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Chaplin's Music Hall: The Chaplins and Their Circle in the Limelight

Chaplin's Music Hall: The Chaplins and Their Circle in the Limelight
Barry Anthony

Foreword by: Michael Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin grew up in and around the music hall. His parents, aunt and their friends all earned their precarious livings on the stage and Chaplin himself started out his career touring music halls with a dance troupe. His experiences of the culture of the music hall were a major influence, shaping his style of acting and the films he made, most famously Limelight, which tells the story of a failing variety performer and which evoked painful memories of his own past. Chaplin was horrified to see how performers' lives were ruined when their audience turned against them and he was relieved to exchange the stresses of live performance for screen comedy. Barry Anthony here tells the story of the lives and careers of Chaplin's family and their music-hall circle - from 'dashing' Eva Lester to the great Fred Karno and from Chaplin's parents Hannah Hill and Charles Chaplin to 'The Great Calvero' himself.

He reveals the difficult and often-tragic lives of London's variety community in the late-Victorian and Edwardian years, a time of great change in the music hall and entertainment scene, and in doing so sheds important new light on the inspiration behind Chaplin's genius, providing a fascinatingly fresh perspective on this popular cultural icon of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 | Overture – Across the Bridge
Chapter 2 | ‘Dashing’ Eva Lester – The Californian Gem
Chapter 3 | Little Lily Harley – Original and Refined
Chapter 4 | Kitty Fairdale – The Crème de la Crème of Terpsichorean Serio-Comics
Chapter 5 | Charles Chaplin – The Popular Metropolitan Comique
Chapter 6 | Arthur West – Topical and Extempore Vocalist
Chapter 7 | Leo Dryden – The Kipling of the Halls
Chapter 8 | Will Godwin – Doyen of Dramatic Sketch Artists
Chapter 9 | The Eight Lancashire Lads – Characteristic and Champion Clog Dancers
Chapter 10 | Jessie Macnally – The Dublin Girl
Chapter 11 | Casey’s Circus – A Ragged Burlesque
Chapter 12 | Fred Karno and his Colossal Combination of Comedians
Chapter 13 | The Great Calvero – Master of Pantomime and Comic Songs

Author Info

Barry Anthony is a historian with a particular interest in the Victorian and Edwardian period who has written extensively about popular culture and entertainment. He is the author of The King's Jester: The Life of Dan Leno, Victorian Comic Genius (I.B.Tauris, 2010) and co- author, with Richard Brown, of a groundbreaking study of the early British cinema, A Victorian Film Enterprise (1999).


'[Barry] Anthony is particularly good at exploring the fragility of the lives built by these performers, the instability as their audience shifted its allegiance from music hall to variety, then variety to film. And he is excellent in showing how this fragility fed Chaplin’s creativity, first in adapting his skills to film, and later in replicating this lost world in Limelight... Barry Anthony has certainly filled in gaps in Chaplin’s biography.'
Judith Flanders, TLS

'Barry Anthony has managed to bring back to life the often remarkable and dramatic lives of the performers who once entertained the British public in the many music halls throughout the country.'
Michael Chaplin, from the Foreword to this book

'Chaplin’s work is rooted in music hall. That is not surprising since both his father and his mother earned their living on the halls. As a writer examining Chaplin’s links with music hall, Barry Anthony could not be bettered. A recognised expert on early cinema and the music halls, he paints a vivid account of a crucial part of Chaplin’s extraordinary career.'
Richard Anthony Baker, author of British Music Hall: An Illustrated History and editor of Music Hall Studies

'I have learned such a lot from this book. It is meticulously researched and well written; an important addition to music-hall history and to Chaplin studies.'
Max Tyler, historian of the British Music Hall Society

'Barry Anthony’s account of Charlie Chaplin’s music hall roots does not disappoint, rather does it offer shining insights into the formative background of the Chaplin phenomenon. The motif used is fascinating and extremely clever...It is a brilliant conception, meticulously worked through...This is a top-class and captivating book. Rarely does one find rigorous scholarship shaped into so inventive and accessible a presentation.'
Eric Midwinter, The Call Boy: Official Journal of the British Music Hall Society


Read an extract from Chaplin's Music Hall on Scribd.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780763149
Publication Date: 30 Oct 2012
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 20 integrated bw

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