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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Modern Times (1936)

Set in the Great Depression of the 1930s, a factory worker (Charlie Chaplin) has a nervous breakdown and after being released from a hospital stay, he is mistaken for a communist rabble rouser and sent to jail. Once out of jail, he meets a young orphan (Paulette Goddard) and a romantic attachment follows and they dream of having their own home. I'll say upfront that I'm not Chaplin's biggest fan but I adore this movie and it's my second favorite Chaplin after CITY LIGHTS. One of the great physical comedy actors of all time, Chaplin's "little tramp" character is at his most beguiling here. Whether sailing on roller skates in a department store or singing a French ditty in a restaurant, his body language shows why he didn't need dialog. Apparently Chaplin had originally planned for MODERN TIMES to be his first talkie but he abandoned the idea once shooting started and only uses music and sound effects. The film has a "message" (how industrialization dehumanizes) but Chaplin doesn't moralize, he lets humor lead the way. Chaplin also did the score which contains his most famous theme, Smile. With Chester Conklin, Henry Bergman and in her film debut, Gloria DeHaven as Goddard's kid sister.

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