Final Friday Films: Modern Times

Modern Times
USA 87 minutes 1936
Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard

Chaplin does borrow from Rene Clair’s A Nous La Liberte in Modern Times (once also entitled The Masses). Here Chaplin again appears as The Tramp, although this is the era of sound, it is essentially a silent film. The borrowing from Clair on being a comedic treatment of worker alienation is clear. Chaplin plays an assembly line worker where he is subjected to being force-fed by a malfunctioning “feeding machine” (cutting the vital minutes of lunch) and an accelerating assembly line where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery. Eventually he has a nervous breakdown apparently sabotaging a machine in the process and throwing the factory into chaos. He is then hospitalized. Following his recovery, the now unemployed factory worker is mistakenly arrested as a communist outside agitator, the moment displaying Chaplin’s call to workers of the world to unite. Chaplin would leave the US upon the arrival of anti-communist hysteria tenyears later.

From The Guardian of July 14, 1936
NAZIS PROHIBIT CHAPLIN FILM
“Charlie Chaplin’s new film Modern Times has been prohibited in Germany. Reuter was informed at the Propaganda Ministry this afternoon that there was at present no prospect that the picture would be shown in this country. Another Nazi spokesman said that reports from abroad had indicated that the picture had a “Communist tendency” and that this was no doubt the reason why the picture was unacceptable.”

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