The Mutual Company 1916
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
The Mutual Company 1917
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.
First National 1918
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.
First National 1921
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.
First National 1923
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
United Artists 1925
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.
United Artists 1928
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.
United Artists 1931
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
United Artists 1936
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
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.