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The Circus (1928)

 -  Comedy | Romance  -  1928 (Turkey)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 13,813 users  
Reviews: 217 user | 53 critic

The Tramp finds work and the girl of his dreams at a circus.

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(as Charlie Chaplin)

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Director: Charles Chaplin
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Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Al Ernest Garcia ...
The Circus Proprietor and Ring Master (as Allan Garcia)
Merna Kennedy ...
His Step-Daughter - A Circus Rider
Harry Crocker ...
Rex - A Tight Rope Walker
George Davis ...
A Magician
Henry Bergman ...
An Old Clown
Tiny Sandford ...
The Head Property Man (as Stanley J. Sandford)
John Rand ...
An Assistant Property Man
Steve Murphy ...
A Pickpocket
...
A Tramp (as Charlie Chaplin)
Edit

Storyline

Charlie's Tramp character finds himself at a circus where he is promptly gets chased around by the police who think he is a pickpocket. Running into the bigtop, he is an accidental sensation with his hilarious efforts to elude the police. The ringmaster/owner immediately hires him, but discovers the Tramp cannot be funny on purpose, so he takes advantage of the situation by making the Tramp a janitor just happens to always in the Bigtop at showtime. Unaware of this exploitation, the Tramp falls for the owner's lovely acrobatic daughter, who is abused by her father. His chances seem good, until a dashing rival comes in and Charlies feels he has to compete with him. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@home.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

You've waited two years for this one, but oh boy---here it comes---the greatest comedy of all time! It's a circus! Positively the greatest show of mirth! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Release Date:

1928 (Turkey)  »

Also Known As:

Cirkus  »

Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Charles Chaplin's studio burnt down during production. This, combined with a number of major personal issues that arose during production, led to Chaplin's nervous breakdown (he spent time recovering in New York after about two-thirds of the film had been shot). See more »

Goofs

After the tramp washes the shaving cream from his face, he dries himself with a towel but the towel never touches his face (this is probably so that it won't mess up the stage makeup). See more »

Quotes

Merna: I've run away from the circus.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Unknown Chaplin: The Happiest Years (1983) See more »

Soundtracks

Swing Little Girl
(1969) (uncredited)
Written and Performed by Charles Chaplin for the 1969 release
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
The Circus (1928)
17 March 2004 | by (Waynesville, OH) – See all my reviews

Charlie Chaplin is a film-maker who isn't given enough credit, in my opinion: sure, people think he's funny, but few seem to recognize the underlying melancholy of his work. In The Circus, our favorite little tramp is running from the law and stumbles upon a carnival, unwittingly becoming the center act and falling in love with a beautiful trapeze artist (Merna Kennedy). Even though this seems like the recipe for a feel-good romantic comedy, in Chaplin's vision, the guy doesn't get the girl. We essentially find ourselves laughing at an unemployed homeless man who needs to make an ass out of himself in order to escape the police -- which is nothing worth laughing at, when you really think about it. Nevertheless, Chaplin created some of the most uproarious scenes in movie history, combining his ingenious slapstick with a genuine humanity that made his character feel like more than just an object of humiliation. The Circus is certainly one of his most under-rated features, showing a darker sense of love and longing than any of his other work: the film opens with a repeated shot of his object of desire swinging on the rings with a forlorn gaze drifting into space. The final shot has the little tramp walking away from the woman he loves, alone: never before (or since) have we so sensed Chaplin's true gloominess. But if I'm making The Circus sound like a serious film, then I've been deceiving you, for it is a very funny movie indeed: Chaplin's gags are innovative and perfectly timed, and he always managed to keep his running time perfectly suited to the audience's interest. Yet in spite of how funny this movie truly is, the parts I remember most are still those that reached a deeper level of human emotion: the scenes between Chaplin and his lover are meant to be comical, but I couldn't help but notice the honesty and poignancy he injected into each vignette. This is as much a romance as it is a comedy -- and a drama, for that matter. It has been said that, two thirds during the shoot of the film, Chaplin had a nervous breakdown; considering the mostly morose tone of the film, that doesn't surprise me. But when film-makers have personal struggles, it typically only increases the authenticity and greatness of their work (just look at Woody Allen's career). Quite simply, The Circus is an American classic: Chaplin not only directed and starred in, but he produced, edited, and even composed original music for his films. His direction is superb -- not only from a comical standpoint, but from a cinematic one as well; one particular scene comes to mind that takes place in a house of mirrors, in which Chaplin uses a repeated set-up to convey a feeling of simultaneous order and confusion. His acting is plain brilliant -- if you can call it acting: he's one of those performers that you watch and smack your head in awe of how extraordinary he is. In a way, The Circus isn't a masterpiece, nor a perfect film, nor even a particularly great one -- but in another way, it is all those things and more. It is a splendid example of just how much can be done within a simple genre movie, and modern film-makers would do themselves a favor by learning from it.

Grade: A


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