6 December 1998 | Primtime
Once again, Chaplin greatness comes through
A King In New York was a pure delight to watch. Seeing perhaps the greatest actor of the first half of the century is always a treat and he doesn't disappoint in this film. Chaplin made this satire as a shot at the United States, who only five years earlier had denied him re-entry into the country. This was based on the fact he wouldn't come before the McCarthy hearing and make a statement on his supposed ties to the Communist party. Regardless of the basis for this film's comedy pieces, one can find a few moments where Chaplin is taking a direct shot at those who had doubted him.
The plot involves Chaplin as King Shadov, a ruler of a ficticious country whose people have ousted him based on his unwillingness to manufacture Atomic Bombs. He would rather spend the taxpayers money on finding ways to create atomic energy. Obviously this is a deliberate analogy of Chaplin being thought of as a communist although the complete opposite was the truth. So, the exiled leader goes to America in search of a fun vacation in which he can experience the excitement that he had heard about so many times before. The viewer follows Shadof and his trust aide throughout New York City and their many hilarious experiences. The best of which that come to mind are the scenes in which Chaplin pantomimes his order to a waiter who cannot hear him, the scene in which Chaplin recites the famous "to be or not to be" soliloque from Hamlet to guests at a dinner party and the scene in which Chaplin gets his finger stuck in a fire hose and cannot get it out.
One can see some elements of the tramp in Chaplin in this film including the facial expressions, his smile and the way he moves about gracefully. I had never seen Chaplin in a talking film before this one and was somewhat surprised to see how much of a great talking actor he truly is. For an actor who had done so much in silent films and only silent films, this film shows that Chaplin is one of the top actors of this century.
The only element of this film that somewhat disappointed me was the manner in which the hearings were brushed off. I believe that there was plenty of room for some gags to be thrown in here. Perhaps Chaplin felt as if he had already taken enough shots and didn't need to exploit this area.
This film is yet another example of the Chaplin greatness and I would recommend it to anyone who loves films or are interested in seeing film making magic.