Project Description

Charlie Chaplin: The Circus

Welcome to the ninth in our series of releases of limited edition Charlie Chaplin photographs focusing on a key Charlie Chaplin film.  

Over time 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 other films here.

This collection of images is from Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film, The Circus. 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.

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CIRCUS (1928)

Charlie Chaplin produced The Circus through United Artists.

It was this Chaplin masterpiece that led to his first Academy Award for ‘Versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing’, which he received at the very first presentation ceremony in 1929.

The story for this particular film all came from one idea: Chaplin envisioned a climactic scene in which the Little Tramp was suspended over a circus audience on a tight rope whilst simultaneously being attacked by monkeys – niche, we know. With all this in mind, he built up the rest of the story and the finale to conclude it.

As the story goes, the Tramp is mistakenly chased by police who wrongly believe him to be a pickpocket and stumbles right into a circus act and unknowingly becomes the hit of the show. The story line combines comedy, romance and sacrifice and although it is mostly made up of light-hearted gags, the finale sees the Tramp strolling into the sunset on his own, after watching the love of his life marry another man.

Whilst the film certainly deserved its recognition in the form of an Academy Award, it was surprisingly one of the most troublesome films that Chaplin made. During the time of filming, Charlie’s marriage to Lita Grey was collapsing as she became convinced that her husband was having an affair with Merna, her best friend who was playing the object of the Tramp’s affection in the film. During the divorce proceedings, her lawyers did their best to destroy Chaplin’s reputation and career. Production of The Circus was halted for a total of 9 months, as Lita’s lawyers attempted to seize the studio assets. To make matters worse, the huge circus tent used for filming was destroyed by gales before shooting had begun. The first month’s footage was subsequently damaged and had to be completely re-shot and in the ninth month of filming, a fire in the studio destroyed the entire set.

Nevertheless, in 1928, The Circus was complete and as well-received as any of Chaplin’s previous works of genius. Nevertheless, this is his only main feature films that he did not mention in his autobiography. Given the circumstances, we don’t blame him.

Charlie takes a bite

Charlie takes a bite
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The penniless and hungry Tramp steals a bite of a baby’s hot dog while his father isn’t looking. The Tramp even adds a spot of mustard to enhance the flavour.

The ringmaster’s daughter

The ringmaster’s daughter
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In the early morning, Charlie catches Merna eating his food and gives her some cake because she has been denied food by her father because of her poor performance.

The tryout

The tryout
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It is revealed during the failed tryout that the Tramp is only unknowingly funny.

The lion’s cage

The lion’s cage
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Charlie narrowly avoids being eaten by a lion. Three different lions were used in the filming of this scene.

The Ringmaster versus the Tramp

The Ringmaster versus the Tramp
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Charlie stands up for Merna and demands a pay rise from the ringmaster.

The Tramp and the Clown

The Tramp and the Clown
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Charlie and a fat clown laugh in the dressing room as the clown shows the Tramp how to propose to Merna.

Sitting on the box

Sitting on the box
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When the tightrope walker goes missing, Charlie is told he must perform the tightrope act or be fired. Here, Charlie and Merna sit on the box waiting for the Tramp to attempt the act.

The tightrope sequence

The tightrope sequence
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Having taken the place of the tight-rope walker, the Tramp is attacked by malicious escaped monkeys. They rip off his trousers to reveal that he has forgotten to put on his tights.

The finale

The finale
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Charlie sits alone on a box. The circus has moved on, Merna and Rex have got married and the Tramp is left alone once again.

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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