A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923) Poster

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Beautifully directed and acted
morrisonhimself9 January 2005
Charles Chaplin is noted for his comedy performances, and deservedly.

His direction, though, should be more highly regarded, if only for this one motion picture.

Compare the quality of the photography and the smoothness of the editing to, for example, "The Gold Rush," of about the same time.

"A Woman of Paris" is very modern; "The Gold Rush" is downright primitive (but, in spots, brilliant).

"A Woman of Paris" also shows some admirable acting talent in, really, all the players. Some of the lesser characters are still played beautifully, despite being "lesser," especially Marie's maids and her, more or less, friends, and very especially the masseuse.

And the scene where the artist's mother, played by Lydia Knott, bent on revenge, comes upon Marie -- with no words, just body movement and facial expression -- she tells the audience what the proverbial thousand words could not so well.

Credit for part of that good acting must, of course, go to the director, but even the best director can't make much of poor actors.

Chaplin had very good actors. Adolphe Menjou reached stardom, and deservedly. What a tremendous talent; he could do everything.

Edna Purviance should have achieved much more acclaim. She performed admirably, especially in this movie, and she was attractive. Fame is certainly fickle.

In some ways, "A Woman of Paris" might be written off by a few as "soap opera." But it is well worth watching for the performances and, especially, for the directing.
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a noble experiment
planktonrules1 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film was not accepted by the public when it debuted, as it was only directed by Charlie Chaplin and it was not a comedy. Yes, he does appear VERY briefly in a tiny cameo, but other than that you'd hardly know it was his film.

Edna Purviance, a long-time co-star in many of Chaplin's shorts, is the star of this melodrama. Adolph Menjou is an amoral playboy who loves her--mostly for her body. Carl Miller is the old boyfriend who apparently has a very poorly defined role in the film and ultimately kills himself. In some ways, the movie is quite in advance of its time--taking on topics such as a sexually liberated woman and suicide. But, it also has its feet firmly grounded in the overly melodramatic past, with its occasion over-the-top script and its very old fashioned ending.

The film has excellent direction and cinematography. In addition, just before his death, Chaplin re-edited the film--adding a new score he wrote himself (something he did for most of his features). A beautiful to look at but just a little bit too old fashioned melodrama. It's worth a look for the curious, but it not an exceptional film--and I think that's what America and the world expected from this film genius.
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Interesting Change of Pace From Chaplin
Snow Leopard8 January 2003
If nothing else, you have to give Charlie Chaplin a lot of credit for taking a shot at something so different from his usual fare. (Though he himself only appears on-screen for a few seconds this time, he did almost everything else in the production.) And while "A Woman of Paris" is certainly a cut below his comedy features, it's a pretty good melodrama, and you'd have to think that with experience Chaplin could have gone on to become almost as effective with straight melodrama as he was with his sentimental comedies. It's not really surprising that after this he returned to comedy for good, but that was just to keep audiences happy, not because he couldn't do drama, since this is a decent effort.

Chaplin's own frequent lady Edna Purviance is convincing as the young woman whose tangled love affairs pull her away from her true love and into a set of tangled relationships in the empty, decadent world of the Parisian idle classes. Except for being rather contrived - there are far too many coincidences and pat developments in the plot, and they do not work as well in serious drama as they would in a comedy - the story is interesting and fairly creative. It does get a bit heavy at times, since there is very little comic relief, but Adolphe Menjou helps keep it from getting unbearably serious with a good performance as the carefree, irresponsible Pierre. He shows that even without dialogue he can make this kind of character lively and memorable.

Since it doesn't quite measure up to the standard of either the best Chaplin features or the best silent melodramas, "A Woman of Paris" may not have a niche of its own, except for its historical interest. But it's quite an interesting change of pace from Chaplin, and an above average movie that's worth seeing.
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Parisian Melodrama
bkoganbing2 August 2008
I was looking in Charlie Chaplin's memoirs and I found that his original idea for the plot of A Woman Of Paris came from pillow talk with Peggy Hopkins Joyce involving one of her former boyfriends, a French publisher. From this came Charlie's idea to direct, but not appear in a film and hopefully make his long time leading lady from slapstick comedy, Edna Purviance a major dramatic star.

The reason given for the non-success of A Woman of Paris is usually given as the fact that people bought tickets and were disappointed that they did not see a Charlie Chaplin comedy. Probably on the silent screen, star images were even more fixed in people's minds than they were when sound came in.

But seeing it today it really does go overboard into melodrama. Edna's a simple country girl who loves Carl Miller, a struggling artist. Some blind mischances of fate and she winds up the paid woman of Parisian rake Adolphe Menjou. It's the tragedy of one romantic and the salvation of sorts for the other that are the basis of the story.

You couldn't make a film like it today, audiences would just laugh at it. In 1923 audiences were looking for laughs attached to the Chaplin name and found none. Edna does a fine job, but the public would not accept her in a drama. Adolphe Menjou as the rake comes off best in the cast.

The film ironically enough was Chaplin's first for the newly formed United Artists of which he was a quarter interest partner. After this one failed at the box office, he went back to cranking out the comedies we expected from him.

Back when I was working person at New York State Crime Victims Board, I had a claimant named Wayne Purviance who was the victim of an anti-gay bias attack in 1982. It was a crime that galvanized the GLBT people of New York City, this person in particular. Wayne was the grand nephew of Edna Purviance.

He's no longer among the living, but to you Wayne Purviance who took some real blows for millions of people, this review is lovingly dedicated to you and your wonderful aunt.
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Whatever Happened To Marie St. Clare?
theowinthrop12 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In the 1920s Charlie Chaplin tried to break away from his double dependence on the "little tramp" and comedy. His first attempt (still a comedy) was "The Kid", where he made Jackie Coogan an equal in the film (althought Chaplin did get higher billing). Then he thought (quite seriously) of starring in a film biography of Napoleon I. There is a photo of him in costume as the Emperor, and Alistair Cooke (in his book "Six Men") mentions Chaplin demonstrating a piece of dialog that Napoleon would say regarding "perfidious Albion". Later Chaplin would concentrate on his co-star (and lover) Edna Purviance, doing this film and later having a second film called "The Sea Gull" that was shot by Joseph Von Sternberg but never released. The poor box office of this film, "A Woman Of Paris" really ended the attempts. Chaplin was a good businessman, and the bottom line was box office. So his next film returned to the tramp - "The Gold Rush".

"A Woman Of Paris" is a well made movie, and never fails to hold one's interest, particularly watching the budding elegant career of Adolphe Menjou. His Pierre Revel is a perfect boulevardier type - he dresses well, knows how to order great food (truffles), and is cynical separating a financial/socially promising marriage from continuing seeing his mistress Purviance. Edna is from the French countryside, and wants luxury and financial security. She also wanted to marry Jean Millet (Carl Miller) but the death of his father on the night they were to elope causes him to miss the planned elopement - and she leaves for Paris. We follow her there and her reunion with Miller - which leads to tragedy. Belatedly realizing what she has lost, Edna goes back to the countryside to assist Miller's mother (Lydia Knott) in charity work. The conclusion where she is happily riding home on a horse and wagon, while a fast touring car (with Menjou in it) drives by without seeing her is wonderful - Menjou was just asked by a friend whatever happened to Purviance, and he shrugs his shoulders.

Purviance is competent but not much more. Her success in Chaplin's comedies was as a reactor to Charlie, not as the creator of humor. She's not Mabel Normand, who was a clever comedienne. Miller is good, but stiff (possibly due to the character's limitations - Chaplin rarely tried to make a Pierrot character who was not the self-sufficient tramp). The best thing about Miller's character is his talent for painting.

One final note - Henry Bergmann who was one of Chaplin's regular actors (sometimes playing fat women, but he played other roles as well) is the head waiter at a posh restaurant Menjou takes Purviance. His indignation at a junior waiter "trying to muscle in" on this rich, big tipping special customer are quite funny.

Not the greatest Chaplin film work, but worth watching.
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A Chaplin film without Chaplin as a performer
AlsExGal4 April 2010
1923's "A Woman of Paris is probably not what you'd expect in a Chaplin film based on the totality of his body of work, both in features and in shorts. However, that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile viewing. It just means if you are new to Chaplin, you might not want to start here.

"A Woman of Paris" showed Chaplin's talent behind the camera without him appearing in front of it, except for a lone cameo in which he quickly appears and then disappears acting as a luggage boy. He made it for two reasons, to do some pioneering in cinematic technique and to help give his long time costar and companion Edna Purviance a career boost. The film is actually quite good with great performances by Purviance and by Adolphe Menjou as a carefree playboy. The film did make a star out of Menjou. It didn't really help Purviance that much. The film is about a pair of star-crossed lovers that circumstance drives apart and then brings back together and the eventual tragedy that occurs due to the weakness of will of Purviance's character's one time fiancé, played by Carl Miller.

The film was a failure at the box office, not because it was bad, but because audiences expected to see Chaplin when they went to a Chaplin film. After the failure of this film, Chaplin went back to formulas that were tried and true for him and never really went out on a limb experimenting again, which is too bad for all of us.
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I'm giving this an 8 despite its many faults
preppy-313 January 2005
Marie St. Clair (Edna Purviance) is running away to Paris with boyfriend Jean Millet (Carl Miller). Unfortunately his father dies and he can't go. She goes alone. A year later she is a "kept" woman of rich Pierre revel (Adolphe Menjou). Then, by accident, she runs into Jean who has moved to Paris with his mother. She still loves him...but will he want her now? There are some huge problems with this film. For one thing--the overbearing music score that director/writer Charlie Chaplin added in 1977. It's loud, annoying and obtrusive. Often it doesn't even match what's on the screen! Cheerful music playing during dramatic sequences totally destroy any effect those scenes might have held. Also the plot is just ridiculous and very corny and VERY melodramatic at the end.

I'm giving this a high rating for a few reasons: it's beautifully directed by Chaplin--just stunning to look at. And, despite the plot, all the actors are just fantastic. Miller is handsome, strong and very affecting as the hero. Purviance is just perfect as Marie--you feel all her pain and indecision. Best of all is Menjou--this made him an instant star. He's just great as the heartless Revel.

So, I recommend it. Just turn the sound off and the acting will carry you over the rough spots.
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"Time makes strangers of intimate friends…"
Anonymous_Maxine1 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A Woman of Paris is probably best known, ironically, by the fact that it is a Chaplin film that Chaplin does not appear in. It opens with a title card in which Chaplin himself wishes to clear up any misunderstanding by mentioning that he does not appear in the film, but my understanding is that it was a popular and critical failure at the time of its release. He does appear in the film, but walks on and off screen so fast and looks so little like himself that there is really no reason for him to be there. The film's popular failure seems to have been something that plagued him through the rest of his career, since he returned to the film and re-scored it at the age of 87. It was the last work he ever did as a filmmaker, and the result was that people finally recognized the film for the master work that it is.

We meet a young woman whose father keeps her in the house under lock and key, but who nevertheless escapes at night to visit her lover, whom she plans to marry. One night, her father sees her leaving, and then locks her out. He then proceeds over-react to the point where he won't allow her in the house, so she is forced to try to go find a place to stay at her boyfriend's house. It is a curious illustration of 1920s society that his parents want to kick her out of the house as though she were a diseased rodent. They are committing an unpardonable sin by being together at night outside of marriage. It's easy to sympathize with their desperate situation.

Soon, tragedy strikes, which leads to a tragic misunderstanding which, I have to say, is not presented very well in the movie. This is, however, probably the film's only weak point. I had to wonder why this even allowed for a level of misunderstanding that enabled her to move to Paris and join high society without ever talking to the man for long enough for him to explain what happened. It's also a little strange that they both appear to be in their mid-30s or so and are yet not only unmarried but still live with their parents.

Nevertheless, she joins a wealthy social circle and becomes involved in their wealthy and loveless life, surrounded by rich people in constant leisure, smoking cigars, drinking champagne, and eating truffles ("a delicacy for pigs and gentlemen…"). It is inevitable that they will meet again at some point, and when they do, time has, indeed, made strangers of them, but his love is still alive. He has become an accomplished artist and she hires him to paint her portrait, which again intertwines their lives.

It is interesting that he is still mourning the death of his father, even years later. But he comes from a world where relationships are extremely important, whether romantic or family, and she, on the other hand, has entered a world of money where relationships are startlingly meaningless. She drags her feet at talking about the history between them, saying that she doesn't want to dig up the past, while he interestingly looks directly at the camera and explains that he is still badly hurt by what has happened.

Soon, she is forced to choose between a life of love or a life of luxury, and it is notable that the rich man that she was in a "relationship" is pointedly indifferent when she leaves him, explaining that he'll never see her again. "Okay, phone me sometime," he says as he casually walks out the door, leaving her to do as she will. Soon, things seem to be looking up for their mutual happiness, but another tragic misunderstanding (or at least badly timed conversation), throws everything into chaos again. When she leaves, Jean, her boyfriend, becomes desperate.

The ending of the film is deeply symbolic, and involved a long road, like the ending of some of Chaplin's better known short comedies. The film's message, that time heals and the secret of happiness is in service to others, doesn't need to be delivered as directly as it is, but it also doesn't hurt the movie that this happens. It's a deeply moving story that illustrates an unfortunate aspect of a certain level of society, a level about which Chaplin was certainly no stranger. It is definitely, as the title says, a drama of fate, and makes a strong comment about what is important in life. It's interesting to consider Chaplin's personal life at the time that the movie was made, but I think it's more important to let the film stand on it's own. This is a brilliant piece of film-making.
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"… the magic city of Paris, where fortune is fickle and a woman gambles with life."
ackstasis29 May 2007
The second film in my somewhat unusual Charles Chaplin double feature (after the delightfully black 'Monsieur Verdoux (1947)'), 'A Woman of Paris' is perhaps the silent comedy master's least mentioned film, perhaps partly due to it not actually being a comedy, or because Chaplin himself appears only in a very brief cameo role. His first and, I'll venture, his only strictly dramatic feature, the film traces the romantic dilemma of a young French woman living in Paris. It was Chaplin's first film with United Artists – which he had founded in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. Originally entitled 'Public Opinion' and then 'Destiny,' Chaplin considered a dozen more titles before he finally settled on a name.

Marie St. Clair (Edna Purviance) and her romance Jean Millet (Clarence Geldart), an aspiring artist, residents of a small French village, have plans to move to Paris and get married. However, unfortunate circumstances delay their plans, and Marie impulsively boards the train without Jean. A year or so later, Marie has assimilated into the upper-class lifestyle of Paris, having become the mistress of a wealthy, cynical businessman, Pierre Revel (Adolphe Menjou). It is then that she and Jean suddenly meet again. Though there are undoubtedly still feelings between them, Marie must decide whether she can sacrifice all of Pierre's luxuries to pursue the man that she loves.

Written, produced and directed by Chaplin, 'A Woman of Paris' is a tightly-paced drama/romance, employing a lot of dialogue (somewhat unusual for Chaplin, who usually relied on extended slapstick comedic set pieces to drive his silent films) and a three-way relationship that has since become commonplace in films of this sort. The film allowed Chaplin to extend his skills beyond the realm of the lovable little Tramp. Unfortunately, this seemingly was not what audiences wanted. Perhaps perceived as a harmful satire of the American way of life, 'A Woman of Paris' was banned in several US states on the grounds of immorality, and it was a commercial flop. Chaplin had conceived the film as a means of launching the individual acting career of Edna Purviance, though this bid was unsuccessful. It did, however, make an international star of Adolphe Menjou.

Many critics, despite the poor box office performance, praised the film's startling realism. Notably, director Michael Powell ('Black Narcissus,' 'Peeping Tom') cited 'A Woman of Paris' as his greatest inspiration to become a filmmaker. In 1976, a frail Charles Chaplin – just one year before his death – reissued the edited film with a new musical score he had composed, aided by music arranger Eric James. A criminally underrated silent classic, 'A Woman of Paris' is yet another testament to Chaplin's undeniable cinematic genius.
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Graceful, elegant photography and concise storytelling are made imperfect by missing narrative elements that would have made the film more plausible.
Bob A-225 January 1999
Finally saw Woman of Paris: this was a legendary film in its day, but mostly because it was virtually never re-released for sixty years after it premiered in 1923, so the legend grew in its absence. The parts of the story that were not told would have made a better movie than the movie, for example why the lovers' fathers at the beginning of the film are against the marriage, and how Marie (Edna Purviance) became a (shudder) "Woman of Paris" during the year following her departure from her fiance. So I didn't buy the story but the camera work and editing do marvelous things with the story that is there. The melodramatic climax is a bit much to be believed, but not comical as a lot of silent mellers appear today. A little D.W. Griffith (sophisticated early use of photography to tell story and set mood), a little Tolstoy ("bad woman" story contrasted with storyteller's emphasis on happy marriages and wholesome family life), a touch of Dreiser ("sinful" characters shown with realistic insight) and I'd guess a soupcon of Terrence Ratigan (sophisticated attitudes) but I doubt he was around then. The ad copy for this film says Chaplin has a cameo as a railway porter but I didn't notice one in the train scene: I suspect instead he was the ticket agent whose hand appears pointing out the ticket window toward the train. Altogether a satisfying and entertaining film, but the story would have been better if Chaplin had worked on it a little longer.
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A Look Back in the Past
whpratt127 January 2006
Have to give this film a BIG TEN, it is a wonderful look back into the 20's when things were silent on the big screen and it was a different generation than 2000 plus. In those days everything was Radio and the Film Studio's. This is a great production by Charlie Chaplin and his mistress Edna, who was the love of his life, Edna Purviance. The story is about a young man who falls in love with a young gal and his dad and mom disapprove and at the same time tragedy hits the young man's family and he misses out on a very important date. Years go by and the young man still hangs on to his mother and finally meets up with the young gal he was deeply in love with years ago. Charlie Chaplin, produced, directed and composed the music for this film and did have a brief walk on appearance in the film. The public at the time were disappointed in this film, because Chaplin did not appear in the film, which he should have. In real life Charlie should have married Edna Purviance and ended all the scandal he created. This is too great a Classic film to find fault or criticize a masterpiece of the 1920's.
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For Chaplin completists only
tarmcgator26 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"A Woman of Paris" is hardly the innovative work of genius that some Chaplin enthusiasts would have you believe, nor was it a flop just because moviegoers were disappointed that The Little Tramp was not to be seen in it. It's just a mediocre film, proof that genius can have an off day, or an off year, especially when it tries to push the envelope too much.

I'm not sure who originated the truism that every comic yearns to play Hamlet, but certainly Chaplin aspired to make films that were more than gag-laden comedies. He had already tugged at the world's heartstrings with "The Kid" (1921), and within a couple of years he was ready to make a "serious" film that would entirely omit the comedy image that had made him the most famous movie star on the planet. He also wanted to feature his longtime co-star (and part-time inamorata), the lovely Edna Purviance, who had been a pleasant presence in about three dozen earlier Chaplin shorts and features. Apparently, he had great belief in her abilities as a dramatic actress.

Unfortunately, Chaplin the writer/director didn't give his favored lady much to work with. The real weakness of "Woman" is the bland story, which has some rather large holes. Why do the fathers of Marie and Jean both object to their child's choice of fiancé(e)? How does a provincial girl like Marie -- who doesn't seem to have much going for her beyond her looks (Edna, who was 28 when "Woman" was released, looks harder and does not seem quite so fetching as she did five or six years earlier) -- develop in one year the ambition and cunning to become the mistress of "the richest bachelor in Paris?" How does she find out that Jean has moved to the city? None of these important plot points are really covered in the film. Chaplin seems to have thought that dazzling and risqué glimpses of the Parisian high life would be sufficient to hold the narrative together.

Of course, Jean finds out that Marie is a prominent courtesan, and he's torn between his lingering love for her and his widowed mother's insistence on marital respectability. (Shades of "Camille!") After the tragic climax, we get a quick inter-title telling us that Marie has learned her lesson, and the film ends with her departure from the the Big City of Lights as the richest bachelor motors on his merry way.

Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's explorations of Chaplin's creative process, "The Unknown Chaplin," makes it clear that Charlie didn't always have a firm grasp on the details of the story he was trying to tell -- and one suspects that may be why "Woman's" storyline is so pedestrian. Without the screen persona of the Tramp to guide him, and in his effort to make a "serious" dramatic film, Chaplin's inventiveness failed him in telling a compelling and believable story in which he did not appear.

This was Purviance's last featured role in a Chaplin film. A few years later she starred in a Chaplin-produced movie, "A Woman of the Sea" (aka "The Sea Gull"), directed by Josef von Sternberg. (This film is now apparently lost; Chaplin reportedly refused to release it and ordered the negative destroyed for financial reasons.) It would have been nice to observe Edna working with another director, if only to see if she indeed did have the acting chops in which Chaplin believed. She made only one more film (not counting a couple of very small roles in two later Chaplin movies) before retiring in the late '20s. (Chaplin kept her on his payroll, however, until she died in 1958.)

So, "A Woman of Paris" is essentially a Chaplin oddity, a film that every Chaplin fan ought to see at least once, if only to appreciate what the man accomplished in his comic films. But if Chaplin's name weren't on it -- contrary to some opinions -- it would remain a mediocre and unremarkable film, save for the appearance of Edna Purviance and the striking performance of Adolph Menjou.
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Chaplin's first stab at drama is a lacklustre affair
grantss22 November 2021
Jean and Marie are madly in love and want to get married but their parents are opposed to it. They plan to elope to Paris but Jean has to back out at the last moment. Marie leaves without him and head to Paris. Within a year she has become quite the socialite, complete with wealthy boyfriend. Then she runs into Jean again and must decide between love and money.

Charlie Chaplin's first drama and also a rare movie of his where he does not star (he does appear though, in a minor uncredited role). The result is lacklustre.

It started off very well: I was engaged by the story of the two lovers fighting to be together against their parents' wills. However, once the setting shifted to Paris it became more melodramatic and like a soap opera, filled with social machinations. The engagement levels dropped and by the end I really didn't care too much about the characters.

The ending is overly dramatic, considering what lead up it, but does have a touch of poetry to it.

Overall, not entirely a waste of time but not great either.
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performance and direction trump a formulaic story
Quinoa198420 May 2016
A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate gives us a familiar little story: do you pick the man with the money or the man with the artistic drive and heart (and not really much money)? It's also set in the 1920's since it is, you know, from that decade, but it helps that Charlie Chaplin, in his one and only true dramatic offering, sets it in the milieu of Paris, France of the early 20's when things were bright and alive and Champagne flowed and people danced and so on. It fits to have this story here, and all of the actors are game for it.

Ultimately, this may not be the most original story, as it follows a woman who is kicked out of her home (because, in brief, it sucks as we're told) and goes to Paris in a moment of high dramatic tension and then ends up being attached to one man (Menjou) while the other does come to town and becomes a painter. And lordy-lord it has some exceptionally melodramatic beats.

But Chaplin's light touch connects well with a honestly dramatic and even existential story of a woman caught in a question of choice, and how the choices of the two men (one who is too guilt-ridden over his mother, the other who has no guilt about anything, certainly not the fact that he's made this woman the "other" woman) are wonderfully well drawn, and the performance by Purviance makes her akin to Diane Keaton to his Woody Allen (and there's Adolphe Menjou, who revels in being a high-society cad). Oh, and the music, while a bit repetitive, is also a great fit for the material.
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An excellent drama from the first genius of Cinema
bacardi_ben20 December 2007
A Woman Of Paris was an acclaimed success with the critics when it was Originally released on 1st October 1923. However, the audience despised it as they wanted to see Charlie Chaplin the tramp starring in a film not a film directed by Chaplin in which he does not appear (albeit in a small cameo role). When i first saw the film on BBC2 around Christmas 1998 i thought Chaplin had a starring role so was naturally disappointed when i found out this wasn't the case. However, since then i have become a huge fan of Chaplin and all his work so now I think this film is rated among Chaplin's best features. His musical score composed in 1976 with Eric Rogers was Chaplin's last ever work in his film career which spanned 62 years. By 1976 Chaplin was very frail and struggled to communicate so the fact that he could compose the music for a near 80 minute film is amazing and the fact that the music score is as good as any of his other films is also astonishing. Charles Chaplin was a true genius of Cinema and A Woman Of Paris is an excellent example of Chaplin as director, writer and composer.
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An early Charlie Chaplin flub
psteier29 April 2001
As his first United Artists picture, Chaplin tried a modern melodrama, perhaps thinking it to be what the public wanted. Unfortunately, it never comes together. Edna Purviance just seems to go through the motions though Adolphe Menjou is at his best.

Many nice touches of the sort seen in pictured directed by Erich von Stroheim. Wonderful women's costumes and sets in the best Hollywood style. Try to see the film with live musical accompaniment - the Chaplin score is overwrought.
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Chaplin directed melodrama
gbill-7487710 May 2022
This romantic drama from Charlie Chaplin is certainly a departure for him, and aside from a brief cameo as a porter at the train station early on, he doesn't appear in this film. It centers on a couple who love one another (Edna Purviance and Carl Miller) and plan to elope, but fate intervenes. The pair actually separate twice over the course of the story, once because she doesn't trust him (not knowing he can't come to the train station because his father has died), and the second, because he doesn't trust himself (foolishly telling his mother than he won't marry him which she overhears). Both times, she ends up in the arms of a rich playboy (Adolphe Menjou), though she grows disillusioned there as well, because he plans to wed and keep her on as a mistress.

It's a decent enough story but gets a tad melodramatic, making it not particularly noteworthy. My enjoyment came more from the little moments in the film, like a waiter cooking a big basket of black truffles in champagne table-side (goodness how decadent!), Purviance's character spanking her friend (Betty Morrissey) for staying out all night, and a woman (Bess Flowers) wrapped up like a mummy and slowly unwound until she's naked at a party. The scenes of revelry and excess seem particularly well informed, and there are lots of visual details in the sets and clothing that make it a pleasing film to watch, the Jazz Age being in full swing and all. Adolphe Menjou makes a debonair rascal, and according to Jacqueline Stewart at TCM, said he learned more about acting from Chaplin while making this film than he did any other director. Overall, not a masterpiece, but held my interest and worth 82 minutes.
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But That's Not Funny!
nukisepp25 January 2021
'A Woman of Paris' is rather a curiosity in Charles Chaplin's filmography. It stands as the only pure drama he wrote and directed. The film he made just to help foster Edna Purviance's career independent from him. This film was Edna's first and practically the last leading role ('A Woman of the Sea' from 1926 was never released and is now considered to be lost), which, of course, is a pity, because besides being gorgeous, she was a fine actress, and was able to shine on her own not only as of the sidekick of The Tramp. The complex role Marie St. Clair proved that. The film itself was a failure at cinemas not because it was bad (critics at that time liked it), but because Chaplin wasn't in it (only for a brief cameo - a man carrying the box in the trainstation). And it was, oh the horror! a drama.

I guess that's the reason, why Chaplin never tried his hand at a serious movie ever again (although he experimented with quite risky stuff later in his career). That's another pity - because Chaplin truly knew how to create complex characters amid moral turmoils and dilemmas. 'A Woman of Paris' is undoubtedly with flaws. Well, it was practically Chaplin's second feature film and the first time where he ventured that far from his comfort zone.

Altogether, 'A Woman in Paris' is a good drama (probably a bit overly melodramatic by the end), and needs more recognition from Chaplin fans and all silent cinema admirers alike. It really shows that Chaplin was much more diverse and deep as a filmmaker than just offering magnificent laughs.
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Love, fate and comfort
TheLittleSongbird5 July 2018
Am a big fan of Charlie Chaplin, have been for over a decade now. Many films and shorts of his are very good to masterpiece, and like many others consider him a comedy genius and one of film's most important and influential directors.

It is hard to not expect a lot after not long before Chaplin had one of his earliest career highs in 'The Kid'. 'A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate' doesn't disappoint, and it shows Chaplin having properly found his style and fully settled. As said with many of his post-Keystone efforts, it shows a noticeable step up in quality though from his Keystone period, where he was still evolving and in the infancy of his long career. The Essanay and Mutual periods were something of Chaplin's adolescence period where his style had been found and starting to settle. After Mutual the style had properly settled and the cinematic genius emerged. Very much apparent here in 'A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate', which may not be one of Chaplin's best but it is to me one of his most under-appreciated.

It is let down by the melodramatic ending that comes over too as silly and an interpolated music score composed not long before Chaplin's death that is intrusive and doesn't fit the film.

On the other hand, 'A Woman of Fate: A Drama of Fate' looks great, from Essanay onwards, and it is certainly the case here, it was obvious that Chaplin was taking more time with his work and not churning out countless shorts in the same year of very variable success like he did with Keystone. It's actually one of his technically best-looking efforts from this period.

'A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate' is also funny and very charming, never coming over as dull and never being too over-sentimental. It features some of Chaplin's most remarkable directing of any effort of his up to this point in his career. He similarly gets the best out of his cast, with the standouts being the ever charming and quite touching Edna Purviance and especially a superb Adolphe Menjou in a star-making turn.

Concluding, very well done. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Chaplin's Comedy of Manners
JohnHowardReid14 September 2008
A Woman of Paris has all the makings of a film noir, but fails to deliver on this score, despite the tragic end met by one of the major characters. Chaplin, as writer/director/producer observes the action of this character at a distance (and the fact that he is enacted by a rather charmless Carl Miller further adds to an audience's lack of empathy).

Despite Chaplin's Foreword insistence that his movie is not a comedy but a drama, it is actually for the most part an enjoyable comedy of manners, a field in which delightfully dapper Adolphe Menjou excelled, enabling him to easily snatch the picture from its nominal star, Edna Purviance. It seems Chaplin's camera cannot help but focus on Menjou. Chaplin's classy dialogue sub-titles also added a fillip, but Menjou's breezy, rich-as-they-come, luxuriantly self-indulgent take-it-it-leave-it manner would have ensured his success even without Chaplin's help.

Chaplin actually conceived the film to launch Edna Purviance (who had starred with him in shorts like the 1919 Sunnyside) as a major star. This ploy was not successful. In my opinion, Miss Purviance lacked both the figure and the charisma that Hollywood stardom demanded. In the Chaplin shorts, she is little more than a foil for the tramp. In A Woman of Paris even newcomer Betty Morrissey and minor players like Malvina Polo, Henry Bergmam and Nelly Bly Baker steal scenes from her, to say nothing of Lydia Knott who compels attention as Jean's fussed mother.
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Don't understand...
CChaplin200513 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I don't understand how "A Woman of Paris" has received a good deal of bad publicity. Sure, it may have been because Chaplin wasn't in it, but I found the movie to be pretty good. The plot itself isn't all that exciting, considering the basic love triangle has been overused in recent years, but in 1923, this was fairly new- for movies at least. I enjoyed highly "A Woman of Paris".

Adolphe Menjou is fantastic as a rich, snobbish, playboy who treats women like toys. Edna Purviance did good as well. Some may say that her character was "confused". Well, yes. When you're in love, you do strange things. Same thing applies to anger. Marie St. Clair simply was in love with Jean and had feelings for Pierre. She didn't know what she wanted, though. Did she want luxury or did she want true love. She obviously chose true love, even if didn't mean physically being with Jean. Great movie!
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Genius' craftsmanship
AndreiPavlov19 January 2007
Previously my picture of Mr Charlie Chaplin in my mind's eye had been the following: a tiny clownish fellow who kicks other actors in the ass and gets thrashed and kicked in reply. In the course of time my perception changed. His music was playing as the background for the movies he participated in. Surprise. It was not Mozart but the clown himself. Now there is this film and it's definitely cinematic art. So many present-day directors cannot reach even 1/100th of the effect that is achieved by this black-and-white film that is even mute. It has no fountains of blood, no slo-mo, no bullets hitting foreheads, no explosions, no sex scenes, no *beep* words, no crude toilet humour, no trash-talk, no flat melodramatic elements, no crocodile tears, no stupid laughs. What more should a viewer want? The bitter irony and drama are scattered here and there. Its quality can be compared to the quality of the famous "Jeeves and Wooster" before it hit the appalling cast changes (hope, you know what is meant here).

Here goes mine 10.

Thank you for attention.
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"It's not so bad this way"
Steffi_P6 September 2010
Charlie Chaplin's only completely straight drama that he directed but did not star in was a flop in its day, and due to its anomalous status has not fared especially well in later years either. Nevertheless it has had its champions, like British director Michael Powell and Swedish actress and director Liv Ullmann, and is hailed in some quarters as being as sensational and innovative as his comedies.

However a look at the formal style of A Woman of Paris shows much more simply an assured yet conventional grasp of film form, consistent with Hollywood production of the time. As in his comedies, Chaplin shows an intelligent handling of space and arrangement. In those early shots he gives a cramped feeling by having side walls visible up to the edge of the frame and foreground objects like the bed in Edna Purviance's room leaving little room for manoeuvre. An honourable mention goes here to the cinematography of Roland Totheroh which resembles Rembrandt lighting in all but one aspect – the slight level of clarity in the darkness (as oppose to full shadow) gives a very real feeling of squalor to those opening scenes. Chaplin also makes great use of background and foreground, minimising cuts by having multiple characters in the shot at once. Often there is emotional acting up front with physical acting out back. This is all superb, but it is hardly ground-breaking for the period, nor is it particularly surprising to anyone who has studied Chaplin's other works.

The plot of A Woman of Paris too is a fairly routine melodrama, with many twists that are clichéd and hard-to-swallow. Its condemnation of the excesses of wealthy socialites could almost have been borrowed from one of Mr DeMille's moral crusades. This being Chaplin however its depictions are generally a little more sensitive and humane than the average, and while we do have that hackneyed device of a man ruined by an unfaithful woman, in this case the woman is herself a more or less innocent victim of a callous playboy, and her reasons for her lack of fidelity to one man are at least given some empathetic explanation.

However, A Woman of Paris's melodrama, in spite of its formulaic structure, has a kind of truth-to-life that most other melodramas fail to achieve. Chaplin draws from his cast some steady, measured performances, free from the overt gesture and strained mugging of your typical silent picture. The emoting is clearly stated, yet it is never overstated. The wonderfully restrained Adolphe Menjou makes the best job of this, underplaying everything with a kind of suaveness which makes us believe women could be attracted to him in spite of his being a repellent bounder. Purviance is great too, always having been a competent straight woman to Charlie's funny man, now sticking to a languid pace and letting the emotions drift on and off her face. It's also nice to see Henry Bergman, probably the most professional of Chaplin's regular players, making a bit part and adding just a little note of the ridiculous without violating the drama. Amongst the other cast members, all of whom are now forgotten, no-one exactly stands out, but by the same token none of them shows themselves up with a bad job.

And while, like most Hollywood pictures of the time, A Woman of Paris is a little excessive with the intertitles, Chaplin rarely uses words to give anything away. Moments such as the young artist realising Purviance has another man in her life are revealed with sequences of visual clues, giving them an incredible smoothness and forcing us to really pay attention to those subtle reactions. Then there are those little touches of genius, those moments that separate the truly great filmmakers from the merely good, such as Purviance slowing down when she encounters a gendarme after hastily retrieving her necklace. With A Woman of Paris Chaplin, with his typical mix of unpretentiousness and devoted humanism, dives shamelessly into the lowest depths of melodrama, whilst giving to that genre a sprinkling of the dignity and honesty it so often lacks.
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Chaplin's First Dramatic Directed Film and Purviance's Last Major Role
springfieldrental13 December 2021
Fans of Charlie Chaplin flocked to the theaters anticipating a good laugh in his next film, September 1923's "A Woman In Paris." Despite a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie that this was a serious drama, viewers paying to see a comedy were dismayed and disappointed by it. But movie critics loved it, praising its subtleties and emotional depth. As writer David Robinson stated, "Chaplin inaugurated a whole new style of comedy of manners, and new styles of acting to suit it...by revealing the inner workings of his characters' hearts and minds through their external actions and expressions."

Chaplin felt that his regular comedic sidekick, Edna Purviance, who appeared in over 30 of his films since 1915, was becoming too mature of an actress to continue doing slapstick. He wanted to feature her in a serious, dramatic role to illustrate her expressive and sincere yet sober acting abilities. Gleaming a story idea from one of the country's most gold-digging of multi-millionaire wives, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Chaplin formulated a story on a woman who leaves for Paris on a train after her supposed fiancee doesn't show up at the platform. Marie (Purviance) hooks up with a rich businessman, Pierre (Adolphe Menjou), and lives the life of luxury, until she meets up with her former fiancee. A suicide spices up Chaplin's plot, all derived from Joyce's own personal experiences. The comedian at the time was having a fling with this most interesting Virginian-born woman, Peggy Joyce, whose fangs dug into six very lucrative marriages. She was famous for quotes such as "True love was a heavy diamond bracelet, preferably one that arrived with its price tag intact."

Once the public realized the movie was all serious and lacked a Chaplin presence (he did have a short cameo as a train porter), the chairs in the theaters playing it became empty. Chaplin was forced to pull "A Woman In Paris" prematurely, which, being his first film for his co-ownershipped United Artists, hit the company's bottom line.

Chaplin's original desire to launch a new direction for Purviance fell flat. Not only was the film a failure at the box office, but a New Year's Day incident of 1924 involving a male friend put a crimp on her future acting ambitions. Attending an intimate gathering of three at oil magnate Courtland Dines' apartment with actress Mabel Normand, Purviance witnessed chauffeur Horace Greer (alias Joe Kelley) arrival to pick up Mabel. Conflicting accounts were given as to what happened next: either Greer saw something that hinted Dines being caught in the act with Mabel, or the host unexplicably approaching him angerly waving a wine bottle. Whatever happened, the chauffeur shot Dines three times. Purviance went to the wounded Dines assistance, and for the next 90 minutes tried to staunch the wounds in his bed. Greer drove to the police station to give himself up while the two actresses finally called an ambulance. With Dines refusing to testify during the trial, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.

The scandal, with all the rumors filling in the blanks, basically slowed Purviance's career to a crawl. She was in one other Chaplin film, 'A Woman of the Sea,' which the unhappy director destroyed, and a 1927 French film. Her two uncredited parts in Chaplin's later movies were her swan songs of the secretary who turned into a movie actress. She received a small monthly salary from Chaplin for the remainder of her life. When she passed away in 1958 at 62, Chaplin, who appeared in over 30 movies with the actress, said "How could I forget Edna? She was with me when it all began."
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Belongs among Chaplin's finest work.
Sergeant_Tibbs20 September 2013
It takes a very out-of-character film to be the oddest of a filmmaker's career that includes Monsieur Verdoux. Not featuring Charlie Chaplin himself, it's not really a surprise that A Woman Of Paris: A Drama Of Fate wasn't popular back in the day, but that doesn't mean it's not a good film. In fact, it's a great one. Though it's hard to say what version the 1920s audience watched as Chaplin re-edited and re-scored it at the end of his career in the 1970s, he certainly knew there was a gem in there somewhere. It's one of his most tightly wound and compelling films. Although you never feel particularly close to the protagonists, their characterisation is quite complex and fascinating for a film of this era. It has brilliant ironic scenes such as where the 'woman' throws something valuable about of a window to prove she doesn't need possessions then chases down someone who innocently picks it up. It adds a lot of layers to his usually simple style and gives a mature approach to the dilemma of living for money or love. Although it has plenty of tragedy and comedy, the only issues are the sappy ending that comes out of nowhere and confusing motivations from the fiancé. Otherwise, it's belongs among his finest films and, dare I say, features his best composed score of his whole career. Chaplin certainly began and ended on high notes.

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