The Pawnshop
The Mutual Company 1916

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Charles Chaplin

The Pawnshop is one of the four outstanding shorts Chaplin was to make for the Mutual Company. This one is famous for its celebrated scene where the Tramp demolishes a clock he is supposed to expertly inspecting and repairing.

The Immigrant
The Mutual Company 1917

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Charley, Edna Purviance, Kitty Bradbury

The Immigrant, Chaplin would later say, “touched me more than any film I’ve made”. It was a superb comedy, but is probably remembered most for this shot of the Tramp and his fellow immigrants as they get their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The scene has been copied many times since, most notably in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The GodfatherII”, 1972. Chaplin’s art is never more apparent as in the final scene, when he carries his girl, Edna Purviance through the door. The door closes—end of film.

A Dogs Life
First National 1918

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Charley, Scraps (the dog)

Chaplin’s initial picture for First National. Here he costarred with the fine canine actor Scraps. “I was beginning to think of comedy in a structural sense, and became conscious of its architectural form,” he would later say.

The Kid
First National 1921

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Chaplin, Jackie Coogan

In this episode the Tramp finds himself looking after an abandoned child, played by an astonishingly gifted four year old child actor, Jackie Coogan. Chaplin plays Fagan to Coogan’s Artful Dodger. In one of the most original chase scenes of the silent era, Charlie is in pursuit across a rooftop, after an official car that is taking the kid away to the orphanage. But rather than comedy, and slapstick, it is one of the most sentimental scenes in Hollywood history.

The Pilgrim
First National 1923

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Charley, Somebody

Here Chaplin plays a convict disguised as a minister. A metaphor employed by Woody Allen in his portrayal of a rabbi in “Take the Money and Run”, 1969. The Tramp was not shy about leveling a few quips at religion and the rural community. For Chaplin politics was never far away.

The Goldrush
United Artists 1925

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Tom Murray, Chaplin

One of the most popular and Charlie's own personal favorite. The Tramp in this one is a woeful prospector in the Klondike, beset by misfortune, and rejection. The film's themes of starvation, and cannibalism, could hardly have been more savage. They did however, propel Chaplin to new height of comic invention. The unforgettable spectacle of the endless line of prospectors making their way up the Chilkoot Pass during the 1898 Alaska gold rush is one of the most compelling adventure scenes of the silent era.

The Circus
United Artists 1928

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Merna Kennedy, Chaplin

Charles Chaplin was given a special Oscar for writing, acting, directing, and producing The Circus, though it is not regarded among his best films. At the time Chaplin produced The Circus he was going through a great deal of personal unhappiness, with the strains of his second divorce. In his autobiography, he fails even to mention The Circus.

City Lights
United Artists 1931

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Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill

Chaplin loathed talking pictures, and resisted them for a decade. While he added musical sound tracks to City Lights, for practical purposes it was a silent film. City Lights is regarded by many as Chaplin’s greatest work. The film’s theme concerns the consequences, and suffering resulting from the Tramp’s attachment and efforts to aid a blind girl and a millionaire, as he persuades both of them that life is worth living. Both characters are unable to recognize him for what he is. However, the Tramp functions as a savior and wish-fulfiller for the blind flower girl. And for the drunk millionaire, the Tramp repeatedly saves his life and provides a congenial friend.

Modern Times
United Artists 1936

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Paulette Goddard, Chaplin

“Modern Times, a story of industry, of individual enterprise—humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness”, states the forward to the last great silent film. It 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. Modern Times is the classic battle of man and the toil and dehumanization of factory life. The final scene has the Tramp optimistically arm and arm with his love Paulette Goddard walking into the sunset, a fitting end to the grand era of the silent film.

The Great Dictator
United Artists 1940

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Reginald Gardner, Chaplin

By the time Chaplin made The Great Dictator, talking films had been around for more than a decade, and he could no longer avoid the inevitable. He found his “voice” satirizing Adolph Hitler. If the film has a flaw, it might be the over sentimentalizing of the ghetto scenes. The Great Dictator was the final appearance of Charlie's Tramp character. Chaplin said later that had he known of the true horrors of the Nazis, he could not have portrayed the character with the same comedic enthusiasm.