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In 1927 Warner Bros released The Jazz Singer a silent drama with sound sequences in which Al Jolson sang and spoke The film was a hit and within two years American cinema shifted irreversibly to talking films At first everyone was planted around the microphone but even as the technology improved sound still slowed down the onscreen tempo because of the greater detail and realism which it brought to action This change helped the dramatic players of silents most of whom had equal or greater success in sound Most silent comics however had seen their best days -- the techniques theyd refined seemed to have no place in talkies There of course would be ways to apply the talents honed in silence with the reality of sound but none of the comedy careers that stalled in these transitional years were ever effectively revivedChaplin made only two comedies in the 30s but they were his best his funniest most touching and most profound In City Lights 1931 the Tramp helps a blind girl regain her sight in Modern Times 1936 he runs headlong into the Machine Age Both these classics are silents -- the only way in which Chaplin could work with his character -- but when he finally turned to sound in the 40s he produced two of the decades finest films In The Great Dictator 1940 he played both the Tramplike Jewish barber and gibberish-spouting despot Adenoid Hynkel The dualism was even creepier in his black comedy Monsieur Verdoux 1947 in which he starred as an elegant Frenchman who secretly marries and murders wealthy women After playing an aging clown in the poorly received Limelight 1952 Chaplin left America and returned to Europe In 1957 he released A King In New York an uneasy satire of the red-baiting that had dogged him until he left the States Its humor was not appreciated here nor was his final film the old-fashioned romantic farce A Countess
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