Fool #2: Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp

While researching Gelsomina I learned that her character was partly inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. The Tramp debuted in 1914; a fascinating bumbler, a childlike vagrant who wanted very much to be taken for a gentleman.  Gelsomina is doomed, but city-lights-charlie-chaplin-14440701-1600-1213the Tramp turns the tables and makes fools out of the non-fools.

            Charlie Chaplin said, “Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”

Chaplin at Keystone: The Tramp is Born

By Jeffrey Vance, adapted from his book Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema (New York, 2003) © 2009 Roy Export SAS

Building on traditions forged in the commedia dell’arte which he learned in the British music halls, Charles Chaplin brought traditional theatrical forms into an emerging medium and changed both cinema and culture in the process. The birth of modern screen comedy occurred when Chaplin donned his derby hat, affixed his toothbrush moustache, and stepped into his impossibly large shoes for the first time at the Keystone Film Company. The comedies Chaplin made for Keystone chart his rapid evolution from music hall sketch comedy artiste to master film comedian and director.

It would be easy to mistake the story of how Chaplin stumbled into his first motion-picture contract as the plot of a Chaplin comedy, were it not true. Alfred Reeves, manager of the Fred Karno theatrical company touring in America, received a telegram at the Nixon Theatre in Philadelphia on May 12, 1913, which read, “IS THERE A MAN NAMED CHAFFIN IN YOUR COMPANY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT STOP IF SO WILL HE COMMUNICATE WITH KESSEL AND BAUMANN 24 LONGACRE BUILDING BROADWAY.” (1)

Reeves, believing the telegram must be referring to Chaplin, showed it to him. When Chaplin discovered that the tenants of the Longacre Building were mostly attorneys, he imagined that his great-aunt, Elizabeth Wiggins, had died and left him an inheritance. He immediately arranged a day trip to New York City.

Chaplin was disappointed to discover that the telegram had been sent by Adam Kessel Jr. and Charles O. Baumann, owners of the New York Motion Picture Company, who wanted to sign him as a comedian with the Keystone Film.

The rest, as we know …

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The Fools Rush In

I’m fond of fools so I’ve decided to blog about my top ten fools. One a day. Simpletons whose pursuit of unreachable goals provokes heart-wrenching sorrow. Like Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) in Fellini’s 1954 film, La Strada. Gelsomina is a half-wit, sold by her mother to Zampano, a strolling player, a gypsy.

Mother: Take care of her…

Zampano: Sure — I even teach dogs.


Gelsomina is carted off by Zampano (Anthony Quinn) in his motorcycled-pulled caravan. When he performs before small crowds of villagers, he breaks the chains wrapped around his chest by expanding his lungs. Gelsomina assists him by beating on a drum, her round eyes and adoring face more compelling than his brute strength. As the film progresses the viewer becomes increasingly certain that Gelsomina is too simple, too lacking in anything but love, to survive.


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Can the Hags do Vaudeville?

We’ll soon find out. The Hags are performing on Saturday Dec. 5 only. Bohemian Grandma and Pickapart Theatre will be serving up some improv both nights. According to the poster there’s dancing!Vaudeville 8.5x11.jpg

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Hags at Bonneville Mill

Banner-Montage-Web_000The Hags perform this morning at Bonneville Mill from 9:30 to 11:00.

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A Philosphy for Aging

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?)  is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold.  The philosophy treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Japanese Bowl blog-dsc_1598 by Peter Mayer is one of the songs the Winsome Hags will perform for the Edwardsburg Golden Agers on Wednesday, September 2. See how we shine with gold!

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In preparation for our Labor Day Concert at the Cass District Library, I’ve put together a powerpoint with over 200 images documenting the labor movement. Beginning with the labor shortage in Jamestown in 1607, through the years of slavery, the women’s movement, child labor, the International Workers of the World and on up to today. Hope you can come – Thursday, September 3rd at 6:30.lewis-hine-child-labor-5-537x402

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The Hags Celebrate Labor Day

Lin Pollard suggested the Hags do a Labor Day concert, celebrating the music and history of the labor movement. We thought it was a great idea, and so did the Cass District Library. We’re looking forward to performing on Sept. 3rd at 6:30. In the meantime, we are discovering amazing songs and histories. As you may know, the Women’s Suffrage movement was linked to the labor movement — women wanted equal rights! Still do!!! The song Bread and Roses is a marching song for the suffragettes. The photo is of Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested in 1914. pankhurst

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