I was revisiting Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography after a long time (partly because I know I will part with it in few days!) and was reading the chapter where he speaks about the making of “Gold Rush”. I found this part of it a very interesting read.
In the creation of comedy, it is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule; because ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance: we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature – or go insane. I read a book about the Donner party who, on the way to California, missed the route and were snowbound in the mountains of Sierra Nevada. Out of one hundred and sixty pioneers only eighteen survived, most of them dying of hunger and cold. Some resorted to cannibalism, eating their dead, others roasted their moccasins to relieve their hunger. Out of this harrowing tragedy, I conceived one of our funniest scenes. In dire hunger, I boil my shoe and eat it, picking the nails as though they were bones of a delicious capon, and eating the shoe-laces as though they were spaghetti. In this delirium of hunger, my partner is convinced I am a chicken and wants to eat me.
That scene is one of those very funny scenes I saw in any film… and I do feel the dark-humor in it. It was interesting to know how Chaplin perceived of such a scene.
(Well, as Mullapudi says, autobiographies are for elevating us and degrading others. Chaplin’s autobiography is no different. But still, its an entertaining read.)