Charles Chaplin, the filmmaker and actor, bid farewell to Charlie Chaplin, the iconic screen persona of the Little Tramp, with Modern Times (1936), a silent film for the sound era.
Made during the depths of the depression, the Tramp and his “Gamin” (a winning and very grown up Paulette Goddard) fight poverty, industrialization (in a hilarious assembly line burlesque), and even an omnipresent Big Brother in classic pantomime routines set to an inventive mix of sound effects and music. There are even a couple of words from the voices of authority, though never from the Tramp.
The surreal scene of Chaplin being wound through the gears of the factory machinery remains one of the most iconic images in film history: the little guy who manages not to get ground up in the machine. Chaplin accomplishes it all with comic grace and endearing sentimentality.
It was added to the National Film Registry in 1989 and it tied for the number 78 spot in the 2022 Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll.
For more on this classic, follow the link to an essay at the TCM site.
Black and white
Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Modern Times (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Modern Times (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
Modern Times: Two-Disc Special Edition [DVD]
The Criterion Blu-ray and DVD editions feature a new digital master, commentary by Chaplin biographer David Robinson, visual essays by Chaplin historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance, the short documentary Chaplin Today: Modern Times (France, 2003), two deleted scenes, a 1967 Cuban documentary short, and additional interviews, featurettes, and film clips, plus a booklet with new essays.
The original DVD release from Warner Home Video features the documentary Chaplin Today: Modern Times, an introduction by Chaplin biographer David Robinson, deleted scenes (including the complete version of his nonsense song), three archival promotional and documentary shorts, Liberace’s version of the Chaplin composed theme song “Smile,” a gallery of 250 stills and sketches, and a poster gallery.