MODERN TIMES Movie POSTER 27x40 Charlie Chaplin Paulette Goddard Henry Bergman

This was the first feature length Chaplin movie I ever watched. It was his last “silent” movie. The year was 1936 and “talkies” had been around for almost a decade and certainly the most popular movie format in the 1930’s. Chaplin stubbornly decided to carry on with another silent movie and I’m glad he did.

Chaplin was a smart man…he knew the little tramp could not talk on screen…the character was over with if he did…finished. That was part of his mystique. Another reason was the beauty of silent film at the time. He had perfected the art and talkies were full of clumsy lines delivered with immobile cameras and primitive microphones. They were improving but when silent movies ended…an art was lost forever.

Other actors at the time didn’t have the power or clout to try this but it worked brilliantly for Chaplin.  It was one of the top-grossing films of 1936. This after being told no one would want to see a silent movie in 1936…Charlie was once again right.

Chaplin did like the fact that he could insert sound effects into the movie with the technology. He wrote, directed, acted,  produced and wrote the music for this movie. Modern Times has Chaplin’s finest music score. His most recognizable and commercially viable song, “Smile,” emerged from a melody used by him in this movie.

The film is very relevant today. Charlie takes on the machine age as humans are treated like cattle. Chaplin takes a swipe at capitalism , industrialization and human exploitation.

The little tramp is finding it difficult to survive in the modern mechanized world. Failing as a worker on a factory assembly line, he gets into a series of adventures and misadventures, which leads him meeting a young recently orphaned “gamine” who ran away rather than end up in an orphanage. They try to survive in the world together, both on the run from the law, although his previous stints behind bars… were to him more appealing than life outside in the cold modern world.

The question becomes… can Charlie and the gamine individually or together find their place in the modern world with all the odds against them?

Some famous scenes are in this movie. Chaplin in the automatic feeding machine, Chaplin and his boss in the gears of the machinery, and Chaplin going insane trying to tighten bolts on everything.

It is a great film to start watching Chaplin if you haven’t seen any of his previous movies. One of the many remarkable things about Charlie Chaplin is that his films continue to hold up, to attract, and entertain audiences…you will enjoy this one!


  1. You’re fulfilling the Chaplin influence seamlessly, Max! I saw this in a film studies class in college. You are right – the non “talkie” communication comes through so well in Chaplin’s staging decisions and facial expressions. I am just in awe with what people do with film in its most minimalist, “primitive” stages 🙂

    • Thanks Bernie! It is a lost art that will never come back and it’s a shame. You have to be smart to plan things out in advance to get your thought across. This is not his best film but I like the way he did use the new sound technology…a very good marriage of the two.

      I also think this was the first and last time Chaplin and the girl took off together at the end of the movie in the sunset. It was a great movie to close the curtain on the tramp. The Great Dictator had a tramp like character but he wasn’t him.

  2. I’ve seen a few of the clips from it and it looks like fun. Do you think he was an influence on Mr Bean? He/his character is the only modern equivalent I can think of that doesn’t speak in his roles and has to rely on physical comedy or facial expressions.

    • I would say he was an influence yes. It is a funny movie and probably a little more accessible to modern audiences than some of his others…because this one people would be able to relate to going to work day in and day out….and it does have some sound….it’s not his best though…at least not to me.

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