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The book examines Charlie Chaplin's evolving perspective on dark comedy in his three war films, Shoulder Arms (1918), The Great Dictator (1940), and Monsieur Verdoux (1947). In the first he uses the genre in a groundbreaking manner but yet for a pro-war cause. In Dictator dark comedy is applied in an antiwar way. In Monsieur Verdoux Chaplin embraces the genre as an individual in defense against a society out to destroy him. All three are pivotal films in the development of the genre in film, with the latter two movies being very controversial for their time.
Wes D. Gehring is a distinguished professor of film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column Reel World. He is the author of 36 film-related books, including award-winning biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin.