of them conclusive of any kind of wrongdoing on Chaplin’s part.

Chaplin’s numerous divorces, well-publicized affairs and a messy paternity case (of which he was innocent, yet found guilty), only fed into a distorted picture of political and moral turpitude. His marriage to Oona O’Neill, when he was 53 and she was 18, did not tamp the flames.

Never mind that the marriage lasted the rest of Chaplin’s life. So did his exile, though he did return to the U.S. in 1972 to accept an honorary Oscar, all presumably forgiven by then. Chaplin died five years later.

Eyman spends a good deal of time showing us Chaplin at work on the stellar films leading up to the 1952 rupture, and the less than stellar work that followed, proof, he says, that, “Chaplin’s forced exile destroyed him as an artist.”

That such a tar and feathering could be fashioned out of pretty thin air is an infuriating tale and, one might suggest, a cautionary one. But it’s difficult to tell where to apply the caution.
[A version of this review, with illustration, appears on my website, here: http://theaposition.com/tombedell/golf/lifestyle/9678/charlie-chaplin-man-withou...
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tombedell | 20 outras críticas | Jan 22, 2024 |
Born in the UK, Charlie Chaplin, his brother, and mother, were in and out of the workhouse. Determined to rise out of poverty, Charlie began working as an actor and comedian. He quickly gained popularity, moved to America, and developed the character of the Little Tramp. He never lost the fear of poverty, and quickly gained the reputation of a miser. Additionally, Charlie loved younger women, causing a scandal with his affairs and marriages. In the beginning of the Red Scare, Charlie was labeled a communist, a charge he greatly denied. When he and his wife left the country on vacation, his reentry permit was revoked and he was denied entry back into the US.

The book was a bit slow. The author focused the story around Charlie's projects and movies, spending little time on his personal relationships. Charlie himself was a bit of a chameleon, constantly redefining himself depending on who he was speaking too. This made for a pretty evasive character. I never really got to know Charlie. Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.
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JanaRose1 | 20 outras críticas | Jan 22, 2024 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Scott Eyman ‘s Charlie Chaplin vs. America presents Chaplin’s life and art, especially his later work, focusing on the “cultural cold war” that attacked him artistically and personally.

America was staunchly isolationist when The Great Dictator came out, mocking Hitler and showing the horror of Fascism, the concluding speech extolling universal brotherhood. People concluded that Chaplin had to be a communist, even if no one could trace any link between Chaplin and the communist party. He was suspect of being a Russian sympathizer because he attended a concert by Dmitri Shostakovich or socialized with known communists.

He had lived in America for decades without becoming a citizen so had to be unpatriotic. (It didn’t matter that two of his sons were in the service, or that he bought war bonds.) Also disturbing was his penchant for teenage girls, making him morally suspect, and he had lived with Paulette Goddard as if married. When he was accused of fathering a child, a DNA test cleared Chaplin of being the father, but they were not yet accepted as evidence and he was ordered to pay support. He was attacked by newspaper columnists who shared every unsavory rumor.

Chaplin’s FBI file was nearly 2,000 pages and included unfounded accusations and disgruntled fan letters, with no clear evidence that Chaplin was anti-American, anti-capitalist, or connected to the communist party. Hoover was determined to nail him and finally several professional informants included him on their “communist sympathizer” lists. When Chaplin left the US for the European premier of Limelight, he was denied reentry to the States.

Eyman quotes Chaplin throughout the book, explaining himself as an anarchist, a progressive, a citizen of the world, and apolitical.

Chaplin found love and peace with Oona O’Neill, another teenager wife, who fell for him hard at first meeting. His last films were imperfect. But when his earlier films were reissued he was rediscovered, to great success. In 1972 he returned to the US and was given an honorary Oscar.

The perennial problems of fake news and muckraking, attacking well known figures, is still relevant today. Chaplin was a victim of the times. And he was also the victim of his own artistic vision that didn’t change with the times.

Chaplin emerges as a gifted artist whose personality was marked by his early poverty. He was demanding of perfection from others and himself. And he was generous, putting people on the payroll for life, and sharing his knowledge with his son’s fledgling theater group. He was brilliant, with an instinctual comic understanding. He was not perfect, and made some bad life and artistic decisions along the way. But what genius!

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC through LibraryThing.
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nancyadair | 20 outras críticas | Jan 15, 2024 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Decades before J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI connived for a pretext to deport a wealthy British ex-pat suspected of communist connections who also happened to be an influential, world-famous artist—that person was John Lennon and that attempt ultimately failed—a much younger Hoover and his then-cronies mounted a similar but far more effective crusade against an individual who in his time was even more consequential. That man was British-born Charlie Chaplin, Hollywood’s first truly global phenomenon, who while not deported was yet driven into permanent exile.
Author and film historian Scott Eyman sets out to tell that story and more in Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided [2023], an informative and entertaining if uneven portrait of a celebrated figure as devoted to his art as he was indifferent to the enemies he spawned along the way. Seizing upon Chaplin’s clash with the authorities over his politics as the focal point of the narrative, the author seeks to distinguish this work from numerous previous chroniclers of its prominent subject, with mixed results.
Chaplin, both a genius and a giant in the days when cinema was in its infancy, left an indelible mark upon the nascent motion picture industry. In the process, he attracted both critical acclaim and legions of adoring fans, as well as, with equal fervor, the scorn of moralists and the disfavor of those who viewed his brand of social consciousness as a threat to the American way of life. Like the later John Lennon, he was an outsize talent who eschewed convention, dared to take unpopular positions, flaunted a somewhat sybaritic lifestyle, accumulated enormous wealth, and was a legend in his own time—the very ingredients that stoked in alternate audiences parallel passions of adulation and abhorrence.
Anticommunism runs deep in the United States, from the “Red Scare” of the 1920’s to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)—a creature of the Depression era that was reborn with a fury in the postwar period—and the related excesses of McCarthyism, a nearly continuous stream of panic and paranoia that characterized American culture for decades that ostensibly aimed to identify enemies foreign and domestic but instead extra-constitutionally branded certain political thought as a crime. In the process, thousands of Americans and foreign nationals suffered persecution, ostracism and even imprisonment. A weaker dynamic by Lennon’s time, it nevertheless remained a force to be reckoned with for those so victimized. Something of anachronism, anticommunism yet still echoes into today’s politics. One of the faults in Eyman’s treatment is his failure to place Chaplin’s harassment for his alleged political sympathies into this wider context for the reader unfamiliar with its deeper historical roots.
Neither Chaplin nor Lennon were members of the Communist Party, but that was almost beside the point for authorities who deemed each as unwelcome, if only for their respective advocacies for a greater social and economic equality, which was seen as sympathetic to communist ideology. And there was a whiff of perceived disloyalty in their demeanors. Lennon was ardently anti-war. Chaplin, who styled himself a “peace monger,” was regarded as especially suspect because he never sought US citizenship; instead he railed against nationalism as a root cause of war, and imagined himself as a kind of citizen of the world. Alas, Chaplin had the bad fortune to find himself targeted in tumultuous times characterized by a populace both less sophisticated and more docile than in Lennon’s day. And he paid for it. Of course, as Eyman’s book underscores, objections to Chaplin’s way of life proved far more damning to him than his actual politics.
Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London in 1889 into abject poverty much like a character out of Dickens. Orphaned by circumstances if not literally, in his childhood he endured the dehumanizing struggle of the workhouse and for a time lived alone on the streets. His older brother Sydney was to rescue him and helped foster his budding stage presence in sketch comedy that eventually took him across the pond, first to vaudeville and later to Los Angeles, where he made his silent film debut. A master of the art of physical comedy, it was there that he invented the trademark character that would define his career and later cement his celebrity—the “Little Tramp,” a good-natured, childlike, sometime vagrant costumed in baggy pants, oversize shoes, and a tiny mustache—that would evolve into an endearing screen icon endowed with a blend of humor and pathos. The Tramp would later serve as the central protagonist for the very first dramatic comedies.
Chaplin was a wildly popular overnight sensation, which by 1915 made him, at only twenty-six years old, one of the highest paid individuals in the world. Just four years later, he joined forces with other leading lights to form United Artists, a revolutionary film distribution company that permitted him to fund and maintain complete creative control over his own productions. UA served as the critical vehicle that enabled Chaplin to write, produce, direct, star in, and even compose the music for a series of films that would make him a legend, including The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), and Modern Times (1936), all featuring the Tramp character. Favoring the subtle artistry of silent films over the “talkies” that came to dominate motion pictures, Chaplin stubbornly continued to produce silent (or mostly silent) movies long after that format had been largely abandoned by others. Eventually he moved to talkies with The Great Dictator (1940), a political satire that starred Chaplin in a dual role as a Tramp-like character and a farcical persona based upon Hitler. Later, he abandoned the Tramp in Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and comedy altogether in the semi-autobiographical Limelight (1952).
In his personal life, Chaplin was a bundle of contradictions. An extremely wealthy but socially conscious man, he was capable of great generosity towards those he favored, but like many who grew up in extreme poverty he could be stingy, as well. It was that childhood abandoned to the streets, according to Eyman and other biographers, that informed every aspect of the mature Charlie Chaplin, in his screen persona as well as his private life. A dominating perfectionist on the set who could be maddening for cast and crew alike with his demands for multiple re-takes of the same scene day after day, and productions that could go on for months or even a year, off camera he was moved by the inequalities of unbridled capitalism, and the plight of the disadvantaged. He advocated for greater economic equity and against the rise of fascism both on screen and off, which made him seem suspect to the powers-that-be, which was further exacerbated by clashes with puritanical movie censors that regarded him as openly flirting with immoral themes. That he was friendly with known communists and campaigned to open a second front to benefit the USSR in the wartime alliance against Hitler only heightened those suspicions and led to accusations that Chaplin himself was a communist or “fellow traveler.” He once received a subpoena to appear before HUAC, but he was never actually called to testify.
Physically tiny but handsome and charming, Chaplin was something of a womanizer who was frequently unfaithful and had a string of liaisons, sometimes with leading ladies, as well as a total of four marriages. He favored young women: his first two wives were each only sixteen years old when he married them, his fourth wife was eighteen and he was fifty-four when they wed. Other than his infidelities, he seems to have been kind and considerate to his various partners, and he often remained friends and sometimes a financial benefactor to former lovers. His third marriage to actress Paulette Goddard ended in divorce, but she then starred in his next film, and they got along amicably for years to come. The notable exception to that rule was his affair circa 1941-42 with the unstable and vindictive Joan Berry, which led to a career-damaging paternity suit for Chaplin. But he was a devoted and faithful husband to his final wife, Oona O’Neill, with whom he fathered eight children; they stayed together for thirty-four years until his death in Switzerland in 1977 at the age of eighty-eight. Still, the romantic scandals that dogged him—especially the poisonous courtroom drama that played out publicly in his disputes with Joan Berry—tarnished his reputation and bred a whole coterie of enemies in and out of Hollywood willing to work against him when the FBI set its sights on him as an undesirable alien.
As it was, while he championed social justice, Chaplin himself was remarkably apolitical. As the very archetype of the rags-to-riches story, he cited the inherent incongruity of accusing a man who made his fortune via American capitalism of being a communist. But already castigated for his alleged moral turpitude by the doyens of “respectable” society, as the Cold War dawned and the Soviet Union turned from former ally into existential threat, he was widely denounced by detractors and calls grew for him to be deported. Chaplin’s greatest weakness turned out to be his own naivety. When he left for London for the world premiere of Limelight, his re-entry permit was revoked. The grounds for this action were quite tenuous; had he contested it, it is likely he would have been readmitted. But he was so embittered by this affront that he remained in exile from the United States for the rest of his life, returning only once very briefly in 1972 to accept an honorary Academy Award for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century."
The problem with Charlie Chaplin vs. America is that despite what may have been his original intentions, it is not completely clear what kind of book Scott Eyman ultimately sent to press after he rested his pen. The subtitle presumes it to be a chronicle of Chaplin’s dual with the established order to avoid banishment, but that theme hardly dominates the plot. On the other hand, there is a wealth of material that hints at what could have been. Much print is devoted to Charlie’s childhood struggles on the streets of London, as well his grand success with the production of The Kid, but there is little connective tissue of points in between, leaving the formative Chaplin mostly conspicuous in its absence. So it cannot be termed an authoritative biography. Likewise, there are sometimes lengthy excursions to focus on a particular movie or a specific film technique, while others are glossed over or ignored. So it cannot be a critical study of Chaplin’s filmmaking. It is as if Eyman bit off far more than he wanted to chew and ended up uncertain what should be spit out, with some chunks of the account too fat and others too lean.
The result is a narrative that is sometimes choppy, with a tendency at times to clumsily slip in and out of chronology, and a penchant in places to fall into extended digressions—including an awkward multipage interview excerpt with a Chaplin associate that might better have been relegated to the back matter of notes or appendix. Still, warts and all, the book never grows dull. The reader may be left unsatisfied, but ever remains engaged. And, to his credit, Eyman succeeds superbly in capturing Chaplin’s personality, by far the most significant challenge for any biographer. That is in itself a notable achievement, especially with a subject as nuanced as this one.
J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, some twenty years after Chaplin’s re-entry permit was denied. John Lennon was ordered out of the country in 1973, but a New York judge reversed the deportation order in 1975. Earlier that same year, HUAC was formally terminated. After some quiet years, Lennon was making a musical comeback when he was murdered by a deranged fan in 1980. He was only forty years old. By then Chaplin had been dead for three years, at a ripe old age, but his creative juices had never really flowed the same way in exile. He made two additional films abroad, but neither lived up to his earlier triumphs.
Charlie Chaplin could be the most famous movie star in history whose films most Americans alive today have never seen, largely because even in my 1960s boyhood, when Chaplin still walked the earth, and when most broadcasts outside of prime time were devoted to old movies, silent films were already long passé, and most of his greatest films were silents. With that in mind, along with reading Eyman’s book I screened several Chaplin films: The Kid, City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator. I am neither film critic nor film historian, but I consider myself something of a film geek, and I confess that I was blown away by Chaplin’s brilliance in both The Kid and City Lights. While I can understand and appreciate its message and its impact upon release, I found The Great Dictator dated, overly long, and less entertaining. But I would judge Modern Times as not only magnificent, but so extraordinarily timely with its themes of technological oppression, automation, corporate capitalism, threats to individuality, and loss of privacy that it belongs as much to 2023 as it did to 1936. If there is a fault to be found in any of these efforts, it is that Chaplin’s absolute creative control denied him the editorial input that was warranted on occasion. There are slapstick bits, for instance, that while hilarious yet go on interminably. Someone needed to yell “Cut!” Even a genius, as Chaplin indubitably was, needs an editor.
So too, in my opinion, does Scott Eyman. A talented and prolific writer who has authored numerous biographies of stars who once peopled the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, Eyman’s prior accolades could very well be the reason that someone with a sharp red pen did not have the authority to carve out the potentially great book that lay within that sheaf of pages that went to print.

[Note: This ARC edition came to me through an early reviewers’ program.]

Review of: Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided, by Scott Eyman – Regarp Book Blog https://regarp.com/2023/12/19/charlie-chaplin-vs-america-when-art-sex-and-politi...
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Garp83 | 20 outras críticas | Dec 19, 2023 |



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