It is, I think, a measure not merely of Chaplin’s art, but of his really incredible ego, that one simply cannot find an article that presumes to criticize him—or even to view his life and work with decent objectivity—which does not begin as this one has: apologetically.
In 1966, Chaplin granted several extensive interviews to journalist Richard Meryman for a Life magazine article to promote 'A Countess from Hong Kong.' Only a small portion of Meryman's taped interviews was ever published. A copy of the complete transcript, from which this excerpt was taken, is preserved in the Chaplin Archives.
In 1949, the film critic James Agee published his influential essay “Comedy's Greatest Era,” in which he recounts the golden years of silent comedy and proclaims that the genre’s “four most eminent masters” were Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon
The Tramp. The Little Fellow. Naturally the obituaries were full of those terms, full of references to the bowler-hatted, cane-swinging, corner-skidding outsider who had become one of the perdurable icons in the collective mind of the world. All true; still it’s not quite enough. Yes, the Tramp is now a deathless image. Yes, he made us laugh and cry and presumably always will.
Charlie, who represents to such an extraordinary degree the whole human race caught in its habitual rattrap, does kick off his shoes, and we are abundantly convinced of the validity of his gesture of invincibility.
After nearly thirty years, then, of playing one character in one set of clothes, Chaplin takes on a double role. The subject of the film is thus new to him, or shall we say it is a new and advanced branch of his old subject, the dictatorship of the powerful and cruel over the humble and the dispossessed?