CHARLIE CHAPLIN: COMIC GENIUS Few great comedies have emerged from Hollywood since the success of Scary Movie (2000). This spoof spawned one of the most sickening and lowbrow movie franchises and has influenced the style and content (excessive use of parodies and gross visual effects) of the majority of comedies that have followed. The long-running series represents everything that true comedy is not. But its lack of taste is a reminder of how cleverly and tastefully Charlie Chaplin's films made us laugh. Everybody recognises Chaplin as a great comedian. His tramp character debuted in 1914, and was recognisable by his shabby clothes, oversized trousers and shoes, toothbrush moustache and bamboo cane. But few people today in the entertainment industry realise that this English actor was more than just a clown. He was a torchbearer of humanity and decency. Among his most hilarious and insightful movies are The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). They combine slapstick humour with social satire, presenting human tragedy in the guise of comedy, and provoking tears as well as laughter. The Gold Rush, inspired by the late 19th century gold-prospecting in Canada, is a simple story which sees the tramp looking for gold. It is the highest grossing silent comedy film ever, and a personal favourite of Chaplin. It features a classic scene where the starving tramp, trapped in a cabin in the snow, boils and eats his boots. This scene speaks volumes about our ability to survive desperate times and our strength to pursue tough goals. City Lights is one of Chaplin's most sentimental films. It it contains as much tenderness as it does humour. In the film, the tramp falls in love with a blind girl. He does everything he can - even taking part in a boxing match - to raise money for the girl's eye operation. The 'happy ending' is heartbreaking: when the girl has her sight restored, she realises that her saviour is not the handsome millionaire she imagined. When he sees the girl's reaction, the tramp - for the first time in the film - feels ashamed, despite his honourable deeds. Chaplin further honed his satirical sting in Modern Times and The Great Dictator. The former is a hilarious look at the hardships of the Great Depression and the absurd working conditions brought about by industrialisation. It is regarded by many as one of the best comedies of all time. The latter is a 'talkie' (film with sound) - a medium that weakened the physical brilliance of Chaplin's comedic talents. But the film, which makes fun of Hitler and Nazism, shows Chaplin's guts as an artist. The comedian's final film as a director is A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), which starred Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren and was filmed in a studio outside of London. Chaplin died in his sleep on Christmas Day in 1977 aged 88.