Pages: (1) (2) (3)
In Modern Times (1936), the still-silent Tramp, with his familiar small Derby hat, mustache, large boots, baggy pants, tight jacket and cane makes his last screen appearance. Filmed between 1932 and 1936, it was directed, written, scored, and produced by Chaplin himself - and he also starred in his own 'one-man show' with his current wife andkindred spirit Paulette Goddard. This was Chaplin's first film after his successful City Lights (1931), released nine years after the advent of 'talkies.'
This social protest film is Charlie Chaplin's final stand against the synchronized sound film - and it is also his last full-length "silent film" - although it must be noted that it is a quasi-silent film. There is no traditional,synchronized voice dialogue in the film - but voices and sounds do emanate from machines (e.g., the feeding machine), television screens (i.e., the Big Brother screen - pre-dating George Orwell's book 1984, written/published in 1949), and Chaplin's actual voice is heard singing an imaginary, nonsense song of gibberish. Special sound effects and an original musical score (by composer Chaplin, includingvarious musical themes from "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum," "Prisoner's Song," "How Dry I Am," and "In the Evening By the Moonlight") enhance the pantomime.
Set in the 1930s during the Great Depression era, the film's main concerns (and those of the oppressed Tramp) echo those of millions of people at the time - unemployment, poverty, and hunger. It has a number of wonderfully inventive and memorableroutines and scenes that proclaim the frustrating struggle by proletarian man against the dehumanizing effects of the machine in the Industrial Age (at the time of Henry Ford's assembly line), and various social institutions.
The scenes of the Tramp find him alternating between scenes as an assembly-line factory worker (where he is literally fed by a machine and then - when the monotony overtakeshim - becomes the 'food' in the cogs and gears of another machine), a shipyard worker, a department store night watchman, an overstressed singing waiter, or an occupant in jail. The Tramp also finds himself dealing with various authority figures during his exploits: a 'Big Brother' factory boss, a minister, juvenile child-care authorities, a sheriff, a shipyard foreman, a department store manager,etc.
Its premiere in New York City was held in early February, 1936 at the Rivoli Theatre. Chaplin did not attend the premiere of his first film in five years because during his previous public appearance in New York, he found himself "battling through the crowds" everywhere he went. He dreaded the thought of "being stared and pointed at as though I were a freak." A second premiere was held aweek later in London, and then a third premiere - a "glamorous" event held in Hollywood (at Grauman's Chinese Theatre) where both Paulette Goddard and Chaplin were in attendance.
Under the superimposed credits, a clock face approaches 6 o'clock. The foreword explains the film's theme: "'Modern Times.' A story of industry, of individual enterprise - humanity crusading in the pursuit ofhappiness." The film opens with an overhead shot of a flock of sheep jostling in their sheep pen, and rushing through a chute. Instantly, the sheep dissolve into a similar overhead shot of industrial workers pushing out of a subway station at rush hour on their way to work in a factory.
In an upper executive office level of a steelworks factory, the Electro Steel Corp., a "Big Brother"manager/President (Allan Garcia) works on a boring puzzle, reads the comics in the newspaper, and is served by his secretary. He switches on a two-way TV screen with on-line audio and video transmission (when practical TV was only a dream) where he can view all parts of the plant operation. He orders one of his foremen, in the first synchronized speech in the film to hurry production on the line:...