The Sunnyside Intertitle

Full dissection of SUNNYSIDE soon.

it’s 1919. Chaplin has married, unwisely. Either she married him for his money or the career boost or love (David Robinson favours the middle option, but supplies no definite proof), but at any rate the honeymoon period ended quickly and the Chaplins find themselves living largely separate lives. “No mental heavyweight” is Chaplin’s summation of his bride in his memoir.

Chaplin describes making SUNNYSIDE as being “like pulling teeth,” and blames his marriage for doing something bad to his creative process. He was able to marry several more times without the same creative crisis, so Glen David Gold, in the novel Sunnyside, blames the block on Hannah Chaplin, Charlie’s mentally ill mother, joining him in California. It seems credible. So does the claim that Hannah’s illness was caused by syphilis, though diagnosing the long-departed is a dicey business. If true, it means that Charlie’s fear that he himself would suffer a permanent mental collapse were unfounded, since the illness would likely have showed itself before adulthood if he had it.

So much for the spirochetes. What we’ll be embarking on is a breakdown of what’s generally agreed to be Chaplin’s weakest film of the period, a movie that proceeded in a series of fits, starts and abortions, far more so than the usual fraught process, and ended with the film not so much finished as abandoned, with the funniest scene left on the cutting room floor for inexplicable reasons.

First, though, Charlie and I both need to wake up.

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