Thursday, August 27, 2009

John Wranovics - "Chaplin and Agee"

John Wranovics recently visited Bonnett's Books with some friends of the store. "Thank You" to the folks who brought him in for the short but pleasant visit which provided the opportunity for me to learn about his book, "Chaplin and Agee", of which I would otherwise remain ignorant.

John told me a little bit about his book with the lengthy title, "Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, The Writer, and the Lost Screenplay"*, and it sounds fascinating. I thought I'd pass word of it along to anyone who might also be interested in such things.

Now, I'm no Robert Osborne, but I do have the blood of a writer(1), actor(2), and culture/movie buffs(1,2) running in my veins, so this sparked my interest. Who doesn't like Charlie Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character, if they've had the fortune to cross his path? I've included a YouTube clip at the bottom of this post, so more recent generations might become acquaited with Chaplin. And James Agee's work is well respected and he's a familiar name to many of us, even if we've** avoided reading any of it, as of this writing. Mr. Wranovics' book is a slice of cultural-history pie, with a dollop of movie-buff topping... but, you won't get that info from Amazon unless you click the "Look Inside" prompt for a closer inspection, and frankly, there's little there likely to cause anyone to do so.

The gist is that Chaplin and Agee became friends at some point and Agee wrote a piece starring "The Little Tramp" as the sole survivor of an atomic bomb drop on New York City. Keep in mind, Agee's writing of this story occurred circa 1947, a mere two years after the release of our A-bombs over Japan. As you might expect, the show would have been the darkest sort of dark comedies dealing with what little was known about the aftermath of nuclear explosions at that time. The post-war world was still in a strange state and such explorations may have proven therapeutic to some, much in the same way many creatives have explored terrorism since 9/11. Alas, the movie never came to pass, for many reasons (gossip mongers, the Red Scare, etc.), all described in Mr. Wranovics' book. BONUS! Agee's screenplay is included in the tale of "Chaplin and Agee", allowing us the focus of 20/20 hindsight. The question I have now is, "Why haven't I heard any of this before?" I doubt the answer to that is within "Chaplin and Agee", but it certainly seems worth a look.

I'm sorry to report that we don't have "Chaplin and Agee" available at Bonnett's, but, last time I checked, it was available at Amazon.com. I expect I'll be ordering myself a copy.



*©2005, published by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.
**By we, I mean "me".
(1) Hal Murray Bonnett - Pulp detective fiction writer of Crusher O'Shea stories, and more.
(2) Walter Bonnett - locally acclaimed stage actor and the man who taught us to love movies.
(1,2) Grandpa & Dad, in that order. See also: "Satan in High Heels" on IMDb.