'Monsieur Verdoux': Charles Chaplin Subversive Sentimental Comedy

Monsieur Verdoux Charles Chaplin Martha Raye'Monsieur Verdoux' with Charles Chaplin and Martha Raye.

'Monsieur Verdoux': Charles Chaplin movie stolen by Martha Raye

In The New York Times, J. Hoberman discusses Charles Chaplin's 1947 (oxymoronically) sentimental black comedy Monsieur Verdoux – my favorite Chaplin movie, partly because of its subversiveness, but mostly because of Martha Raye's presence. (Curiously, Hoberman completely ignores Raye in his article.)

“One spell was broken and another cast: the world's most beloved clown became his adopted land's most reviled figure,” writes Hoberman. “As the cold war coalesced in 1947, Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp mutated into the monstrous Monsieur Verdoux, a professional bigamist and serial killer supporting his family by marrying and dispatching a succession of wealthy widows.

Monsieur Verdoux, opening Friday for a weeklong run at New York City's Film Forum, is subtitled 'A Comedy of Murders,' and, as the French critic André Bazin observed, it turns the Chaplin universe upside down. The erstwhile tramp is here an honest bank clerk driven to homicide by the 1929 stock market crash. Condemned to death at the movie's end, he declares his crimes paltry compared with those of Western civilization: 'As a mass killer, I'm an amateur by comparison.' ”

Post-Monsieur Verdoux Charles Chaplin

Following Monsieur Verdoux, Charles Chaplin would make only one more movie in the United States, Limelight, a 1952 production that would be released in the Los Angeles area two decades later. A King in New York (1957) was a British production, while A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) was an Anglo-American collaboration, with the backing of a major American studio – Universal Pictures – thanks at least in part to the film's two major international stars: Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando.

Overall, Charles Chaplin directed a total of only five talkies. Prior to Monsieur Verdoux there was the 1940 release of The Great Dictator, in which Chaplin played an Adolf Hitler look alike, Jack Oakie was a Benito Mussolini caricature, and Paulette Goddard was both Chaplin's romantic interest and a representation of The People.

Charles Chaplin, Martha Raye topline Monsieur Verdoux movie cast

Besides Charles Chaplin and Martha Raye, the Monsieur Verdoux cast features Marilyn Nash, Isobel Elsom, Marjorie Bennett, Mady Correll, Irving Bacon, Virginia Brissac, and William Frawley (later of I Love Lucy fame). If the IMDb is to be believed, Monsieur Verdoux also features several silent film players in bit roles, among them Gertrude Astor, Franklyn Farnum, Barry Norton, Frank Reicher, and Wilbur Mack. Also listed as a Monsieur Verdoux extra on the IMDb is frequent 1910s Chaplin leading lady Edna Purviance, though she reportedly is not in the film.

Also worth noting is that the basic idea for Monsieur Verdoux is credited to Orson Welles, who wanted to make a movie starring Charles Chaplin as serial-killer Henri Désiré Landru a.k.a. Bluebeard.

Charles Chaplin, Martha Raye in Monsieur Verdoux: Charles Chaplin / United Artists.

'Monsieur Verdoux': Charles Chaplin Subversive Sentimental Comedy © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

Leave a comment about ''Monsieur Verdoux': Charles Chaplin Subversive Sentimental Comedy'


Don't waste time and energy disagreeing with and/or being deeply offended by the presentation of factual information.

On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to disagree with and/or, if you're so inclined, to be deeply offended by the views & opinions (and/or likes & dislikes) found on this site. And to let us know about any omissions or, heaven forbid, errors.

Just bear in mind that *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative.

In other words: Feel free to add something reasonable & coherent – AND fact-based – to the discussion.

Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped and offenders may be banned.

And finally, links found in comments will generally be deleted.

Most recent comments listed on top.