Simply Outstanding about Charlie's Goliath
Rodrigo Moreira | Porto, Portugal | 01/25/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eric Campbell would have been an excellent actor. Unfortunatelly he had an early death. This documentary is the deserved tribute to the man who worked hard with Charlie Chaplin in the best silent short moovies ever, those, for the Mutual Film Corporation, between 1916 - 1917. Eric Campbell is trully Scotland's forgotten star."
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/09/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the course of just the first few films with Chaplin, easily the biggest film star in the world, Eric Campbell himself became famous. Recall the scene where The Tramp literally gaslights Campbell in Easy Street? It's still one of the funniest and most memorable sequences in screen history. His thick, animalistic eyebrows, and patented slow burn, soon inspired imitators of himself (Oliver Hardy was one of them), just as Chaplin inspired imitators- one of them ironically being Stan Laurel, who knew Campbell and Chaplin from their days with Karno. So, flush with cash, Campbell brought his wife and daughter to Hollywood. Then, in an all too Hollywood fashion, disaster struck. Campbell's wife died suddenly, his daughter was in an accident, Campbell remarried a golddigger a month after his first wife's death, then divorced her two months later, and then himself died in an early morning drunken driving accident, in December of 1917. Chaplin never again had such a great onscreen foe and partner, and never again was The Tramp so delightfully wicked, which led to the detractors of Chaplin's success and greatness arming themselves with his perceived flaws, and conveniently ignoring the brilliance of his anarchic Essanay and Mutual days.
The documentary does dig up many outtakes from Chaplin films, and the onscreen and offscreen chemistry between the two men is palpable. There are many archival documents, from Campbell's childhood in Dunoon, Scotland (although his exact date of birth is unknown- anywhere from 1878-1885, and his full name was Alfred Eric Campbell) to Campbell's second wife's hilarious petition for divorce, claiming cruelty that includes exposure to hula dancing. There are the requisite experts, such as Campbell's daughter, and Chaplin expert David Robinson. But, the best thing about the film is nothing within the film, but simply that it exists.
The best thing about the prevalence of DVDs is that they provide an affordable way to preserve the history of the dominant art form of the Twentieth Century, and its oft-forgotten contributors- major and minor.
Funny man who did not sound Scottish in those silent films
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you have seen any of the twelve two-reelers that Charlie Chaplin produced between 1916-1917 for the Mutual Company, then you have probably seen Eric Campbell, who played the menacing villain to Chaplin's Tramp in all but one of those silent comedies ("One A.M."). Campbell provided Chaplin with his most memorable foil, not only because of his immense size and fierce looking makeup, but also because of his comic ability, honed on the music hall stages of England with Fred Karno's company. "Chaplin's Goliath: In Search of Scotland's Forgotten Star," written and directed by Kevin MacDonald, traces the actor's brief film career, which was cut short by a car accident in December 1917 when he was doing his first dramatic film with Mary Pickford. But as this 1996 documentary evidences, Campbell's career will forever be identified with that of Chaplin.
"Chaplin's Goliath" uses rare footage and historical documents, along with interviews with Campbell's granddaughter and such Chaplin experts as biographer David Robinson, to tell the actor's story from his roots in Scotland to his long delayed burial in a Hollywood cemetery. Indeed, the documentary essentially begins and acts with the placing of plaques commemorating Campbell in those two locations. The result is not only a compilation of pretty much everything that is known about Eric Campbell, but a look at what comedy was like during the silent film era, especially when Chaplin had become the most famous face on the planet. There are film clips of music hall comedians of the period and not only of some of the comedians who impersonated Chaplin (e.g., Billy West), but poignant screen tests of Chaplin trying to find a replacement for Campbell and no less a film icon than Oliver Hardy doing an impersonation of Campbell is a silent comedy.
Of course, there are also clips of Campbell's best scenes with Chaplin from "The Immigrant," "Easy Street," and other Mutual comedies. Like "Unknown Chaplin," MacDonald takes advantage of outtakes that survive from those films to show how Campbell fit into Chaplin's creative process. The prime example is that Campbell was not originally cast as the waiter in "The Immigrant," and so we get to see before and after footage as Chaplin tries to make a scene work and gets what he wants once Campbell becomes part of the comedic equation. If watching this documentary makes you want to check out both the original Mutual comedies and the three-part documentary looking at the painstaking creative process by which Chaplin created his films then you should go with the impulse, especially if for some strange reason you are interested in "Chaplin's Goliath" having never seen them in the first place.
The documentary also tells about Campbell's personal life, which included lying about his age to get married, the sudden death of his first wife, and the rather strange marriage and divorce that followed. Unfortunately Campbell's life had become unstable at the point when he was killed and while we would like to believe that he would have gone on to a long and successful film career, it is just as likely that he was in the process of self-destructing and that the accident ended what his behavior was already destroying. This is especially true when you get to the story of what happened to Campbell's ashes, which provides his life store with a final tragic touch as one of the larger real-life Pagliacci's of the silent comedy era."