Modern Times, a movie review

A movie review by: Lee Sonogan

(1936) 1h27min/ Comedy, drama, family


One of the oldest movies I have ever seen. A movie starring Charles Chaplin, described by IMDB as the Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman. Discounting later parodies and novelty films, this was the last major American film to make use of silent film conventions, such as title cards for dialogue. The very last dialogue title card of this film belongs to The Tramp, who says “Buck up – never say die! We’ll get along.”. It is fun to see Chaplin’s character acting crazy and disobeying everyone like a boss.

The shooting lasted 324 days from October 11th 1934 until August 30th 1935. The elaborate factory and department store sets were built at great expense at Charles Chaplin’s studios. Empty lots were rented for street sets, and three streets were built at the San Pedro waterfront. Chaplin struggled writing this movie script. By late spring 1935, Charles Chaplin was working sixteen to eighteen hours a day on Modern Times, often sleeping on a cot at the studio.

In November 1935, three months before the film’s premiere, the American Communist journal, The New Masses, published a translation of Soviet film chief Boris Shumiatski’s Pravda article in which he claimed Charles Chaplin had changed his ending to a more suitably anti-capitalist one on Shumiatski’s urging. The story was picked up by the New York Times, causing alarm among theater owners who were planning to exhibit the new film.

The film was banned in Nazi Germany for “communistic tendencies,” although some said it was due to Charles Chaplin’s resemblance to Adolf Hitler (exploited a few years later in The Great Dictator). Still others suggested the Nazis disliked Chaplin because they suspected he was at least part Jewish. Although released in Italy, the film was frowned upon by Benito Mussolini and his Fascist government.

Charles Chaplin’s score was performed in the mid-1930s by the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra under the title “A Modern Symphony.”. Previous to his nonsense song in the film, Charles Chaplin’s voice had been heard only once before on film, saying “Guten tag” in a newsreel filmed during a stop in Vienna in 1931.

Overall, do not judge this movie by how old it is. Fun fact: A resemblance has been noted between the factory boss’s surveillance of his employees and his instructions to them via a giant screen and the video system later used by Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It has family type humour and interesting shot scenes.  It has powerful images and music of themes of capitalism, industry and so much more. The suggestions are subtle but interesting. SPOILERS! The ending after a whole movie of next to no dialog, Chaplin’s character sings at the end. I recommend this movie because I can see why it is still rated very high today and how anyone could enjoy this movie. First silent movie that I have even considered to rate so high.


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