Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Battle Royale #5 - Battle of the Silent Clowns

For our fifth of Battle Royale, we are going to go back to that age-old debate that has been bantered back and forth by cinephiles and film buffs and classic movie lovers for more than eighty years now - Chaplin vs. Keaton.  Granted, this is probably a pretty tired debate by now, but here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World we care not a whit about such things.  We want to know...no, we demand to know who is the greatest - Chaplin or Keaton.  This can stand as the be all and end all of this perennially back-from-the-dead debate.  After this, we will have our definitive answer to the persistent question of Chaplin versus Keaton.  No more will ever need be spoken or written on the subject.  This will be it people.  This will be it.  But I digress.

Yes, there was Harold Lloyd and there was Fatty Arbuckle.  There was Max Linder and there was Laurel and Hardy.  But let's face it, the kings of silent comedy were the Little Tramp and the Great Stone Face.  Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  Both comic actors/writers/directors began their career as children upon the vaudeville stage - Chaplin at five and Keaton at just three - and would eventually become masters of their craft.  Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975) and Joseph Frank 'Buster' Keaton made some of the best and funniest films of their era.  Granted, Chaplin's era went quite a bit longer, but this has nothing to do with talent or lack thereof.  Personally I have always found Keaton the better gag writer and the straight-out funniest, but Chaplin has always been the better overall filmmaker.  Both The General (Keaton) and City Lights (Chaplin) are amongst my personal favourite films of all-time.  This has always been a rather divisive issue amongst cinephiles, so let the fireworks burst.

Here and now it is your turn to make the decision.  So all you Keaton buffs and Chaplin fans get out the vote.  Just go on over to the sidebar poll and choose the silent clown (and more) that you like the best.  The poll will go on for two weeks before we announce a victor.  And please remember that you can make as many comments here as you wish (and please do) but in order for your vote to count, you must vote in the actual poll.

8 comments:

Nat Segaloff said...

Chaplin was the better actor, Keaton the better reactor; Chaplin was the better director, Keaton the better filmmaker. Keaton's films play better today than Chaplin's, I think because, in the McLuhan sense, Keaton is 49 percent while Chaplin is 51 percent.

Tom Gooderson-A'Court said...

I'd pretty much agree with the comment above but would add that I prefer Chaplin's films overall but I get the bigger laughs from Keaton's. It's his reactions to the world around him that are what make him so great for me - as well as his stunt work.

FlickChick said...

Ack - Sophie's choice!!!! But, as much as I love Buster, he is brilliantly one dimensional. Chaplin had courage, vision, and reached that place in our hearts that transcends words.

Alex Gein said...

The General.

Anonymous said...

I go back and forth whether Chaplin's sentimentality makes his films better or worse than Keaton's best. Probably better...I guess. They certainly are more cinematic, but perhaps not as cerebral or reflective of the medium as something like Sherlock Jr. (which anticipated so much that followed).

David Newhouse said...

Keaton was an incomparable comic and a far better director. But Charlot's impact on 20th century art and society is almost unmatched among any other figure in film. Vote: Chaplin. - David N.

Kevyn Knox said...

David - Keaton was the better comic, but he was not the far better director. I was once asked how I would present our case for worthy survival if we were attacked by aliens. My response was to show them the final scene of City Lights. If anything will prove our worth as humans and save our skins, it would be that.

x-ray iris said...

Mmmmm ... going to have to go Chaplin with much respect to Buster.