LINDER VERSUS CHAPLIN
MAX LINDER, Frenchman, fresh from the trenches, threatens to share honors with Charlie Chaplin's slapsticks by producing laughs with his funny antics in the movies. The art of dodging pies will not come hard for Linder, for he has for several months been dodging shrapnel.
The screen Linder is a Beau Brummel who provokes mirth by working downward from a pinnacle of immaculate ness; the screen Chaplin, in vulgar parlance, is a bum who gets his laughs by working upward - there is a basic difference between these two comedians who are bound to be rivals on the unspoken stage.
Chaplin's screen-face is a blank of stupidity, never altered except for a fleeting smile or a twitch of his mustache; Linder has a face as changeable as a kaleidoscope - the face of a thousand expressions, as a press-agent might say.
When it comes to versatility, Chaplin has the advantage of having been seen in a great many capacities, but Linder, in his first American Essanay picture, "Max Comes Across," does some remarkable things, and gives promise of an ample fund of surprises in store for movie fans.
You laugh when Chaplin falls down; but you will also laugh when you see Linder's face with its varied expressions.
Whether Linder can take away any of Chaplin's laurels remains to be seen. IVAN L. GADDIS. (Motion Picture Magazine, July 1917)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Frank Williams, 1024 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, Cal., hastens to the defense of Charles Chaplin and explains why a "face" does not constitute a "farce":
As a constant reader of your delightful Magazine I feel that I have the privilege of writing you at this time. I do not want you to treat what I write as a criticism of your Magazine or of anything that was printed in it, but merely as a difference of opinion from one of your contributors.
In your July issue, in a short article entitled "Linder versus Chaplin," written by Ivan L. Gaddis, there is a sentence that reads: "Chaplin's screen-face is a blank of stupidity, never altering except for a fleeting smile or a twitch of his mustache." Here I want to vary with Mr. Gaddis. The emotion expressed is not stupidity, but an attempt at dignity. Chaplin endeavors to look dignified under all conditions, no matter what happens, and in this, I believe, lies much of the secret of his success as a comedian.
Also, in the article Mr. Gaddis speaks of a basic difference between the comedy of Linder and Chaplin, but there is another difference far greater than the one of which he speaks. It is the difference between the natural and the unnatural comedian. In Linder we have the unnatural comedian, an affected man struggling to be funny, fighting to get his few laughs. Yes, I admit that the people at times laugh at Linder, but then, one must take into consideration that the people want to laugh and that they will laugh if you give them half an excuse. Linder, occasionally, gives them this excuse. On the other hand we have Chaplin, the natural comedian. He is real, he is human and above all he is sincere in everything he does. His laughs are created with no visible effort on his part. 'Tis true he falls, he runs, he skids, and he may be a little rough at times, but there is no effort, it's natural. In Chaplin's pictures he portrays life, with a touch of exaggeration, of course. In the three Linder pictures produced in America there is not a thing that has even the semblance of life.
At the end of the article is this line, "Whether Linder can take away any of Chaplin's laurels remains to be seen." About which I will say this, that any comedian, like Chaplin, whose fun appeals to all classes, from infants in arms to college professors, and whose personality can be understood by everybody regardless of his race or language, that comedian need never fear for his popularity. And any man who can and will continue to turn out comedy like "'Easy Street" and "The Cure" will remain, as long as he wishes, the first comedian in the mute theaters thruout the world.
I wish you and your two splendid magazines (for I am also a reader of the Classic) continued success. (Motion Picture Magazine, Oct. 1917)