Glen David Gold, author of the best seller Carter Beats the Devil, now gives us a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity.
Sunnyside opens on a winter day in 1916 during which Charlie Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, an extraordinary delusion that forever binds the overlapping fortunes of three men: Leland Wheeler, son of the world's last (and worst) Wild West star, as he finds unexpected love on the battlefields of France; Hugo Black, drafted to fight under the towering General Edmund Ironside in America's doomed expedition against the Bolsheviks; and Chaplin himself, as he faces a tightening vise of complications - studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, most menacing of all, his mother.
The narrative is as rich and expansive as the ground it covers, and it is cast with a dazzling roster of both real and fictional characters: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, Chaplin's (first) child bride, a thieving Girl Scout, the secretary of the treasury, a lovesick film theorist, three Russian princesses (gracious, nervous, and nihilist), a crew of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants moviemakers, legions of starstruck fans, and Rin Tin Tin.
By turns lighthearted and profound, Sunnyside is an altogether spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition, and the dawn of the modern age.
At its northernmost limit, the California coastline suffered a winter of brutal winds pitched against iron- clad fog, and roiling seas whose whiplash could scar a mans cheek as quickly as a cat- o- nine- tails. Since the Gold Rush, mariners had run aground, and those who survived the splintering impact were often pulped when the tides tore them across the terrible strata of the volcanic landscape. For protection, the State had erected ascore of lighthouses staffed with teams of three or four families who rotated duties that lasted into the day and into the night. The changing of the guard, as it were, was especially treacherous in some locations, such as Crescent City, accessible only by a tombolo that was flooded in high tide, or Point Bonita, whose wooden walkway, even after the mildest storm, tended to faint dead away from the loose soil of its mountaintop and tumble into the sea.
Until the advent of navigational radio, communication with the mainland ...
A bold and engrossing tale that offers the reader an excellent sketch of a nascent Hollywood, its venerated star, and the harrowing events of the world surrounding them. Sunnyside is a refreshing look at a pivotal moment in our history, one that has shaped, in large part, our love of film, our role on the world's stage, and our enduring culture of celebrity.
(Reviewed by Derek Brown).
Full Review (1213 words).
Charlie Chaplin & Sunnyside
Not a whole lot is said about silent films these days. The Age of the Silver Screen seems to be as antiquated as the subject matter of many of its films: the original Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, Intolerance, and Birth of a Nation to name a few. The reputed masters of the form could be counted on one hand, and actors and actresses seemed to be re-cast over and over from film to film. But as with any fledgling art form there were great advances and boundless creativity, much of which set the stage for today's blockbusters. One such innovator was Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr.
Charlie Chaplin was an artist whose perfectionism and eccentricities have left us artifacts of the form that are nothing less ...
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