Oscar Movies: Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

The original idea of Monsieur Verdoux originated with Orson Welles, who’d wanted to make a picture about notorious modern “Bluebeard” Landru. Welles wanted to cast Chaplin in the lead; Chaplin liked the idea, but preferred to direct himself, as he’d been doing since 1914. In his memoirs, Chaplin notes about Welles: “”Had I foreseen the kudos Orson eventually tried to make out of it, I would have inisted on no screen credit at all.”

Chaplin was sure that he could get away with the audacious character of a cold-blood murderer by presenting him as a sympathetic, lovable, occasionally charming figure. He changes identities smoothly and skillfully, playing, among others, Henri Verdoux, Varney, Bonheur, Foray, as well as the narrator, who links among the episodes.

“Monsieur Verdoux” was released at a time when Chaplin was under political suspicions for his allegedly Communistic philosophy and due to the fact that he had never applied for American citizenship. Moreover, the movie

came out shortly after a well-publicized paternity suit involving Chaplin and Joan Barry.

Protested in several cities, and banned outright in others, “Monsieur Verdoux” was Chaplin’s first financial flop.
But a new generation of critics reevaluated the picture in the 1960s and 1970s, and its status has been elevated as a work ahead of its time in ideas and conceptualization.

Though uneven, “Monsieur Verdoux” is a bold work and one of Chaplin’s fascinating and curious features.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Original Screenplay: Charlie Chaplin

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar was Sidney Shelfdon for the Cary Grany comedy, “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.”

Black and white
Running time: 125 Minutes
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Screenplay:Orson Welles, Charles Chaplin
DVD: May 16, 2000
Criterion Collection