The Circus (1928)

Rating: 7/10

I thought, with a hundred (ish) days until the Oscars, I’d go through and watch a movie from every year since the Academy Awards began. Also as an excuse to set-up the pages I set-up for that. And, as sort of a game, I’m searching through the five streaming services I have: Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and now HBO Max, which is what I watched this on, to see which Oscar movies from each year are available (to me). There are a lot of movies every year, even with fewer categories like here, but we’ll see if I’m able to find a film every time or not. Sorry for this long intro.

Charlie Chaplin reprises his role as the Tramp who escapes from the police by joining the circus. There he learns about comedy and tight-rope walking while helping a young girl who, ironically, wants to run away from the circus.

Though I enjoyed the film, I felt it had too much plot considering the story was more a gimmick to set up the slapstick comedy that follows. And the comedy was pretty funny it’s not nearly as good or as clever as I expect from Chaplin. I read that he was going through a lot of personal problems as this film was being produced, and perhaps that’s part of it, but it still feels like more of a downer than what one expects from the lovable Tramp.

I read that this is more autobiographical than most of Chaplin’s movies. And that the final scene of the film, as the circus leaves Chaplin behind, originally used the song made famous in the Jazz Singer but more as a somber funeral march. As if the world was moving on as Chaplin stayed stuck in the silent era. The music was changed in the late sixties when this film was re-released but I wonder if the original soundtrack exists somewhere.


+6: Tonally very different from most of Chaplin’s other work, but the comedy that works is still very enjoyable

-1: Too much story, or maybe just the story isn’t as funny as it should be, something…

+1.5: a terrific tight-rope walking sequence that Charlie Chaplin actually did 40 feet off the ground involving monkeys and losing his pants

+0.5: The Tramp’s sad ending, but he will be seen again (in Modern Times)

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