Summary of Modern Times, (1936), starring Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
Modern Times begins with Charlie Chaplin as Charlie the Little Tramp gainfully employed at a factory. However, the strict regimentation is driving him to the brink … Then over the brink, when the factory owner has him as the “guinea pig” for a “time-saving” feeding machine. This leads to Charlie spending time in a mental hospital. Cured after his breakdown, he is arrested and jailed when he innocently picks up a red flag that has fallen off the back of a truck and runs down the street to return it — just when a communist demonstration comes around the corner. He meets Paulette Goddard as ‘The Gamin’ (a street urchin) in the back of the police van, who has also been arrested for stealing bread. From then on the theme is about the two trying to get along in … modern times
Review of Modern Times
Editorial review of Modern Times, starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, courtesy of Amazon.com
Trivia for Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin
Supposedly was to be Charlie Chaplin’s first full sound film, but instead, sound is used in a unique way: we hear spoken voices only when they come from mechanical devices, a symbol of the film’s theme of technology and dehumanization. Specifically, voices are heard from: –
- The videophones used by the factory president
- The phonographic Mechanical Salesman
- The radio in the prison warden’s office
- The singers in the restaurant are also heard.
- The final appearance of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.
- Chaplin allows the Tramp to speak on camera for the first time during the restaurant scene. However, he insisted that what the Tramp says be universal. Therefore, the song the Tramp sings is in gibberish, but it is possible to follow the story he tells by watching his hand gestures.
- Charlie Chaplin wrote all the music for this and all of his other films and Modern Times contains his most enduring theme, Smile.
- This was one of the films which convinced the House Un-American Activities Committee that Charles Chaplin was a Communist. Chaplin always adamantly denied being a Communist.
- Co-star Paulette Goddard actually made significant story contributions.
- According to Paulette Goddard, Chaplin was deeply and profoundly involved in the recording of the musical score. He spent days upon days in the recording studio writing themes, and only left when Paulette begged him.
- In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #78 Greatest Movie of All Time.