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Film

Chevy Chase names his first "huge influence"

Cornelius Crane Chase, otherwise known as Chevy Chase, emerged as a household name after becoming a main cast member on Saturday Night Live in 1975, and writer and actor for the National Lampoon, which spawned a film series based around John Hughes’ short story Vacation ‘58, including National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in 1997.

Alongside Beverly D’Angelo, Chase plays protagonist and patriarch of the family, Clark Wilhelm Griswold, always on the hunt for adventure whilst getting into moods with other family members and members of the public.

Despite his success, Chase has managed to make a lot of enemies down the road, infamously getting into a fist-fight with Bill Murray after comparing the spot marks on his face to moon craters. Furthermore, his ex-wife Jacqueline Carlin sued the star over threats of violence against her amidst their divorce. His insensitivity towards others made him a difficult co-worker on SNL, with many cast members and writers feeling insulted, eventually leading to his ban from the show in 1997 after an incident between him and Cheri Oteri, who received an unfortunate smack on the back of the head from Chase.

It may come as no surprise that the controversial comedian named his first major influence as the iconic slapstick silent movie director and actor Charlie Chaplin. Despite Chaplin’s legacy and ineffable influence on cinema, the star was actually a megalomaniac, described by Marlon Brando as “probably the most sadistic man I’d ever met”. Chaplin had an interest in much younger women and, aged 31, he met 12-year-old Lillita MacMurray (a name that bears much resemblance to Nabokov’s Lolita, emphasised by Joyce Milton’s claim that Chaplin inspired the book’s paedophilic narrator Humbert) who became his wife once she turned 16.

He was known for treating his wives and children extremely poorly, embarrassing and berating them in front of others, and having frequent violent outbursts, much akin to the claims made against Chevy. In an interview with the American Film Institute, Chase states that he has seen every Chaplin flick, which totals 82 films. He states that it was Chaplin’s ability to “change your emotion[s] from the laugh to the tears to the timing […] little things that you do with your hands, all of that was very strong for me”.

Whilst it seems as though Chase has taken inspiration from Chaplin in more than just one way, the two will always be known as comedy icons in the eyes of casual film fans and serious critics alike, which poses the ever-important question of whether art can be separated from its maker. 

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