The Circus

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

Coming at a difficult time in Chaplin’s career, & life, & in the midst of all sorts of legal wrangling, not to mention the little inconvenience of the coming of sound to motion pictures, it’s no surprise that The Circus comes off as just a bit minor, which in the case of this artist usually still means unmissable & irreplaceable;

He is multiply, variably, deeply, effortlessly funny: when he eats the little kid’s hot dog, when he’s told to do something funny for the boss & it’s not (even though, to us, it still is), w’ that lion, in the awesomely worked out funhouse sequence, as well as in the high wire suspense of that very impressive trapeze routine; the monkeys!—the final greatest thing is the ease and sheer beauty of CC’s movement, dancing, stasis even: here is absolute grace, all the more remarkable for the explosive knockabout that so often surrounds it;

The clowns in this circus seem to represent lots of vaudeville & early film types, vaudeville & early film routines, which of course Chaplin would have seen, & known, & been—& which of course he in many ways eclipsed; in a similar sense the evil father/impresario & abused daughter is pure throwback Griffith melodrama; it’s very respectfully & effectively rendered, too;

Compare this conclusion to The Gold Rush, in which Chaplin’s character, after much travail & uncertainty, comes away w’ the girl; here, instead, there’s a handsome young man, the putting on of a brave face, & not a little sorrow beneath—as mentioned, a difficult time in Chaplin’s career, & life, & in the whole world …