A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
necessitated his wearing boots of an abnormal size and caused him
to move along the street in a ridiculous manner.
His dignified gravity mingles with ludicrous childishness. The
merriment, the laughter, the foolery, arise out of the simple situations
which he invents and which are far removed from the stale and
ancient formulae of unsuspectingly falling down street manholes
and having sticky custard puddings flung pat upon one's face. This
tramp with shiny, creaseless trousers yet with whimsical self-respect
is often solemn yet never dull. The artistry, the construction, the
production, the direction, the detail of his films are all perfect.
One can see here that Chaplin is far more exacting about his own
work than the critics themselves. He is not merely an artist alone but
a man tortured by the quest of perfection which haunts true genius.
The dumb show of pantomime is more telling in his hands than
all the verbal expressions of other actors. After all, primitive men
understood each other by means of sign and gesture for many ages
before they learned how to talk in sounds and words. Silent acting
is thus among the most ancient of the arts. Chaplin's unmoving
lips are more eloquent than speech and if ever he begins to talk on
the screen I fear for the result. His dumb show is far better than his
conversation could ever be. Let us hope that this frail figure in its
tight-fitting ludicrous frock coat will never break its muteness, which
is more attractive than the bright sallies of others, yet I am afraid
the talkies are too irresistible and will conquer him yet.
May heaven help him to preserve his silence, for financially it
will be his best move. The Asiatic and the African, who now com-
prehend his pantomimic gestures, will fail to comprehend his words
once he begins to talk: that will bring dissatisfaction into their
minds, and with that the beginning of their hero's downfall. His
motto, artistically, should ever be the old tag: "Silence is golden,
speech is silvern."
It is strange and symbolic that the year of his birth saw also the
birth of Edison's Kinetoscope, which was the forerunner of the
modern motion picture camera.
Chaplin's rise to fame was almost as milaculous as his acting.
A single turn of fortune's mysterious wheel brought him, a little
flushed and dazed, before two continents within a few months.
From being an obscure actor's son, he became the Chief Clown to this
planet. The lessons he learnt during the days of sordid poverty
reveal themselves in those little incidents of the screen stories which
make him beloved by the poorer classes everywhere, and which fill
their hearts with laughter and moisten their eyes with tears. They
pass through the inescapable tribulations of life a little happier for
having seen his pictures. And if the latter do not generally end with