Who Invented Chaplin’s Tramp?

The evolution of Charlie Chaplin’s most famous character—and the woman who helped shape it. On actress-director Mabel Normand and her effect on Chaplin’s work:

“When Chaplin became the Tramp on Normand’s watch, he also learned to be a movie actor. As Sennett put it, Normand, ‘the greatest motion-picture comedienne of any day, was as deft in pantomime as Chaplin was… She worked in slapstick, but her stage business and her gestures were subtle, not broad.’ Normand, the first movie star actress who wasn’t stage trained, hadn’t been taught the comic conventions of the theater, or to project to the back of the house. She had a movie-bred patience for living in the moment. She was a movie star because while she was beautiful, she let you see inside, and people liked what they saw. Movies are supremely intimate, and Normand was consummate at drawing people in, and holding them. We can watch Chaplin learning Normand’s delicate skills.”

Published: May 7, 2012
Length: 16 minutes (4,053 words)
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