Charlie Chaplin Filmography Continued

 

 

 

 

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UNITED ARTISTS

 

A Woman of Paris

1923 -

 

 

 

Charles Chaplin's first, long awaited, independent production for United

Artists, the company he had formed in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary

Pickford and D.W. Griffith, begins with an only partially true caveat from

its creator: "To The Public - In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I

wish to announce that I do not appear in this picture. It is the first

serious drama written and directed by myself. Charles Chaplin." Chaplin

does appear, in a walk-on as a train station porter. It is indeed a serious

drama but it is much more than that.  It is a film that set new standards

in silent dramatic acting and directing. It influenced other film makers so

deeply that many of its innovations seem outdated only because of their

constant imitation in films by others. It is a study in the psychology of

the vagaries of love.

 

Marie St. Clair, a simple girl living in a small French town, peers out of

her bedroom window, awaiting her lover, artist Jean Millet. Her suspicious

step-father locks her in her room. When Jean arrives to discuss their plans

to elope the next day, he climbs up to her bedroom window and helps her

down to the ground.  Her step-father then locks her out entirely. Jean

brings her to his home but they are scorned by his father and angry words

are exchanged between father and son.  Jean and Marie resolve to leave for

Paris that night. They go to the railroad station, where Jean leaves Marie

with money for tickets, while he returns home to pack.  A final parting

with his parents brings on a fatal stroke to his father and when Marie

calls to find out why he's late, Jean tells her that he must stay. Taking

this as a rejection of her, Marie boards the train by herself. (The lights

from the arriving train moving across Marie's body are the only indication

given of the train itself.)

 

A year later in Paris, Marie is a kept woman and her keeper is Pierre

Revel, the richest bachelor in town and one of the slimiest. Their

relationship is subtly established when Revel, calling for Marie to take

her to dinner, goes to a dresser in her bedroom and removes one of his

handkerchiefs. Marie, it would seem, is more enamoured of Revel than he is

with her. The next morning finds Pierre in his "office", his bed with a

ticker tape machine close at hand. A magazine article announces his

engagement to an equally wealthy woman and Revel's secretary wonders how

Marie will take the news.  We see her reaction when two of her friends

visit and bring the magazine. Marie tries to react cooly, but by her body

language she is clearly upset.

 

Later, when Revel comes to pick up Marie for dinner, she confronts him

about the engagement and is told that it will make no difference in their

relationship, that "we can go on just the same". Marie refuses to go out

with Pierre, who leaves saying he'll come back when she's in a better mood.

 

Soon Marie gets a phone call from her girlfriend, inviting her to a wild

party in the bohemian Latin Quarter.  Getting the address wrong, Marie

accidentally arrives at the studio where Jean and his mother now live.

The two are glad to see each other but the passage of time has made them

formal and they conceal their real emotions.  Observing their penurious

condition Marie hires Jean to paint her portrait.

 

Jean arrives at Marie's flat to discuss her wardrobe for the portrait

and in the course of retrieving a scarf from a dresser drawer, the maid

accidentally drops one of Pierre's collars from the dresser, making Marie's

relationship with Revel clear to the artist.

 

As the days pass and the portrait nears completion, Jean again falls in

love with Marie, whom he stills sees as the country girl he once knew,

evidenced by the portrait, showing her as she appeared back then. When he

professes his love, Marie is noncommittal, split between marriage and a

family and the luxury she now enjoys.

 

When she confronts Pierre with her desire for marriage and children he

chides her, pointing to her pearl necklace as evidence of her happiness.

Marie rips it off her neck and throws it out the window, to which Pierre

reacts nonchalantly.  When a tramp on the street picks up the necklace,

Marie chases him down the street to retrieve it much to the amusement of

Pierre who watches from a window. Apparently the necklace does have

importance for Marie. Pierre confronts her about the artist and she admits

that she loves and will marry him. Pierre takes the news cooly and

dubiously, telling her that he'll see her for dinner the next evening.

 

In the artists garret, Jean and his mother argue about Marie. She is

adamant that he not marry her because of her reputation. Browbeaten,

he finally declares that he has reconsidered his proposal, and is overheard

by Marie who has just arrived, presumably to rekindle their love. She

confronts him and cooly confirms that the proposal was a mistake. But it is

clear that Jean still loves her and that his statement was made for his

mother's sake alone. He sets out to stalk Marie in hopes of re-establishing

their relationship.

 

That night Pierre dines at a fancy restaurant with Marie's friend Paulette,

whom he sends home in a taxi. When he arrives home he attempts to phone

Marie, who is calling him at the same instant. They make plans to dine the

following evening.

 

The next day, as Marie receives a massage, her friend Fifi tells her of

Pierre's infidelity with Paulette. We don't see Marie's reactions, just the

disapproving glares of the masseuse as she continues her work. When

Paulette arrives and privately tells Fifi that she intends to see Revel

again that evening, Fifi relays the information to Marie. In Paulette's

presence, Marie telephones Pierre to make arrangements for dinner, causing

Paulette to leave in dismay, to the derisive laughter of Marie and Fifi.

 

Later we observe the desperate Jean loading a revolver, which it would seem

he intends to use on Revel. At the fancy restaurant where Pierre and Marie

dine that night, Jean confronts the couple, incensed by Pierre's possession

of the note he has written to Marie to ask for one last meeting.  Ejected

from the restaurant for starting a disturbance, he stands alone in the

lobby, withdraws the gun and commits suicide, to the shock and horror of

Marie.

 

The body is brought to the artist's garret and his distraught mother takes

up his revolver and goes to Marie's flat.  Told that Marie has just left

for Jeans apartment she returns there, but finding Marie grieving over

Jean's body, puts down the gun and forgivingly approaches Marie.

 

Some time later Marie and the mother are living together in a country house

which they operate as an orphanage. Marie takes some of the children to buy

milk from a local farmer.  On the same road is Revel, riding in his

limousine. His friend asks him what ever happened to Marie.  He shrugs.

Marie, riding home on the back of a farmer's wagon, and Revel in his auto,

pass each other on the country road, unaware of each other's presence.

 

 

Cast

Edna Purviance - Marie St. Clair

Adolphe Menjou - Pierre Revel

Lydia Knott - Jean's Mother

Carl Miller - Jean Millet

 

Henry Bergman - Maitre d'Hotel

Charles French - Jean's Father

Nellie Bly Baker - Masseuse

Charles Chaplin - Station Porter

Clarence Geldert - Marie's Father

Karl Gutman - The Orchestra Conductor

Betty Morrissey - Fifi. Marie's Friend

Harry Northrup - Man About Town

Malvina Polo - Paulette, Marie's Friend

 

Production Team

 

Monta Bell - Film Editor

Charles Chaplin - Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Music

Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer

Rollie Totheroh - Cinematographer

Jack Wilson - Cinematographer

 

Chaplin Directing Woman of Paris with Rollie Totheroh,

Jack Wilson, Harry D'Arrast.

 

 

 

The Gold Rush

1925 - 87 min. 

 

 

 

 

The Gold Rush, Charles Chaplin's second feature for United Artists,

was the film by which, he said at the time, he wanted to be remembered.

It is considered by most critics and directors to be one of the greatest

films ever made, an epic, but with the delicate character touches that so

characterize Chaplin's later work. Its setting and theme were suggested to

Chaplin by two sources - seeing a stereopticon slide of gold miners

climbing the Chilkoot Pass in 1898 Alaska, and reading of the Donner party,

who had to resort to cannibalism to survive their pioneering journey across

the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1846. It is truly amazing that Chaplin could

fashion one of his greatest comedies from these images of hardship and

tragedy.

 

It was released in two versions by Chaplin, as a silent in 1925 and again

in 1942 with a narration spoken by Chaplin and a wonderful music score

composed by him, but substantially changed in plot with regard to two of

the major characters.  The synopsis below is of the original version.

 

In the frozen north of the 1890's a long line of prospectors struggle up

the forbidding mountains in pursuit of gold, and a lone prospector,

Charlie, rounds a snowy crag unaware that he is pursued by a large bear,

who ambles into his cave as Charlie trudges on.

 

Next we meet Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain) who has just found and staked his

claim on a mountain of gold.

 

Sliding on his rear down a snowy slope, Charlie stops to get his bearings

with the help of a paper compass, and soon encounters the grave marker of a

fellow prospector, lost in the snow.

 

The elements are the co-star of the film and a huge blizzard drives Charlie

into the cabin of fugitive murderer, Black Larsen (Tom Murray). Starving

he finds a partially uneaten meat bone and gnaws on it ravenously. Emerging

from hiding from a potentially dangerous intruder, Larsen tries to chase

Charlie from the cabin but is blown out the back door by the furious wind

as Charlie opens the front. They are soon joined by Big Jim and a fight

ensues when Larsen threatens the others with a shotgun. As Jim and Larsen

struggle, Charlie energetically tries to avoid the shotgun barrel which

always seems pointed in his direction. Big Jim wins the fight, and the

three settle into an uneasy peace.

 

After days of hunger it is decided that the three will cut cards to see who

goes for food.  Black Larsen loses and bids farewell to the others. He

comes upon the camp of two lawmen and in a shootout, kills them both and

takes off with their supplies.

 

On Thanksgiving day Charlie prepares dinner for Big Jim and himself, a

feast of Charlie's right shoe. There follows one of the most brilliant and

celebrated scenes in film history as Charlie feasts on the sole and

consumes it as a gourmet would a sumptuous meal, twirling the laces like

spaghetti, sucking the boot nails like bones and offering a bent one to Jim

as if it were a wish bone, as Jim chews on the upper, clearly disgusted.

 

Meanwhile, Black Larsen has found Big Jim's gold claim and has set to work

filling a sled with gold.

 

Back at the cabin the pair are hungry again, but Jim refuses Charlie's

offer to cook the other boot.  Instead, Jim's hunger crazed mind transforms

Charlie into a huge chicken, which he chases around the cabin until Charlie

seizes what he takes to be Jim's fur clad leg, but is actually the leg of a

large bear. When it runs out of the cabin, Charlie grabs the rifle and

shoots. Sending Big Jim out for the meat, Charlie busily sets the table.

The end of the storm causes a parting of the ways, Charlie to the mining

town and Jim back to his claim. He confronts Black Larsen there, who fells

Jim with a blow from a shovel.  Larsen escapes with the stolen gold, but

the elements intervene and he is carried to his death as the cliff upon

which he stands breaks off, plunging him into the chasm.

 

Charlie arrives in town, selling his mining gear and proceeding to the

saloon where he firsts sees Georgia (Georgia Hale), a dance hall girl

tired of her life, and ladies man Jack Cameron who seeks her attention.

Georgia has just received some photos of herself and Jack snatches one from

her hands, tearing it and provoking her anger. The Little Fellow, always

the outsider, is smitten by Georgia when he mistakenly takes her greeting

of another Charlie, standing behind him, for his own, but is dejected as

she walks past his outstretched hand. He finds the torn photo on the floor

and surreptitiously picks it up. He overhears Georgia's complaint's about

her boredom and desire to meet someone "worthwhile".  Her eyes scan the

room and pass over Charlie, standing close by.

 

Jack is there celebrating with the other dance hall girls but when he

demands Georgia dance with him, she spitefully chooses the most unlikely of

partners - Charlie.  As they dance, Charlie loses his belt and the famous

baggy pants begin to fall. Luckily Charlie spots a nearby rope and ties it

around his waist, only to find that the other end is tied to a large dog,

who pulls the Tramp over when it takes off after a cat.

 

Jack again confronts Georgia but Charlie intervenes. Jack pulls Charlie's

derby down over his eyes and in the ensuing scuffle Jack is accidentally

knocked out by a falling clock. Charlie, thinking he felled Jack with a

single blow exits the saloon triumphantly.

 

Charlie's next task is to find a place to live.  Passing by the cabin of

Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman), and smelling the food cooking within, he

feigns unconsciousness. Kindly Hank carries him inside, stiff as a board,

and gives him food and drink.

 

Meanwhile Big Jim wanders aimlessly in the snow, suffering from amnesia due

to the blow he had received from Black Larsen.

 

Hank leaves the cabin in Charlie's care while he goes to tend his mine.

Charlie, filling an oil lamp spills some of the fuel on his cloth wrapped

foot. Georgia and her girlfriends, playing near the cabin, engage in a

snowball fight. An errant snowball hits the cabin door and when Charlie

opens it to investigate, he's hit in the face with another. He's delighted

to see Georgia again, and she feigns equal delight.

 

Invited into the cabin, Georgia finds her torn picture and the rose she had

given Charlie under the pillow on his bed. She shows these jokingly to the

others, and the girls make a fuss over Charlie when he returns from

fetching firewood. One of them accidentally drops a lit match on Charlie's

inflammable wrapped foot and he unknowingly places the burning appendage

under her chair. When her seat begins to burn Charlie douses the fire and

puts his foot in a bucket of water. The girls depart, Georgia promising

that they'll come to dinner on New Years Eve.

 

In order to earn money for the dinner, Charlie shovels snow in town, piling

it from one store front onto the next until he realizes that the last one

is the jail house.

 

On New Year's Eve, in the now festively decorated cabin, Charlie busily

prepares dinner, while a celebration is going on in the nearby saloon.

After setting the table with party favors and basting the roast, he sits

down to rest and we next see him entertaining the girls, who are excitedly

displaying their presents. Charlie, asked to make a speech, instead

performs the brilliant "Dance of the Oceana Rolls", one of the most

enduring images in film history.  He spears two dinner rolls with forks and

uses them as dancing feet. 

 

 

In the darkened background his head and upper body seem to meld with the

image and he elegantly dances, kicks, shuffles and splits, to the delight of the girls.

When the performance ends the image crossfades to a dreaming Charlie, who is

alone in the cabin.

 

On the stroke of midnight Georgia and Jack are together in the saloon,

ringing in the New Year.  Georgia fires a pistol and the report awakens

Charlie in the cabin.  Realizing he's been stood up, he stands in his

doorway listening to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" coming from the

saloon.  He makes his way to the saloon, observing from the window the

revelry within.

 

Georgia remembers her promise and suggests that they all go to the cabin

and have some fun at Charlie's expense. On their way out of the saloon Jack

asks Georgia if she loves him; she says yes and they kiss. When they show

up at the cabin, Georgia goes in first and seeing the party preparations,

realizes that the joke has gone too far.  When the others come in she

chases them out, and when Jack forces another kiss, she slaps him angrily.

 

The next day, Big Jim wanders into town and going to the assayers office,

he unsuccessfully tries to stake his claim, but can't recall its location.

He says that if he could find the cabin he could locate his mountain of

gold.

 

Sitting at a balcony table in the saloon, Georgia writes a note to Jack

apologizing for her behaviour and professing her love. As Charlie wanders

into the dance hall, Jack, who is sitting with the other dance hall girls,

receives the note.  Observed by Georgia, he disdainfully laughs and tells

the waiter who delivered it to take it to Charlie who is overjoyed when he

reads it and tries to locate Georgia. Just then he bumps into Big Jim who

raucously tells Charlie that if he can take him to the cabin, he'll make

Charlie a millionaire. An astonished Georgia watches as Charlie climbs to

the balcony and bids her farewell declaring his love.

 

Back at the cabin, this time well stocked with food and drink, the two

prospectors settle in for the night. During the night another storm blows

the cabin to the brink of a precipice, a rope attached to the cabin and

lodged in some rocks, the only thing which keeps it from plummeting over

the edge.  When the men arise in the morning, Charlie believes that the

rocking of the cabin as he moves from end to end is due to his

overindulgence the night before. They soon discover their predicament and

in a hilarious scene, they attempt to escape from the teetering cabin.

Finally safe on the cliff as the cabin falls, Big Jim discovers that the

spot on which they're standing is his mountain of gold.

 

On board a liner returning to America, Big Jim and Charlie are now multi-

millionaires. Asked to pose for press photographers in his old mining

clothes Charlie repairs to his cabin to change. He gazes longingly at

Georgia's gilt framed photo; she was gone when he returned to the mining

town.

 

On deck, Charlie poses for the press.  Asked to step backward, he falls to

the deck below into a coil of ropes, beside which sits Georgia, returning

to the States in steerage. Having overheard crew members discussing a

stowaway for whom they're searching, Georgia assumes it's Charlie and she

attempts to hide him.  When he's discovered, she offers to pay his fare to

prevent his arrest.  The captain descends from above and identities Charlie

as Big Jim's partner, the multi millionaire, much to Georgia's shock and

amazement.  Charlie tells his butler to prepare for a guest, and when a

reporter asks who the girl is, his whispered answer elicits the pressman's

congratulations.

 

Asked to pose together on the upper deck, they look at each other and kiss.

The reporter complains that they've ruined the picture (perhaps implying

Chaplin's anticipation of criticism for ruining the film with a happy

ending) but Charlie waves him away, and as he and Georgia continue their

kiss, the scene fades out.

 

The changes made to the film for the 1942 re-release - eliminating the

closing kiss, changing Georgia's note from a love note to Jack to an

apology to Charlie, and cutting the scene where Georgia confesses her love

for Jack, softens Georgia's character and lessens the importance of Jack's.

The new ending has Charlie and Georgia making their way up the steps to the

upper deck, and into a less certain future, as the scene fades.

 

 

Spoiling the picture

 

Cast

 

Charlie Chaplin - The Lone Prospector

Mack Swain - Big Jim McKay

Tom Murray - Black Larson

Georgia Hale - Georgia

Henry Bergman - Hank Curtis

Malcolm Waite - Jack Cameron

Stanley "Tiny" Sanford  - Bartender

Kay Deslys - Georgia's Friend

Joan Lowell - Georgia's Friend

Betty Morrissey - Georgia's friend

Albert Austin - Prospector

Charles "Heinie" Conklin - Prospector

Allan Garcia - Prospector

John Rand - Prospector

Tom Wood - Prospector

Barbara Pierce - Manicurist

 

Extras -

 

Jack Adams

Sam Allen

Harry Arras

William Bell

William Bradford

George Brock

William Butler

Cecile Cameron

Leland Carr

J.C. Fowler

Inez Gomez

Ben R. Hart

Jack Herrick

George Holt

Harry Jones

John King

Geraldine Leslie

Chris Martin

Margaret Martin

John McGrath

John Millerta

Betty Pierce

Frank Rice

Jane Sherman

Joe Smith

John Tully

John Wallace

 

Production Team

 

Charles Chaplin - Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Film Editor, Music

Edward Sutherland - Associate Director

Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast - Assistant Director

Charles Riesner - Associate Director

Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer

Jack Wilson - Cameraman

Charles D. Hall - Technical Director

 

 

The Circus

1928 - 87 minutes

 

The Circus, Charlie Chaplin's last truly silent film, is perhaps his

most underrated feature and certainly one of the funniest. It was made

during a difficult period for Chaplin - his divorce from Lita Grey, his

mother's death and a near-nervous breakdown, and was beset by production

problems - ruined footage and a studio fire.

 

Under the big top of a travelling circus and side show, a bareback rider

jumps through a paper hoop. The show is on, lead by a stern Ring Master,

the step-father of the star equestrienne, Merna. Her act over, Merna

receives a berating and some rough treatment for missing a hoop. When the

clowns come off they receive similar remarks.

 

Out on the midway, a crowd is gathered in front of a fun house.  Near the

back of the crowd we see hungry and broke Charlie from the rear. A

pickpocket is at work nearby, and noticing a nearby cop he deposits his

booty, a watch and wallet, into an unknowing Charlie's pocket. The cop

gives chase to the pickpocket as Charlie makes his way to a hot dog stand,

where he cajoles a toddler into sharing his hot dog. Along comes the

pickpocket who attempts to relieve Charlie of the goods but is caught by

another cop, who returns the valuables to Charlie, who promptly orders

lunch. As he eats, the pickpocket's original victim arrives and spots his

watch and wallet when Charlie pays for his food. Another cop is summoned

and Charlie takes to his heels. When the pickpocket shakes his cop the two

pursuees meet on the run and Charlie scurries into the fun house and ends

up in the hall of mirrors. The crook soon catches up to him and in an

ingenious scene Chaplin uses the mirrors to confuse him and momentarily

escape. At the entrance to the funhouse, the pickpocket grabs Charlie, but

observed by two cops, Charlie transforms into an automaton like the others

adorning the attraction, and repeatedly strikes the crook with his own

blackjack in clockwork style. The chase renews when the third cop emerges

from the funhouse and seeing the crook collapse, takes him into custody.

Charlie flees back into the hall of mirrors and there confounds the cop who

had followed him.

 

Pursued by the cop, Charlie flees into the big top and becomes the hit of

the show, as the chase takes center stage.  He evades the cop, hiding in a

magician's cabinet and further delights the audience by messing up the

magic act. Chased out of the big top, and evading his own pursuer, Charlie

encounters the arrested thief and hands over the watch and wallet to the

unsuspecting cop, before sitting down to rest on a small cart.  The

audience in the circus is displeased with the antics of the regular clowns

and demands to see more of "the funny man", who at that moment is asleep in

the cart.

 

Meal time after the show finds Merna sitting outside her wagon, gazing at

the clowns eating. She has been forbidden food by her step father as

punishment for missing her hoop.  A clown (Henry Bergman) tries to give

her part of his meal but is stopped by the mean Ring Master, who soon

discovers Charlie sleeping in the cart.  He offers Charlie a tryout as a

clown the next day.

 

The next morning Charlie boils a can of water just outside Merna's wagon

and chases after a chicken, returning a moment later with an egg. Merna,

emerging from her trailer, see Charlie's bread laying there and hungrily

begins to eat it.  Returning with fire wood, Charlie discovers her and

after a scolding, shares his bread with her. As they get acquainted, the

boss comes along and slaps Merna for eating and sends her back to the

trailer. He then leads a piqued Charlie off to his tryout, but Charlie

flips Merna the boiled egg before he follows.

 

Charlie gleefully watches the other clowns perform their routines, but is

inept himself, accidentally pasting the boss with soap during a barber shop

sketch.  He's unceremoniously thrown out and meets Merna outside, where he

explains that he and the boss "couldn't come to terms". The show is

starting and Charlie watches through a hole in the tent. The stagehands go

on strike and Charlie is drafted by the head hand (Tiny Sandford).  He

has to set up some juggling plates but he's chased by a circus mule onto

center stage, tumbling and delighting the crowd. He's told to help the

magician set up, and accidentally pushes a secret button on his table,

causing all manner of things to emerge from it.  The audience goes wild

watching Charlie's struggles, and the Ring Master realizes that Charlie's a

hit only when he's not trying to be funny.  He instructs Tiny to keep

Charlie on as a property man.  He's kept busy doing chores, including

blowing a pill down the throat of a horse, who blows first. Reeling from

this, he's chased by the mule straight into a lion's cage, the door locking

behind him. A noisy dog adds to Charlie's obvious discomfort. Merna finds

him there and promptly faints, but Charlie revives her by sprinkling water

from the lion's trough. Charlie feigns courage. but as Merna lets him out,

the lion's roar scares him enough to send him up a pole, from which he

descends in a most balletic way.

 

Merna tells Charlie that he's the hit of the show; he says he knew it all

along.  Overhearing the conversation, the Ring Master, angered over her

revealing the truth to Charlie, strikes Merna. Charlie threatens to walk if

Merna is hit again and then demands his true worth. The Ring Master offers

to double his first bid of $60 a week, but Charlie won't take less than

$100!

 

Before the next performance Charlie overhears Merna having her fortune told

and assumes himself to be the dark, handsome man about whom she's foretold.

He buys a ring from the fat clown, but going to find Merna, he observes her

meeting with Rex, a tightrope walker, just added as a new attraction. He

then overhears Merna excitedly telling the fortune teller that she has

fallen in love with the tightrope walker. The news causes Charlie to give a

lacklustre performance.  As he watches Merna and Rex in conversation, his

jealous, alter-ego spirit rises from the seated Charlie and gives Rex a

sound thrashing, but it's just a daydream.  Merna spots Charlie and

introduces the two men, then makes Charlie sit and watch Rex's act with

her, despite his dislike for high wire acts.

 

The next days bring a flowering of Rex's and Merna's romance, while Charlie

tries to compete by learning to walk the wire, albeit from only a few feet

above ground. As a clown however, he's a failure and the boss threatens to

fire him if he gets no laughs next show.

 

The show's about to start and Rex is missing. The Ring Master, having

observed Charlie's tight rope practice, and knowing he has Charlie insured,

demands he go on in Rex's place. In order to impress Merna, Charlie

accepts.  In trying to find Rex's costume, Charlie unwittingly releases a

bunch of monkeys from a trunk, and dressing in Rex's breakaway tails,

forgets to don the leotard that goes underneath. He bribes a stagehand to

operate a wire from which Charlie is tethered by a harness. Unaware of

this, Merna begs Charlie not to risk going on, but Charlie's wire gets

caught in a power generator and his shocked reactions makes Merna think

he's rebuking her.

 

At first the high wire act goes well, Charlie amazing the crowd with his

acrobatics. But soon the harness slips off and Charlie is just trying to

make his way to the end of the wire. Now the monkeys make their way up to

the rope and create havoc, climbing all over Charlie, biting his nose and

tearing away his pants.  He finally makes his way to the bicycle at the end

of the wire and does the "ride for life" - straight out of the tent and

into a nearby grocery. The Ring Master, annoyed at Charlie's survival,

beats Merna for knocking over a props table into which he had pushed her.

Coming into the tent Charlie knocks the boss down and lays into him. He's

removed by the burly head stagehand and fired by the boss.

 

That night, Charlie sits by a campfire out in the country. Merna finds him

there and tells him she's left the circus. She begs to be taken along with

him, but he realizes that would be no life for her.  Leaving her there, he

goes to see Rex and suggests that he marry her, giving him the ring he'd

bought earlier. Rex obviously agrees because the next morning sees them

exiting a church with Charlie along throwing rice and celebrating.

 

The circus is leaving town. When the trio show up at the caravan, Rex

prevents another berating of his new wife, presenting the Ring Master with

the marriage license.  Step-father relents and shakes Rex's hand as the

couple decides to stay with the circus. Charlie is also forgiven but

declines to ride in the newlywed's wagon, saying that he'll ride in a wagon

behind. Charlie has no such intention however, realizing that there's no

place for him there. In a moving and exquisite scene, he sits in the stark

morning sunlight, watching the wagons pull away. Picking up a torn piece of

paper from the bareback rider's hoop, he stands, crumples it up and back

kicks it away, before jauntily walking off to his next adventure.

 

Chaplin won a special Academy Award in 1928 for his "versatility and genius

in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus" and was also

nominated for best actor and best comedy director.

 

Cast

 

Charles Chaplin  - The Tramp

Merna Kennedy  - Equestrian

Harry Crocker  - Rex, the Tightrope Walker

Allan Garcia  - Circus Owner

Betty Morrissey  - The Vanishing Lady

Henry Bergman  - The Old Clown

George Davis  - Magician

Steve Murphy  - The Pickpocket

John Rand  - Assistant Property Man

Tiny Sandford  - The Head Property Man

Hugh Saxon - Pickpocket's Victim

 

Production Team

 

Charles Chaplin - Director / Editor / Composer (Music Score) /

Cinematographer / Producer / Screenwriter

Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer

Charles Hall - Production Designer

Harry Crocker - Asst. Director

 

 

City Lights

1931 - 87 min.

 

 

Generally recognized as Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece, City Lights is

a non-dialogue comedy released over three years after the debut of talking

pictures. It is a sound film, containing Chaplin's delightful, first complete film score

and some sound effects, but Chaplin correctly eschewed talking for pantomime, of

which he was the master.

 

At the t-intersection of two city streets a crowd is gathered to watch the

unveiling of a new statue. On the rostrum are various dignitaries who make

speeches, the sounds of which are portrayed by the squawking of kazoos, a

dual comment on the sound of speech in the early talkies, and on the

pomposity of the speakers. When the cover is raised Charlie, the Little

Fellow, is revealed sleeping in the lap of the seated figure. The cries of

those below wake him and as he attempts to climb down his pants bottom is

speared by the sword of one of the other figures. He's left dangling there

as the national anthem plays, as he attempts to stand at attention with

unsure footing. Despite the protests of the dignitaries, Charlie takes his

time descending, resting by seating himself on the face of the second

statue and pausing to tie his shoelace, while resting on another.

 

That afternoon as Charlie strolls down the street, he's teased by a couple

of mischievous newsboys, then pauses to admire a nude statue in a store

window. As he steps forward and back, appreciating the statue like a true

art connoisseur, the sidewalk elevator lowers and rises, causing some near

misses. When Charlie finally does nearly fall in, he berates the workman

below, until the fully raised elevator reveals him to be a giant of a man.

 

Later, wandering down the street the Tramp sees a motorcycle cop approach,

and crosses the street amid traffic to avoid him. To reach the opposite

side he enters a parked limousine and exits at the curb. Sitting at the

base of an iron fence is a beautiful girl selling flowers (Virginia

Cherrill).  She hears the car door slam and offers Charlie a flower.

Charlie, feeling a bit put upon, agrees to buy a flower, but as the girl

reaches out her hand he accidentally knocks the flower to the ground. He

picks it up and is puzzled as to why she continues to look for it. He then

realizes that she is blind. He gives her what is probably his only coin,

but before she can give him his change the car door slams again and she

assumes that her generous customer has driven off. Smitten with her,

Charlie silently sneaks away to a spot by the fence near a fountain, where

he can admire the girl. She brings a vase to the fountain which she rinses

and unknowingly tosses the water into the Tramp's face. He sneaks away, not

wishing to spoil her illusion of a rich benefactor.

 

That night Charlie rests on a bench near a canal.  Nearby a well dressed,

drunken man (Harry  Myers) is tying a rope to a large rock and the other

end around his neck, intending suicide by drowning. Charlie persuades him

that life is worth living, and after a hilarious scene in which they both

end up in the drink, they repair to the home of the man, a millionaire

businessman.

 

The millionaire provides drinks and dry clothes and after Charlie stops

another attempt at suicide by the millionaire, who learns from his butler

 

that his wife has left him, the pair heads out to a restaurant/night club.

At the club the tipsy duo get into trouble with the other customers and

Charlie mistakenly eats a long party streamer thinking it's part of his

plate of spaghetti. In his tipsy state Charlie mistakes an apache dance duo

for a fighting couple and attempts to rescue the female member.

 

Early morning finds the pair leaving the club in the millionaire's fancy

limousine, which he gives to Charlie when the latter expresses his

admiration for it.  Delivering the drunk millionaire to his butler, Charlie

is shut out. He sees Virginia pass by with her baskets of flowers, and when

the butler admits him to the house at his boss's demand, Charlie asks for

money to buy her flowers.  He does so, over-tipping her generously and

driving her home in "his" new car.  After a romantic farewell at her

doorstep, Charlie drives back to Harry's house, where the butler won't

admit him on the now-sober millionaire's orders. Standing outside the

house, Charlie sees a man pass by smoking a cigar.  He jumps into the limo

and follows the man until he throws the butt away, then jumps out of the

limo to retrieve it, pushing an astonished bum out of the way.  Returning

to the millionaire's home with the limo, his rich friend, exiting the

house, does not recognize Charlie and drives away.

 

Later in the afternoon, Charlie passes by a bar and is greeted joyously by

the millionaire who is drunk again.  He offers to throw a party in his

house for Charlie and the two drive home together.  The party is a wild

affair, during which Charlie accidentally swallows a toy whistle. His

trilling hiccups interrupt a performance by a singer, and summon a bunch of

neighborhood dogs.

 

The next morning the hungover but sober millionaire is quite distressed to

find his bedmate is the unrecognized Charlie, and has him ejected from the

house. The millionaire begins packing to go to Europe and Charlie is again

on his own.

 

Strolling by Virginia's customary vending spot, Charlie finds she's not

there and goes to her tenement, where he observes through the window that

the girl is ill. In an attempt to keep up his illusion as her rich

benefactor, he takes a job as a street cleaner. Pushing his ashcan, he

changes direction when a group of horses cross his path, and is less than

thrilled when a circus elephant approaches.

 

On his lunch hour he goes to visit the recovering flower girl, bringing her

groceries and news of a new surgical procedure which could restore her

sight. He's taken back a moment when Virginia expresses her wish to finally

see him. Charlie accidentally finds a letter demanding payment for back

rent which the girls grandmother has hidden from her.  Promising to pay the

rent, he departs.

 

Returning late from lunch, Charlie is fired, but gets a break in an offer

to box in a rigged match in which the participants would secretly split the

purse. Unfortunately his opponent receives a telegram saying that the cops

are on his trail and he "takes it on the lam". His replacement is a tough

fighter (Hank Mann) who refuses the same deal, wanting the match to be

"winner take all". In the brilliant comedy boxing match, the ultimate

development of the earlier scenes in "The Knockout" and "The Champion",

Charlie holds his own by dancing around the ring keeping the referee

between him and his opponent. For a while Charlie seems to have a chance of

winning, but is finally knocked out.

 

Back on the street fortune smiles on Charlie again when he runs into the

newly returned and freshly tipsy millionaire, who again greets him joyously

and brings him home. By the time they arrive the millionaire has already

agreed to help the girl and gives Charlie $1000, but two robbers who have

been hiding behind a curtain hit the millionaire over the head and steal

his wallet and remaining cash. Fighting them off, Charlie phones the police

and his cries for help bring the butler, who assumes that Charlie is the

perpetrator, as do the arriving police after they search him and find the

$1000. When the millionaire regains consciousness he again doesn't remember

Charlie. Desperate Charlie snatches back the cash from the cop and makes

his escape.

 

He goes directly to Virginia's and gives her the money for her rent and the

operation, sadly bidding her goodbye. She guesses that he's going away,

which he admits. Soon, back on the street, Charlie is arrested, but

philosophically accepts his imprisonment - as he's being led through the

prison gate he flips his cigarette butt over his shoulder and back-kicks it

away.

 

Months pass and a much shabbier Charlie is out of prison, and the recovered

flower girl now has her own florist shop. She lives in hope of seeing her

rich benefactor again, hoping each affluent looking, handsome customer will

he him.  As Charlie passes her shop, he picks up a cast-off flower from the

curb. The same pair of newsboys tease him for his raggedness, shooting him

with their pea-shooters and pulling a loose cloth from the seat of his

pants, before he chases them away.  All this is observed by a laughing

Virginia from her shop window. When Charlie finally catches sight of her,

he stands transfixed, smiling, his flower falling apart in his hands.

Amused by her new conquest, she offers him a fresh rose and a coin, but as

she exits the shop, he begins to walk away, afraid to reveal his identity.

She insists that he take the flower and grabs his hand to press the coin

into it. Now occurs one of the most beautiful and magical moments in all

film, as Virginia realizes, from the touch of his hand, who he really is.

He asks if she can see now; she answers that yes, she can see, and as they

gaze at each other, she in shock, gratitude and wonder, he in loving hope,

the scene fades out.

 

Film critic James Agee said of this last scene, "It is enough to shrivel

the heart to see, and it is the greatest piece of acting and the highest

moment in movies".

 

 

Cast

 

Charles Chaplin  - The Tramp

Virginia Cherrill  - The Blind Girl

Harry Myers  - The Millionaire

Allan Garcia  - The Millionaire's Butler

Hank Mann  - The Boxer

Florence Lee  - Blind Girl's Grandmother

Albert Austin - Street-cleaner, Burglar
Jean Harlow - Guest in Nightclub (in stills but not in final print)
James Donnelly - Foreman
Eddie Baker - Referee
Henry Bergman - Mayor/Basement Dweller
Robert Parrish - Newsboy
John Rand - Tramp
Stanhope Wheatcroft - Man in Cafe
 

Production Team

 

Charles Chaplin - Director / Editor / Composer /Producer / Screenwriter

Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer

Alfred Newman - Composer (Music Score)

Charles Hall - Art Director

Albert Austin - Asst. Director / Screenwriter

Henry Bergman - Asst. Director / Screenwriter

Harry Crocker - Asst. Director

 

 

Modern Times through A Countess from Hong Kong coming soon.

 

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(c)1997-2008 Phil Posner