Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow

While M. Verdoux is gazing with satisfaction upon the headline announcing the “natural” demise of his foe, Inspector Morrow (should really be Moreau if you want him to sound French, Charlie), he meets an old friend, The Girl.

Things still aren’t going so well with her but she’s more cheerful. Verdoux practically has to force money upon her.

It’s kind of another filler scene — it suggests that The Girl suspects something is up with Verdoux, but her suspicions don’t really go anywhere, and the scene could be cut without affecting anything.

Chemistry — despite not going through with his human guinea pig scheme, Verdoux is still a keen professional poisoner, and he has Martha Raye to assassinate. A woman much in need of assassination, from one point of view, but on the other hand, a human being. Despite her loudness and annoyingness, by virtue of her being comical she mustn’t actually be murdered. But the alternative, Verdoux mixing a venomous porridge that causes the maid’s hair to fall out, isn’t particularly funny. It makes me think of Aussie Rasputin variant HARLEQUIN, which has an unpleasant jape with caustic floor cleaner swapped for shampoo. It isn’t too much funnier here, and suggests a misogynist streak in Chaplin more forcefully than the whole uxoricide theme.

(The reason the public didn’t like the film, I suspect, is not because it isn’t very funny in places, or because it’s a comedy about wife-killing, it’s because Chaplin had been married and divorced a few times — it feels like he might be dramatising a personal fantasy, although I don’t think that’s really what it’s about.)

Verdoux accidentally poisoning himself is pretty funny, though — not to him, of course. He doesn’t like the shoe being on the other foot, even though Chaplin has made an entire career wearing his shoes on the wrong foot. And if the maid losing her hairy isn’t a laugh riot, Martha Raye’s overstated reaction, followed by Chaplin’s, do take the curse off it a little.

After some more filler material with a doctor, Chaplin hits the lake — and that’s a scene I can be more enthusiastic about.



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