Three Chaplin silent comedies "A Dog's Life", "Shoulder Arms", and "The Pilgrim" are strung together to form a single feature length film. Chaplin provides new music, narration, and a small... See full summary »
The Tramp finds himself at a circus where he is promptly 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 circus owner immediately hires him, but discovers that the Tramp cannot be funny on purpose, so he takes advantage of the situation by making the Tramp a janitor who just happens to always be in the Bigtop at showtime. Unaware of this exploitation, the Tramp falls for the owner's lovely acrobatic stepdaughter, who is abused by her father. His chances seem good, until a dashing rival comes in and Charlie feels he has to compete with him. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Alternately touching and hilarious; one of Chaplin's finest achievements
Although movie buffs seldom mention `The Circus' in the same breath as Charlie Chaplin's more touted masterpieces (`City Lights,' `Modern Times,' `The Gold Rush'), this film contains some of his best work manifested in a number of ingenious sequences. Chaplin once again dons the role of the tramp, this time having all sorts of adventures (and misadventures) under the big top.
In order to evade the police who suspect him of being a thief, the tramp ducks into a circus tent and acts as if he is part of the show. The cops follow him into the tent and try to apprehend him, with comical results. The crowd goes wild, believing all this was planned ahead of time. The audience's reaction is so strong that the tyrannical circus owner hires him on the spot. When it is discovered that Chaplin cannot be funny intentionally, the owner gives him a job as a prop man, clumsily lugging equipment around the tent as part of the show. Again the crowd roars its approval at his inadvertent antics, and soon the tramp is the circus' main attraction. In the meantime, he falls in love with the owner's daughter, a bareback rider who herself loves the tightrope walker, and romantic complications ensue.
`The Circus' is an all-around Chaplin effort. In addition to playing the lead role, he wrote, directed, produced and edited it, and composed the music as well. It is a meticulous production on all counts, with each sequence choreographed to elicit the maximum capacity of laughter from the audience. The scenes in which the tramp is pursued through a hall of mirrors, trapped inside the lion's cage, and forced to double for the missing tightrope walker stand alongside his finest achievements. The ending sequence is especially heartrending, as many are in his films. Here is a movie to be cherished by all fans of Chaplin, but appreciated even by casual viewers. This is because it achieves a rare blend of comedy and poignancy through appealing, sympathetic characters and with genuine honesty adding a note of realism to counterbalance the clowning.
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