In Edgar Eager’s Half Magic, a much beloved childhood book of mine, there is a mention of the four kids hating Charlie Chaplin. I can only speculate that Eager, having set the story in the time of his own youth, was remembering being dragged to a Chaplin picture when he wanted to go see something more adventurous. I remember this because in high school I fell in love with Chaplin: I had a large poster of him plastered on my bedroom door, read his autobiography and other books about him, watched those old collections of shorts whenever they were shown on one of the local public television stations, and went to see his refurbished features when they were shown in art cinemas.
And so when I became a teacher I recorded those collections of shorts still being shown on pubic television and showed them to my class where they were instant hits. These days my classes still can’t get enough of Chaplin (now in beautiful DVD editions). We begin with the shorts and then move on to classics like The Gold Rush and Modern Times. What pleases me tremendously is that my kids babble about them to their parents and friends in the other 4th grade classes and so those kids soon insist that their teacher show his movies to them as well. Chaplin lives!
To provide some context, I tell my students a bit about Chaplin and about movies in his time. Because he was an immigrant and they’ve already seen some of the silent movies of Ellis Island, I always begin with The Immigrant which they adore. Chaplin does such a great job making fun of the whole experience which he knew of firsthand.
So give ol’ Charlie a shot! He still entertains kids today, I can assure you.