Modern Times and Chaplin

After watching The Wild Bunch from the AFI top 100 list, I was a little hesitant about the next movie. I was not a huge fan of the western and I was hoping the rest of the movies on the list wouldn’t let me down as well. Number 78 on the list is Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 comedy.

I’m familiar with Charlie Chaplin, however, I’ve only seen clips from his movies and never sat down to watch one from beginning to end. At first, I was not thrilled with the movie. It starts off with Chaplin as a factory worker, whose job on an assembly line is anything but fascinating. Of course, that was the point of this part of the film. Chaplin’s character is forced to work faster and faster until he ultimately has a breakdown. After a stay in the hospital he is thrust onto the streets again. He’s then mistaken as a leader of a Communist demonstration and is arrested. During his time in jail, he accidentally ingests cocaine and while high he stops a jailbreak. He’s seen as a hero and is put back onto the streets once again. However, everything isn’t rosy on the streets and he misses his time in jail. He tries to get arrested again. During this process, he stumbles upon an orphan (Paulette Goddard) who is on the run from the police. She’s stolen some bread. Chaplin informs the police that he is the culprit, not the orphan. This ploy doesn’t work. What follows is an entertaining love story between Chaplin’s character and the orphan.

I used to work with a Charlie Chaplin fanatic. He owned all of his movies and talked about him incessantly. His passion never bothered me since I love this time in history and my friend is extremely funny. Also, I’ve always appreciated people who are passionate and aren’t afraid to show it. While I enjoyed Modern Times, I couldn’t figure out why my friend loved Chaplin so much. Yes he’s funny, thought-provoking, and inspiring. But I don’t see myself seeking out all of his movies and biographies so I can learn everything about him. Albeit, not all of us can be passionate about the same thing or life would be boring. I’m glad I finally watched this film and I see why it’s on the list. I wasn’t dazzled by it, yet I was entertained and it kept my interest, unlike The Wild Bunch. Maybe if I was alive during the time it was released it would have had a greater impact on me.

All the President’s Men is next on the list. I’ve seen this film before and I’m looking forward to watching it again.

When I was in Montreal, Canada a few years ago I stumbled upon this. The Little Tramp really is one of the most recognizable characters in film history.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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14 Responses to Modern Times and Chaplin

  1. IsobelandCat says:

    Some Chaplin I love, some bores me. But the thing was he was an innovator. I also have a share of local pride as he was born in the part of London where I live. 🙂 As was Michael Caine.

  2. patricia says:

    I like Chaplin, not love. I agree with IsobelandCat-he was an innovator and very original for his time and I like him for that.

  3. bocafrau says:

    I remember seeing one or the other Charlie Chaplin movie when I was little because my grandma watched them but I truly don’t remember much about them at all! It’s interesting how something or someone can be of great interest to one person and pose no interest whatsoever on another!

    • TBM says:

      So many of us can be fascinated by something and others might think, “well, that’s odd.” But I love it. It’s what makes unique individuals fascinating.

  4. I’ve never gotten the appeal for Charlie Chaplin either. I’ve tried, but just don’t like his films. He was an interesting character in real life–supposedly the inspiration for Nabokov’s Lolita. Three of his four wives were under the age of 18.

    I re-watched All the President’s Men recently and was happy to see that it stood the test of time.

  5. Fergiemoto says:

    I like watching the old Charlie Chaplin flicks, but like you, I’ve only seen parts of movies. I watched a movie within the last couple of years where Robert Downey Jr. played the role of Chaplin. I did like that one.

  6. Caroline says:

    I feel similar about Chaplin with the exception of his last movie, Limelight, if that’s the title. But that is a pure tragedy. A wonderful movie.

  7. Natalie says:

    I’m a bit late to comment on this, but hey, better late than never. Modern Times was also the first Chaplin feature I saw all the way through, and I really loved it, particularly for the can-do spirit of the ending. I’ve since seen most of Chaplin’s major silent features as well as his talkie The Great Dictator. I think there are a couple more Chaplin films on the AFI list, so I’m curious to see if they change your views on him.

    • TBM says:

      The Gold Rush is on the list–I’m not sure what its ranking is off the top of my head. There might be more on the list. I’m also curious if my opinion will change. Thanks so much for the comment!

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