There’s nothing that can make you smile like Charlie Chaplin’s character, The Tramp. He is the light that shines bright and joyous in a dark time when everyone was miserable and out of work. In Chaplin’s last silent film he made, Modern Times is when The Tramp tries to make ends meet during the beginning of the Industrial Age with a beautiful thief by his side to make it all the worth while.
There are so many things to say about this wonderful film that I don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll first start off by saying how we really see the battle between man and machine in this film. It used to be a long time ago where people were the ones who did the hard, strenuous tasks. Then as the Industrial Age came to be, machines proved to be of more use to humans. Why pay humans when machines can take care of all of the work? That’s what Gandhi of all people told Charlie Chaplin which is what inspired him to make this film. He realized that while it may seem like machines are the miracle that the world needs to keep it running, it also put a lot of people out of work homeless, sad, hungry, and frustrated. It can make anyone go crazy trying to compete against machines as The Tramp tries to keep up with the speed of an assembly line tightening everything in sight before he passes out. While the clumsiness and silly shenanigans that comes out of being The Tramp makes us entertained as an audience, it also leads to his downfall with trying to survive in The Great Depression. Does anyone from this era have any memories growing up around this time?
The above picture is scary to look at, right? I know, I got chills too! Believe it or not, that was glass by the edge. No wonder Chaplin made it look so easy! As we see The Tramp constantly trying to get used to the machine age, I feel like it parallels with Charlie Chaplin trying to adjust to living in the sound film age. Chaplin always made silent films. They were his niche. This is the last silent film he’s ever made. He was about to make this film a talkie but the character of The Tramp is a silent artist where he was always known for his actions speaking louder than his words. So what would be the purpose of giving him dialogue for? While this may be considered a silent classic, there are actually are some lines of dialogue from the other characters as well as sound effects for the machines and any other props that The Tramp would fumble over. We even hear some singing but I won’t say from whom!
One of the most important elements of the film that can turn anyone into a ball of mush is hearing the song Smile in the background composed by Charlie Chaplin himself. The tone of the song sounds melancholy in which we see The Tramp and the love of his life Ellen not being able to catch a break after having their setbacks into living a good life but there’s also the sound of hope. To just keep on smiling. We can learn a lot from The Tramp. He reminds me of Charlie Brown in which Charlie Brown is an underdog who keeps trying to be a winner only to keep falling down. Like Charlie Brown, The Tramp sure does a lot of falling. I mean, he couldn’t be in the shack that Ellen found for them without him making everything fall to pieces! But he never gives up. So find someone to walk into the sunset and just smile!
Watch The Tramp’s last screen appearance in Modern Times and write in your opinions on the film: