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April 16: Happy Birthday Charlie Chaplin and Peter Ustinov


0416ChaplinUstinov

Our two headliners today were photographed together in 1965 when Chaplin was honored with the Erasmus Prize.

Sir Charles Chaplin (1889-1977) was one of the most influential filmmakers ever.  He grew up in poverty in England and with a father who died when he was about eleven, and a mother who had to be committed to an insane asylum, he had to largely support himself beginning in his early teens.  Fortunately, his natural talent for acting quickly became apparent and he was able to find work with a variety of theater groups.  In 1910, theater impresario Fred Karno selected Chaplin as part of a troupe that went on an American tour that lasted nearly 2 years.  By 1913, Chaplin had been invited to join an American film company, and relocated to the US.

Chaplin soon developed his most famous screen persona, the Little Tramp, a somewhat bumbling but good-hearted man, frequently a vagrant, who struggles against adversity with varying degrees of success.  The Tramp featured in dozens of short films beginning in 1914.  In 1919, Chaplin was one of the co-founders of United Artists, and soon began making the string of silent features that are his biggest claim to fame.  The Little Tramp was featured in most of them—The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, etc.

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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Moon River”


With this year’s Academy Awards telecast coming up on the 26th, I will be sharing some Oscars content over the next two weeks, right up until the day of the actual event. This will include a daily feature emphasizing some of the greatest songs to win a statuette in the Best Original Song category. These are going to reflect tunes which are my own favorites, but not all of the ones I really like and in no particular order. I tried to arrange them into some sort of ranking at first, but found that the exercise was both maddening and time consuming. Only songs which actually won the award will be included, so you won’t be seeing anything about “Everything is Awesome,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “The Look of Love,” or “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Today’s song is certainly one of my favorites in the bunch. I love it for the beautiful simplicity of its melody and lyrics and for the wonderfully unadorned way in which it is presented in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I also love the story of how it was written.
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