The Circus

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Snappy, inventive, and sweetly poignant, The Circus may be the most unjustly neglected of Chaplin’s silent features. When we first meet Chaplin’s Tramp in this comic gem, he’s in typical dire straits: broke, hungry, destined to fall in love and just as sure to lose the girl. Mistaken for a pickpocket and chased by the police into a circus tent, the Tramp accidentally becomes a star when the delighted patrons think his escape from the hapless law enforcement officers is all part of the act. Joining the circus, he eventually he falls in love with the brutish ringmaster’s put-upon stepdaughter, leading to a heart-tugging conclusion. Highlights include a crazed hall-of-mirrors scene to rival the one in The Lady from Shanghai, Charlie’s teetering tightrope walk (in his underwear and with an adorable monkey chewing on his nose!), and the haunting final payoff of the film’s circles motif. At the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, Chaplin was honored with a special statuette “for versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus.” And, it went without saying, for once again bringing laughter to packed movie palaces across America. (Dir. by Charles Chaplin, 1928, silent with music score, 72 min., Not Rated) 35mm