The People’s Tramp [Current Affairs]

Even if you’ve never seen a silent movie, you know Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp. His too-big trousers and too-tight jacket, his bowler hat, his toothbrush mustache, his cane, his too-big shoes pointed at right angles to his body: you can recognize him from his silhouette. Samuel Beckett doodled him in his manuscripts, and Pam on The Office dressed up as him for Halloween. You can buy a poster of the Tramp in every pop-up poster shop in the world. He is the most iconic figure in classic cinema, one of the most iconic figures in any visual art, and was certainly one of the most beloved.

A hundred years or so later, it’s fascinating to consider that The Tramp was a character living in extreme poverty and frequently homeless—that is, the kind of character who has almost no place in the biggest, most popular movies of our time, even as homelessness and extreme poverty are as endemic as ever.

I wrote about Charlie Chaplin for Current Affairs! You can read it here.

2021 in Film(s That Didn’t Come Out in 2021)

Check out previous installments here, here, here and here.


2021 was, I’m sure we can all agree, the most recent year in the Gregorian calendar. Though, that being said, Ciara now exclusively understands the passage of time through self-programmed film seasons (e.g. Soviet June-ion, Silent September, Shane Black Christmas) and Dean has lost track of linear time altogether. It was a year of surprises in film: Zack Snyder finally got to finish his four-hour superhero epic and Sylvester Stallone, for better or worse, finally got to cut the robot from Rocky IV. We started a podcast, The Sundae Presents, where we take turns showing each other favourite films of ours the other hasn’t seen (catch up now!). We published lots of good pieces, including the first guest contribution to our pop punk series. Ciara finished watching all the Nightmares on Elm Street (except the remake, obviously) and Dean watched every Gus Van Sant film, then immediately got super into pirate movies for some reason. 

We’ll be looking back at our favourite films released in 2021 on Oscars weekend, which we guess is in March this year? This is a look back at some of the best films from other years that we watched for the first time, spanning eighty years of cinema from the earliest days of animation to the earliest days of Paul Verhoeven’s post-Hollywood career. At the risk of repeating ourselves, one of the few upsides to a year where staying inside was, at the very least, highly recommended was a lot of time to watch movies, and these represent less than five percent of them, so you know they come highly recommended. We’ve got Arthurian myth and silent romance and four films from the seventies, because we can’t pretend we don’t have a period bias. Check them out and stay tuned to The Sundae for more cold takes and fresh pods in 2022!

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Way Down East: The Sundae Presents Episode 6

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which each of us makes the other watch films they haven’t seen. This episode, Dean shows Ciara D.W. Griffith’s 1920 silent melodrama Way Down East. They talk about its weird Christian feminism, silent film acting and sleepy kitties.

Way Down East The Sundae Presents

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You Should Watch Charlie Chaplin

It’s 2017, and silent films are dying.

Silent films started dying in 1927, of course, when The Jazz Singer mainstreamed the use of synchronised dialogue – although it itself was a sound-silent hybrid, mostly using sound in the sections to do with musical performance. By the 1930s, basically all films were talkies, and apart from occasional blips – Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie or best picture winner The Artist – we’ve never looked back. Silent films have been dead for almost a hundred years, and there’s no good mourning them now.

But there’s the second death – the death that occurs when something once vibrant and alive is forgotten by everyone living. That time will come for everything and everyone, but there’s an artificial acceleration when an art form has fallen out of use. Charles Dickens is as popular and well-known as ever, but he mightn’t be if everyone had stopped writing or reading novels for a hundred years. He mightn’t have been had it not been possible to publish his serials in the form of the novel, instead of leaving them scattered across the volumes of history. Silent films are still films, but they’re different in a pretty fundamental way, in a way that seems impossibly big if you’ve never seen one.

So I’m really worried – unreasonably worried – that people are going to forget Charlie Chaplin.

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