Friday, November 16, 2018

THE GREATEST FILM I'VE NEVER SEEN BLOGATHON: Modern Times (1936)


Debbie Vega at Moon in Gemini is hosting the genius blogathon The Greatest Film I've Never Seen from November 16th to 18th. What is the big gap in your film viewing? Will you love it? Will you be disappointed? Click HERE to discover the answers to those questions and more.

Over the years, I have seen a clip here and a clip there from Chaplin's Modern Times but had not seen the movie.


Did I think I didn't need to see it? After all, I do know how it ends thanks to this famous image. Did I not want to see it? The title and the things I had read all talked about this being Chaplin's commentary on 20th Century life. Maybe I thought it was going to be preachy. Truth be told, the very opening scene which likened a herd of sheep to the crowds in a city made me grimace. However, I soldiered on and I am very glad I did so.



Our Tramp is a small cog in the great wheel of civilization, sometimes literally. Bosses and cops and preconceptions are aligned against him. I expected the pathos, but for some reason, I didn't expect the laughs and Charlie the clown gave me plenty of them.

Pushed around at his factory job to the point of being a guinea pig for a feeding machine the Tramp goes off the deep end and is sent to a sanitarium. Upon release, he is mistaken for a "Red" (wonder where he got that idea) and ends up a convict who becomes an unlikely hero who gets kicked out of his cushy cell and back to the cold streets.


It is back on those cold streets that he comes across "The Gamin" and they befriend each other. Paulette Goddard plays this orphan who was destined for an institution with her two younger sisters. She sought freedom, no matter the cost. The odd yet simpatico pair dream of having a home someday.


This is the Chaplin of The Rink, as he defies gravity and common sense roller skating during a wonderful segment in which he and The Gamin spend the night in a Department Store. The night watchman job was one of a series of "ups" which is always too quickly followed by a "down." We even get the Tramp of The Cure when he inadvertently gets soused.


Frequent co-stars of the past, Tiny Sandford as a factory co-worker and Chester Conklin as a chief mechanic, add to the nostalgia and the fun of the 1936 release, a mostly silent movie in the era of talkies. Originally planned as a talkie, writer/director/composer/editor Charlie Chaplin thought better of letting the Tramp speak. It was so unlike him! Instead, during one of the "up" periods when The Gamin is dancing in a cafe, she gets her friend the job of a singing waiter. Chaplin is heard onscreen singing delightful gibberish accompanied by an equally delightful pantomime. The creator remained true to his creation.

Chaplin's compositions arranged by David Raksin and Edward Powell, and conducted by Alfred Newman are superb. I admit to getting a little weepy when Smile is played in the score, but I spent most of this movie smiling and chuckling and laughing out loud.

Modern Times was placed on the National Film Registry in 1989. It is a genuine classic and no longer the greatest movie I have never seen.















16 comments:

  1. Great movie, but its not-quite talkie/not-quite silent nature always struck me as peculiar. I'd rather he had stuck with it as a silent, but it doesn't matter to me that much. In fact, it's probably my favorite Chaplin film.

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  2. I think my favourite is The Circus, but I'm awfully glad I finally saw this. I really enjoyed it. I think I'll probably like it even more as I see it again.

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  3. Such a wonderful movie, and great essay! If you want a real treat, look up the making of that department store roller skating scene...unbelievable how well he planned it, and how he achieved the practical effects!

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    1. Thanks. I'll be sure to do that. My appreciation of and for Chaplin has grown greater in later years.

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  4. Glad you liked it. I like about half of it, and love the ending. Paula Goddard and Chaplin make a great couple!

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    1. Half a movie is better than none. They really did make a great couple, but in a quiet and easy way, not "in your face."

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  5. Love your write up on Charlie but I really love that last slide!

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  6. I'm thinking it should be framed and on the wall somewhere as a reminder.

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  7. What an outstanding film which speaks volumes about the human condition which Chaplin seemed to be able to tap into with such precision and insight. One of the greatest artists of the 20th century! Thanks for a fantastic review! Will watch it again with your insights coming to mind. Best regards, Paul

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    1. Thank you so much, Paul.

      I do regret not seeing the movie earlier, but I do believe that things come to you when they are meant to and will do the most good.

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  8. YAY, I'm so glad you finally got to see the entire film! I love Modern Times; it's absolutely one of my top films. Thanks for contributing to the blogathon!

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    1. Thanks so much for hosting and giving me the kick I needed. My pleasure to participate.

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  9. I'm glad you liked it. It's a charming Chaplin movie, and Paulette has never been so adorable.
    Ironically, this film is basically mandatory in Brazilian schools and shown when we study the Industrial Revolution - which means that the first time I watched it I must have been 12!
    Kisses!

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    1. Wow! What a great way to teach some aspects of the Industrial Revolution. I like that sort of education. Thanks so much for stopping by. See (read) you soon.

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  10. I'm so glad you finally experienced the movie. It really does have some emotional and compelling moments. Thanks for sharing your valuable impressions of it as a first time viewer. It's always a pleasure to read your insightful posts.

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    1. Thank you so much.

      I can't help wondering what other treasures I have been denying myself. We'll never get bored with classic movies in our life.

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