Charlie Chaplin’s films still serve to define an era, a time when the underdog was secretly the most heroic character, just because the tramp could always outwit, outrun, and confound authority figures with ease and startling grace. Even Chaplin’s pratfalls seemed like dance moves.
Beyond the comic tramp figure, though, Chaplin dug deeper into our culture, satirizing the insanity of mechanized human beings in soulless jobs, MODERN TIMES, 1936, and fanatical leaders, THE GREAT DICTATOR, 1940, both ground-breaking, daring films. His first post-WWII film MONSIEUR VERDOUX, 1947 stands as a shocking testament to Chaplin’s dark vision of a world where murder seems a viable means of surviving – the lovable tramp as serial killer. Join Dr. Cawelti as he discusses MONSIEUR VERDOUX and Chaplin’s attempt to ridicule and expose an economic system that treats human beings as interchangeable pawns in a game of profit.
Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He attended UNI, graduating with a vocal music education degree in 1965 and a Master’s Degree in English in 1968, and a Ph.D in Modern Letters from the University of Iowa in 1978. Dr. Cawelti taught film, writing, and literature courses at UNI from 1968-2008 and continues to teach a variety of film courses as an adjunct. He has published two writing textbooks and edited “The Complete Poetry of James Hearst,” (University of Iowa, 2001) and released a CD, “Landscape Iowa: Sixteen James Hearst Poems, Sung,” in December, 2010, and “Brother’s Blood: A Heartland Cain and Abel,” (Ice Cube Press, 2011), the true story of the Mark family murders.