Charlie Chaplin, the Artist before "The Artist"
February 28, 2012
The film that swept the Academy Awards this year with five Oscars (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design) was an anachronism in our age of big-budget, CGI-laden blockbusters: The Artist, a black-and-white silent film. While The Artist certainly deserves the praise it has received for showing that silent film is still relevant, someone had already been there first. That someone was the original master of silent film, Charlie Chaplin.
In the closing years of the Roaring Twenties, the motion picture industry began making "talkies" and the silent film was declared dead. Chaplin thought otherwise and set out to prove that silent film was still a legitimate art form that could also succeed commercially. The resulting film, City Lights, was released in 1931 to widespread popular and critical acclaim. Over 75 years later, it is still regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.
While not a true silent film (it had synchronized music and sound effects), City Lights wasn't a "talkie," as all dialogue was in the form of intertitles. Anyone who aspires to a career in acting should watch Chaplin's performance in the final scene of City Lights, which I would argue is the single greatest piece of acting in the entire history of cinema.
But Chaplin wasn't finished. He went on to make Modern Times (1936), another masterpiece without spoken dialogue. The iconic "man trapped in the machine" scene is one of my personal favorites.
Luckily for us, MCPL has City Lights and Modern Times on DVD. So before you watch The Artist (and you should), gather your family around the TV, pop up some popcorn, and enjoy two of the greatest films ever made.