Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Man Who Shot Charlie Chaplin

If you're a fan of Charlie, then you know the name Roland Totheroh and that he was Chaplin's principal cinematographer from 1916 to 1952. He was relegated to the position of advisor for the filming of "The Great Dictator" in 1939-40. Until then, he and Charlie worked together on over 30 films.

He died in 1967.

I recently came across an interview that Totheroh did with Timothy Lyons in Film Culture (1972).
Here is an excerpt from it, where he recounts how Charlie developed his ideas.

"When Charlie was working on an idea, often he would call me in. There were always a lot of his own people around. He'd hit on a certain situation where there was something he was building on and he'd want conversation more or less. And there'd always be someone there to write things down. Every time he'd speak, 'Put it down. Don't lose it. We'll go back to that, I'll lose my train of thought.'  He'd dictate so darn many things that, unless you're pretty clever and keep them in sequence, you could lose it easy.

"But the basic idea on all his films would often change; it did on pretty near everything we took. After running with the dailies, then he'd be inspired and it would give him another idea, another thought. If not, he'd throw it out and do it from another angle. sometimes after a set had been torn down, he'd get a new idea and we'd have to reconstruct the whole set exactly as it was before so that he could reshoot some shots for a scene."

So far, I have been unable to find a biography of Roland Totheroh. If it hasn't been written, then it certainly deserves to be.

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