Project Description

Charlie Chaplin: Modern Times

A very warm welcome to the sixth in our series of monthly releases of limited edition Charlie Chaplin photographs for 2019—part of our celebration of the 130th anniversary of his birth—where each month we focus on a key Charlie Chaplin film.  

Over the course of 2019 we will build a substantial collection of important Charlie Chaplin photographs—all of which are available to purchase and hang on your walls at home or in your office. You can see photographs from previous months here.

This month we launch a collection of images from one of Charlie Chaplin’s most acclaimed  films, Modern Times, released in 1936.

The images that follow are available to purchase in limited editions as museum-quality archival handmade silver gelatin photographs, in a range of sizes from 10 x 12 inches to 48 x 60 inches.

Scroll down and select an image for full details.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO MODERN TIMES (1936)

Modern Times was Charlie Chaplin’s fifth film for United Artists.

Released in 1936—a full five years after the release of his previous film, City LightsModern Times marks the final appearance of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic tramp. Chaplin once again proves his genius through a constant stream of gags, one even involving cocaine, some impressive roller skating, and subtle references to class struggle during America’s Great Depression.

The tramp is a factory worker who suffers a nervous breakdown on the production line, unable to cope with the repetitious nature of modern manufacturing. The setting is said to take its inspiration from a visit Chaplin took to Ford’s factory in Detroit ten years previously. The tramp symbolises the millions of factory workers in America at that time, forced to work at a furious pace in factories filled with frightening, complicated machinery.

Explaining this, he wrote: “I wanted to say something about something that is going on at that present time. Regimentation – that was the idea. The way life is being standardized and channelized, and men turned into machines, and the way I feel about it.”

Chaplin’s co-star in the film, the female street urchin (or gamin as she is referred to in the film) is played by his love interest at the time, Paulette Goddard. Although their onscreen relationship appears more childlike than romantic, the film’s final scene shows the pair walking into the distance together, a contrast to the usual Chaplin films that have concluded with the Tramp facing the world on his own.

The film premiered in New York in February 1936 and its reception was unanimously positive.

 

Caught in the machine

Caught in the machine
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The Tramp cannot keep up with the pace of production and eventually dives into the machine to tighten bolts on the plates he has missed. He falls through a hopper and is sent through the enormous wheels of the machine in a dreamlike sequence.

The production line

The production line
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The Tramp works on the assembly line, tightening bolts. He finds it difficult to keep up with the pace of production. Working to his left, hammering the bolts is Big Bill, played by Tiny Sandford.

Charlie pulls a lever

Charlie pulls a lever
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Chaplin explained: “The story is about what crazy things can happen to plain little folk who mean no harm. To symbolise modern times, I have, in certain scenes, a great mass of machinery to get myself tangled up in.”

Charlie makes bunny ears

Charlie makes bunny ears
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The Tramp is driven mad by the machine age.

The machines

The machines
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Photographs such as this—which document the empty set where important film action took place—will be a feature of each collection of photographs we launch throughout 2019.

Even though this photograph acts as a simple photographic record of the set layout, it is remarkably evocative—it is impossible to look at this photograph without thinking of the action that took place there.

Charlie foils a jailbreak

Charlie foils a jailbreak
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The tramp, still in the grips of a drug-induced-high as a result of inadvertently covering his food with cocaine, helps to foil a jail break, and is rewarded with special privileges.

Rumbles in the governor’s office

Rumbles in the governor’s office
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A classic piece of comedy business ensues in the prison governor’s office, where Charlie and the priest’s wife sip tea on empty stomachs, prompting much rumbling.

Skates on

Skates on
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The scenes in the department store provide the tramp with the opportunity to demonstrate his first-rate skating skills.

The accidental launch

The accidental launch
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The accident-prone tramp secures employment in a ship yard, but it doesn’t last long. Instructed to find a wooden wedge, he manages to find one that is already in use, with disastrous consequences.

The mechanic is trapped

The mechanic is trapped
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Once the factory re-opens, the tramp works as a mechanic’s assistant. Somehow, the mechanic gets trapped in the machinery.

Remembering the lyrics

Remembering the lyrics
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The gamin has an inspired idea to help the tramp remember the lyrics to his song—write them on his cuff. Sadly the cuffs are detachable.

Where’s my duck?

Where’s my duck?
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A brilliant piece of comedy business in the dancehall/restaurant. The tramp, undergoing a trial as a waiter, holds his platter high to avoid the throng of dancers surrounding him, but the duck he is delivering becomes impaled on a chandelier. Presenting the food to the increasingly agitated diner, the tramp lifts off the lid with a flourish, only to find—no duck.

Charlie makes up

Charlie makes up
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This image of Charlie powdering his nose was the first image from the film to be sent to the press.

The end

The end
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The gamin is upset and frustrated with their misfortunes. The Tramp is more upbeat. “Buck up – never say die. We’ll get along”, he declares. He tells her to put a smile on her face. With renewed hope, they walk down the road together.

 Want to see more?

To find out all about our plans for 2019—in which we celebrate the genius of Charlie Chaplin—just click on the green button below, and read on.

Back to the Charlie Chaplin main page

Charlie Chaplin ™ © Bubbles Incorporated SA 2019
Photographs © Roy Export S.A.S / Roy Export Co. Ltd
Scans by Cineteca di Bologna / Musée de l’Elysée