THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

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elliothearst

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THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 7:06 am

Please don't pile on if this is deemed to be a stupid, obvious, or overly simplistic question, but this is something that has been bugging me ever so slightly for the past 50 years.

Why did Chaplin use the shot, which is obviously stock footage, of the Statue of Liberty that was filmed from a boat that is traveling in the wrong direction? Charlie, Edna, and the other immigrants are supposed to be enjoying their "arrival in the Land of Liberty," but the boat that the shot of the Statue was taken from is sailing away from lower Manhattan rather than towards it.

Knowing what a perfectionist Chaplin was, it seems out of character that he would have settled for what is a pretty glaring error. Could that possibly have been the only film of the Statue he could get his hands on? Did he not realize that the boat was traveling in the wrong direction? Did he think his audience wouldn't notice -- or care about -- the mistake?

It's just so weird.
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boblipton

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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 7:13 am

I don't have any answer for you, but I'd like to know why you think people would be mean to you for asking a question.

Bob
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elliothearst

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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 7:15 am

boblipton wrote:I don't have any answer for you, but I'd like to know why you think people would be mean to you for asking a question.

Bob


I just thought it might be deemed to be insignificant, or a dumb question.
Last edited by elliothearst on Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 7:33 am

Well, some of us have a rough sense of humor, it's true, and argumentation can grow pretty lively... but your question is actually pretty interesting and if it was not an oversight by Chaplin, it says something fairly interesting about directionality and its implications in the grammar of cinema... at least at the time of the movie made.

Bob
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NotSoSilent

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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 7:34 am

I can't speak to the specific Statue of Liberty shot, but I remember reading somewhere that details like that weren't as important as the story. A scene was designed to prompt an emotion. If the editing didn't make sense, that was fine, as long as it got a laugh or whatever emotion he was going for at the time.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 10:33 am

Not the first or the last clumsy technical moment in a Chaplin film; the rear-screen shots in GREAT DICTATOR are laughable - and not in a good way!
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 12:19 pm

Chaplin was in Hollywood. The statue is in New York. He probably had to use a Mutual newsreel clip.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 1:35 pm

Never thought about this before as far as THE IMMIGRANT is concerned -- but on the whole, I'd say such inconsistencies are rather common in Chaplin's films. He tended to care more about a particular shot's dramatic impact, than whether it was 100% technically in sync with the previous (or next) shot. The occasional "changing background" in Calvero's apartment in LIMELIGHT is a well-known example. It's never bothered me, really, except perhaps for one instance: the Tramp's changing eyebrows in CITY LIGHTS. I consider that to be CL's one possible major flaw. Oh well, it's still pretty darn perfect, of course.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 3:16 pm

Smari1989 wrote: It's never bothered me, really, except perhaps for one instance: the Tramp's changing eyebrows in CITY LIGHTS. I consider that to be CL's one possible major flaw. Oh well, it's still pretty darn perfect, of course.


I noticed that startling change when I first saw City Lights in a cinema some 40+ years ago. In the shots where he blew on and then swallowed a whistle, his eyebrows suddenly tripled in size. A friend beside me whispered "Whoo, he looks like Joan Crawford!"
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 8:45 pm

elliothearst wrote:Please don't pile on if this is deemed to be a stupid, obvious, or overly simplistic question, but this is something that has been bugging me ever so slightly for the past 50 years.

Why did Chaplin use the shot, which is obviously stock footage, of the Statue of Liberty that was filmed from a boat that is traveling in the wrong direction? Charlie, Edna, and the other immigrants are supposed to be enjoying their "arrival in the Land of Liberty," but the boat that the shot of the Statue was taken from is sailing away from lower Manhattan rather than towards it.

Knowing what a perfectionist Chaplin was, it seems out of character that he would have settled for what is a pretty glaring error. Could that possibly have been the only film of the Statue he could get his hands on? Did he not realize that the boat was traveling in the wrong direction? Did he think his audience wouldn't notice -- or care about -- the mistake?

It's just so weird.


Great question. I would take it as an indication that Charlie Chaplin was a true, passionate artist, more than anything else.

Artists are often so intensely wrapped up in details that few would ever notice, that they could sometimes care less that their pants are down... so-to-speak.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostThu Dec 21, 2017 1:44 am

I’d be very curious to know if anyone has ever found anything in contemporary reviews about these glitches. I have a vague recollection of a mention of the Modern Times rear projection being below standards, but am not aware of any others. Anybody know of primary sources or earliest documented references?
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostThu Dec 21, 2017 8:40 am

Thank you for pointing this out, elliothearst. Being unfamiliar with the topography, I was unaware of this apparent flaw (like most non-American viewers?), but I think it is at least a happy accident if the shots of the Statue imply the boat is travelling away from it. The intertitle "The arrival in the Land of Liberty" is clearly intended ironically, given that moments later (just after the shots of the Statue) the immigrants are roughly rounded up with a thick rope that places a tight cordon around their bodies. Chaplin underlines the point in a somewhat mismatched medium shot (where the rope is even tighter) by feeling the rope with his hand, looking out towards the Statue (hand above his eyes) then sneering knowingly at the camera. In the earlier closer shot, showing them all gazing at the Statue, his bites his lower lip, looking pensive and anxious, while there is little joy shown in any of the other immigrants' faces.

Although I think it's unlikely that Chaplin deliberately sought a stock shot that showed the Statue receding, I believe he would have been well aware of the irony that liberty often becomes more elusive the closer one comes to it. The later creator of A King in New York would certainly have approved! Laurel & Hardy also create humour, irony and bathos after their stock shot of the Statue in their 1929 film Liberty.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostThu Dec 21, 2017 9:30 am

Dean Thompson wrote:
Smari1989 wrote: It's never bothered me, really, except perhaps for one instance: the Tramp's changing eyebrows in CITY LIGHTS. I consider that to be CL's one possible major flaw. Oh well, it's still pretty darn perfect, of course.


I noticed that startling change when I first saw City Lights in a cinema some 40+ years ago. In the shots where he blew on and then swallowed a whistle, his eyebrows suddenly tripled in size. A friend beside me whispered "Whoo, he looks like Joan Crawford!"


I've never noticed the eyebrow problem in that film. (Which gives me an excuse to watch it again, like I need one.) I have noticed that, during the legendary finale, there's a continuity jump: when the closeups switch from Chaplin's face to Virginia Cherrill's face and back again, the flower Charlie is holding isn't held in a consistent way. (It's near his face, then down, then up again.) But somehow it doesn't matter.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostThu Dec 21, 2017 4:52 pm

Especially during the party scenes with the millionaire, the Tramp’s eyebrows look quite fake compared with other scenes, such as when he first encounters the blind girl.
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Re: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY SHOT IN "THE IMMIGRANT"

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:09 pm

topchap wrote:I’d be very curious to know if anyone has ever found anything in contemporary reviews about these glitches. I have a vague recollection of a mention of the Modern Times rear projection being below standards, but am not aware of any others. Anybody know of primary sources or earliest documented references?


Wondering if I should take the lack of response to my question as evidence that these things weren't a problem for audiences (or critics) of the films upon first release, confirming Chaplin's opinion that "if they're watching that, I'm not doing my job." Are these reactions more a function of non-theatrical repeat viewings than what original audiences 'saw' when they experienced Chaplin films? Or are current cinephiles just that much more sophisticated than audiences in the late 19teens, '20s and '30s?

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