Charming Chaplin

Charles Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux (1947), in a new 35mm print, will be shown at Film Forum for one week, June 13 to June 19, at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30. Chaplin (1889-1977) is supported by Martha Raye, Isobel Elsom, Marilyn Nash, Mady Correll, Irving Bacon, William Frawley and Charles Evans. The film was originally titled A Comedy of Murders, and the idea was reportedly suggested by Orson Welles, though it may have also been based on the real-life Parisian serial killer Landru, the subject of several French films.

Chaplin and Raye do a takeoff on the rowboat scene in Josef von Sternberg’s An American Tragedy (1931) that is even funnier than the one Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca performed on television. Chaplin’s stunned reaction to Raye’s signature raucous laughter in a later scene is one of his most hilarious sight gags in the talkie era. Forget the artistically and politically myopic reviews of the time (with the notable exception of James Agee’s complete rave) and its subsequent flop at the box office. It is a masterpiece. See it. 

asarris@observer.com