Chaplin, Lodwick & Vivien Leigh

I cannot resist passing onto my readers Walter Benjamin’s description of the end of Chaplin’s The Circus  (SPOILER ALERT):  “The most wonderful part is the way the end of the film is structured.  He strews confetti over the happy couple, and you think, This must be the end.  Then you see him standing there when the circus procession starts off; he shuts the door behind everyone, and you think:  This must be the end.  Then you see him stuck in the rut of the circle drawn by poverty, and you think:  This must be the end.  Then you see a close-up of his completely bedraggled form, sitting on a stone in the arena.  Here you think the end is absolutely unavoidable, but then he gets up and you see him from behind, walking further and further away, with that gait peculiar to Charlie Chaplin; he is his own walking trademark, just like the company trademark you see at the end of other films.  And now, at the only point where there’s no break and you’d like to be able to follow him with your gaze forever  —  the film ends.”  (This is from a fragment written by Walter Benjamin and included in an anthology of his works from The Belknap Press of Harvard under the title The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and other writings on media, edited by Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doerty and Thomas Y. Levin, 2008.)

Keith Lodwick on Vivien Leigh at work

Keith Lodwick of the Theatre and Performance Galleries of the Victoria and Albert Musem in London:  “…she was very keen to deglamourize herself if the part called for it [for example, Blanche in the film of A Streetcar Named Desire]…going to great lengths to look like the role, and that was a very brave thing to do.”

Mr. Lodwick made this observation during an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon who, in his introductory remarks, had said that Vivien Leigh was one of the great stars of all time.  Both Lodwick and Simon showed a gratifying appreciation of Vivien Leigh’s vast talent and her special and historical place in popular culture,

The occasion of the interview was a fall 2013 exhibit at the Museum in London, featuring Vivien Leigh’s diaries and letters, some photographs, and her annotated film scripts and play texts.

Many thanks to Mr. Lodwick for his kind permission to quote his remarks.  My own thanks also to my collaborator BKG for alerting me to the exhibit.

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IF YOU ARE IN NORTHEAST OHIO John Ewing continues his full-retrospective celebration of the great Hou Hsiao-hsien this weekend at the Cleveland Cinematheque and the Cleveland Museum of Art.  Check on line for days and times:  http://www., and

Next FRIDAY post June 5

Until then,
See you at the movies,


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