Countdown: Charlie Chaplin’s best moments as “The Tramp” (#05 – 01)

…the countdown continued:

05) Celebration – The Gold Rush (1925)


Charlie Chaplin caught in a fit of glee from The Gold Rush (1925)

As evidenced by the last entry, I really love it when Chaplin surprises the audience with a sudden comical reaction, and that is also what happens in this scene. The tramp maintains his poise as Georgia and her friends leave, and then suddenly tumbles and whirls all around the cabin as he bursts with glee. How Georgia comes back for her gloves, which she of course forgot, and sees the result of the tramps joyous rampage is a magnificent touch.

04) Nervous Breakdown / Inside The Machine – Modern Times (1936)

Charlie Chaplin inside the machine in Modern Times (1936)

Not only is this a funny scene in the way that Chaplin acts like a crazed maniac, but it’s also a gorgeous display of art direction for its time once he gets sucked into the machine. It’s also ultimately Chaplin’s commentary on man’s growing reliance on technology, how the pace of life is increasing rapidly (and this was decades ago!), and how man is being figuratively “sucked into the machine.” So this is a great sequence that works so well on several layers.

03) Mirror Maze – The Circus (1928)

Charlie Chaplin in a chase sequence inside the Mirror Maze from The Circus (1928)

Just a very cleverly put together treat for the eyes and pristinely choreographed. Not so great for the laughs, but it nails Chaplin’s penchant for visual artistry quite perfectly.

02) Oceana Dinner Roll Dance – The Gold Rush (1925)

Charlie Chaplin doing the Oceana Dinner Roll Dance in The Gold Rush (1925)

In one of the many verisons of this clip on YouTube, one commenter says something to the effect of: “If there were one minute of footage that mankind can send out to outer space with the hopes of charming and winning over any intelligent life that it may come across out in the vastness, this would be it,” and it’s true, as this may be the single most charming minute of footage on any Chaplin film, ever. Not only is it charming on its own; but in the context of the film, it also captures so succintly the sad reality of the tramp’s situation alone in that cabin on New Year’s eve.

01) “Yes, I can see now.” – City Lights (1931)

Charlie Chaplin in the final scene from City Lights (1931)

When the girl and the tramp look at each other and exchange words:

“You can see now?”

“Yes, I can see now.”

…we know that they’re not just talking about her eyes.

I may not have loved City Lights as much as its reputation says I should, but if there’s one thing to be said about it… my god, that ending. It is quite simply one of the highest points in movies, a great example of beautifully subtle acting, and among the finest and most heartwarming moments in cinema.

 Marathon Score: 84/100


Countdown: Charlie Chaplin’s best moments as “The Tramp” (#10 – 06)

Since I’m in a unique position where the subject of my movie marathon is director, writer, star, and more of his films, and that the character he portrays in all films are the same (the tramp)… instead of the usual post-marathon awards, I’ll count down Chaplin’s best moments as “The Tramp”:

10) The Kid Prepares Breakfast – The Kid (1921)

Jackie Coogan prepares breakfast for Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1921)

I doubt that many people would immediately recall this scene when pressed to come up with classic Chaplin moments, as it doesn’t immediately stand out. However, I feel that this is one of the more integral scenes in The Kid. This is where we see that the kid doesn’t play second fiddle to the tramp. That they aren’t so much a father-son relationship than partners who rely on each other for love and care. It’s more amusing and endearing than funny (although that blanket-into-a-poncho bit is quite clever). It shows the heart at the center of the story and captures the tone of the film quite perfectly.

09) Department Store Skating – Modern Times (1936)

Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard have fun in Modern Times (1936)

This was once my favorite scene from Modern Times, but repeated viewings have lessened its effect a bit. Still, it shows how graceful and clever Chaplin can be with his physical comedy. Nowadays, slapstick is relegated to toilet humor and cheap gags, so this is a nice reminder how smart and sophisticated slapstick can be. I seriously thought for sometime that Chaplin was actually skating by the edge of floor in this scene. Only later on did I realize that what seems to be the empty space where one could fall is in fact only a drawing and that Chaplin was in no real danger. That only goes to show the meticulous production design that went into this whole department store sequence, and actually throughout the whole film.

08) Seeing Chicken – The Gold Rush (1925)

Big Jim Hallucinates and sees Charlie Chaplin transformed into a chicken in The Gold Rush (1925)

A scene that has been copied and parodied so many times over that it has become such a classic. It’s a great illustration at Chaplin’s ability to get a laugh and his technical mastery of the craft at that time. To see such an effect utilized now is common, but to see it used like that over eight decades ago is impressive.

07) Fighting in the Streets – The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin refereeing Jackie Coogan fighting in The Kid (1921)

I don’t think any other single moment has made me laugh in The Kid as that where Chaplin tries to break up a fight involving the kid versus a bigger neighborhood boy, and then all of a sudden cheers along with the crowd once he sees that his kid is winning the fistfight. An excellent example of Chaplin’s ability to seamlessly and believably change from one expression/emotion to another so quickly, and also a great example of Chaplin’s perfect comedic timing.

06) Bonk! & Schadenfreude! – The Circus (1928)

Charlie Chaplin from two different scenes in The Circus (1928)

And speaking of Chaplin’s perfect comic timing, I have to do a cheat here as I cite two different, yet very similarly comedic scenes from The Circus. No idea what to call then so I’ll just name them:

Bonk! – That moment early on in the film where Chaplin and another pickpocket try to hide from the authorities by pretending to be mechanical installments at a carnival. Chaplin takes the role of someone hitting another person in the head, and unfortunately for the pickpocket, he is that other person. The setup is already hilarious on its own, but the way Chaplin reacts after getting one free hit after another on the pickpocket takes the comedy to another level.

Schadenfreude! – The scene later on in the film where the girl and the tramp watch the tightrope walker perform for the first time. The setup is that the tramp is in love with the girl but is stuck in the “friend zone” while the girl is in love with the tightrope walker. The girl asks the tramp to watch with her as the tightrope walker performs. The tramp reluctantly agrees after some persuading and acts incredibly bored, uninterested and unimpressed. Yet, as soon as the tightrope walker misses a step and starts to be in danger of falling, the tramp suddenly erupts with unbridled glee, claps, and cheers in what is one of the biggest laughs of the film.