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Film / A King in New York

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A 1957 British comedy film written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his final starring role, made after his re-entry into the United States was refused because of his political affiliations.

The story follows the misadventures of the deposed King Igor Shahdov (Chaplin), who fled to the United States after his country went into revolution, only to discover his securities were embezzled by his Prime Minister.

While struggling about what to do next, he meets a comely young woman who invites him to a party where he is manipulated into participating in clandestine commercials. At one point, he is invited to recite some Shakespeare on TV without his knowledge and becomes a media sensation. Although indignant at the deception, the King agrees to appear in numerous commercials and improbably becomes even more popular despite apparent disasters.

Along the way, he makes friends with a precocious boy named Rupert (Michael Chaplin), whose parents are former communists who are incited for contempt of congress for refusing to cooperate in House Congressional committees. When Shahdov is discovered sheltering the boy after he was found cold and lost after running away from school, the King himself is subpoenaed to the committee.

This film provides examples of:

  • Author Tract: A vehicle for Charlie Chaplin's views on nuclear disarmament and the Red Scare, with some comedy tacked on.
  • Bathtub Scene: In her first scene, gorgeous Ann Kay (Dawn Addams) is introduced taking a bath in her suite, the one next to King Shahdov's.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The King gets the political persecutors off his back, but the boy is deeply broken and ashamed for succumbing to pressure to inform on his parents' friends.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A TV erupts to life to cover King Shahdov's visit to New York, then goes silent again.
  • Fake Food: Parodied. The King agrees to play in a liquor commercial. The scenes are rehearsed with water in the glass, but the actual commercial broadcasted live is played with the real thing, which is nowhere as mild as the text of commercial would suggest. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: King Shahdov finds himself forced to be a commercial pitch man. He's reluctant, but that hotel suite isn't free.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Sub Committee: The King faces this ordeal, but gets to humiliate them by accident.
  • Large Ham: The King goes waaaaaaaay over the top when delivering Hamlet's "To be or not to be" monologue at a dinner party.
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: King Shahdov goes for a night at the movies, and sees ridiculous trailers.
    • A Killer With a Soul ("I've got to kill you, honey. It's for your own good.")
    • Man or Woman?—a woman says with a very deep bass voice, "Our love has no place in this world." The man answers her in a high soprano, "That's not true honey, we can go to Denmark."
    • Terror Rides Again, a parody of a shootout in The Wild West.
  • Ruritania: Where the King came from.
  • Sarcasm Mode: King Shahdov, asked what he has to say to the American people, says "I am deeply moved by your warmhearted hospitality" he's being fingerprinted at the immigration desk.
  • Shout-Out: The King goes to a nightclub that features a comedy sketch with a Fat and Skinny pair of performers that are an obvious shout-out to Laurel and Hardy. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel had been part of the same vaudeville troupe before Chaplin got his first movie contract in 1914.
  • Take That!: Chaplin's ribbing of the America that rejected him with his hosing down the House committee being most obvious.
  • Tricked into Signing: An autograph request is used to trick King Shahdov into attending his hearing at the HUAC tribunal.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Rupert.