TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The Circus (1928)

Next up, we have that classic 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie The Circus!

While walking down the midway, the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) finds a pocket watch and wallet in his pants, placed there by a pickpocket trying to avoid arrest. However, the police are close behind, and end up chasing the Tramp into the circus tent. There, the audience laughs at his antics as he tries to escape (which is refreshing because the audience doesn’t find the actual circus clowns to be funny), so the ringmaster (Allan Garcia) decides to give him an audition the next day. In the meantime, the Tramp meets the ringmaster’s stepdaughter, Merna (Merna Kennedy), who is being starved by her stepfather for a poor performance as the horseback rider, and so the Tramp tries to give her some food. At the audition, everything goes poorly, as the Tramp doesn’t know how he was being funny. However, he is given a job by the head prop man when all of his other workers leave. The next show, the Tramp once again proves to be funny to the audiences (unintentionally), but the ringmaster decides to keep that quiet, so he doesn’t have to pay him much. However, the Tramp learns about it from Merna, and decides to fight for himself and her when her stepfather pushes her around. Later, she learns from a fortune-teller that her love is nearby. The Tramp, who was eavesdropping, believes it to be him, and buys a ring from one of the other clowns. However, Merna meets the new tightrope walker, Rex (Harry Crocker), and is instantly infatuated with him. The Tramp is less than thrilled with this, and as a result, he isn’t as funny for the audiences. He tries to learn how to be a tightrope walker himself, and goes on one night when Rex is unable to. He is fired afterwards when the ringmaster tries to abuse Merna again and the Tramp steps in. It’s the last straw for her, so she runs away, and it’s up to the Tramp to help fix the situation!

According to Pamela Hutchinson’s essay “The Circus: The Tramp In The Mirror” (included with the recent Criterion disc releases or on Criterion’s website), Charlie Chaplin seems to have gotten the idea for the movie from at least two sources. One was the result of a visit, back in the 1910s, to a circus (naturally), which left him pondering the lives of the performers as well as a desire to make a circus movie. Even more so, while making The Gold Rush, he had an idea of being trapped high up, by monkeys or something, unable to get away. One of his colleagues, Henry Bergman, suggested a circus tightrope, and that was the necessary spark.

Still, it’s a small wonder that the movie was completed, given some of its problems. Partway through, he found that some of the film had been poorly processed, resulting in some retakes being necessary. He had trouble with the sets, as a result of the weather, fire, losing filming locations due to construction, and stuff being stolen. Of course, one of his biggest problems was his very public divorce with his wife at the time, Lita Grey, which also resulted in filming being delayed. Still, he did manage to finish the movie (otherwise, why would we be here discussing it 😉 ).

And I am glad he finished it! I enjoyed the movie very much, from start to finish! I still liked Charlie Chaplin’s antics as the Tramp very much! The whole start, with him being chased on the midway is fun and hilarious! Of course, the previously mentioned scene of him stuck on the tightrope with the monkeys climbing over him is equally fun (and impressive, since he learned to tightrope walk for this movie)! And the movie makes you feel for him, storywise (especially since, as a clown, he only seems to be funny when he is not trying to be, which certainly makes sense). I have no trouble whatsoever in saying, at this moment, that this movie is probably my favorite circus movie, and one of the best that I have seen! So, yes, I certainly recommend this one!

As I mentioned before, this movie was recently made available on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion Collection. Their release makes use of a new 4K restoration of Chaplin’s later 1969 version of the movie (which mainly includes a score and different opening credits with Chaplin himself singing over the credits). I’ll certainly say that this looks as good as I could hope for, and I have no trouble whatsoever recommending seeing the movie via this release! The movie itself is one hour, thirteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin

Coming Up Shorts! with… Symphony In Slang (1951)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 6 minutes, 45 seconds)

At the gates of heaven, a young man arrives speaking only in slang, and, unable to understand him, the main official turns to Noah Webster for help. Another fun cartoon, as we get the literal meaning of all the slang. Certainly, some of the slang is now quite dated, but most can be understood. A few good laughs to be found here! Just be careful that the cat doesn’t get your tongue! 😉

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!

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