Broke and in Love: Relating to Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”


August 10, 2012 by Liz

I ain't got no money.... I ain't got no car to take you on a date... Can't even buy you flowers... but together we'd be the perfect soul mates.

Closing scene of “Modern Times.”
Source DeadWrite Dailies.

Tonight’s very special post is brought to you by the letter O.  As in I’m going to chat about an OLD MOVIE with y’all tonight.  That’s right, something made BEFORE 1980!

I understand that it’s hard for most people nowadays to relate to black and white films, let alone silent films.  In the age of what I like to call the ADD generation, it’s hard to compete with flashy pretty HD jam-packed action scenes with loud explosive noises all the while with bass thumping dubstep.  However, as evidenced by the narrative depth of the Transformers series, flashy isn’t everything.

Modern Times is one of my absolute favorite films of all time.  It’s got everything in terms of visual humor and majesty that a modern film does and even more in storytelling than most modern films.  The film chronicles a chapter of Charlie Chaplin’s recurring character the Little Tramp.  The Little Tramp struggles with the modern industrialized society.  He can’t keep up with the grueling pace of non-stop work and can’t compete against the huge unemployed masses.  Finally, mistaken for a communist in a protest march that he happened to be at the front of, he’s thrown in jail.  He could be any Occupy Wall-Streeter, frustrated with this bloated failing industrialized world in which the poor keep getting poorer and rich, richer.

Eventually, after a series of comedic vignettes during his jail time, he meets “the girl.”  She’s an orphan homeless girl, her father killed in a riot caused by the disgruntled masses.  She and the Tramp begin to spend time together, being as romantic as they can despite their penniless lifestyle.  Soon they make a go of creating a home.  It might be a rotting shack down by the river, but to them it’s a roof over their heads and the dream of a better tomorrow.  Inevitably, this cannot last and the police discover the girl, who is wanted for stealing bread, forcing her and the Tramp to flee this comfortable life.

However, it is the iconic last scene that has always held the most power to me.  As pictured above, the Tramp and the girl wake up from a rough night of fleeing the police and look at each other in a knowing way – smile – and then pick themselves up and head towards the sunrise.  It’s this shiny optimism towards the future, despite their destitute status, despite all that’s happened, that has such a profound peace and serenity.

It helped that at the time in my life when I first saw the film, I was just graduating from college, with no job, massive student loan debt, and a wonderful boyfriend who vowed to help me out no matter what.   Hell, we saw it at the Paramount State Theater with the extra 14 bucks we’d gotten that week from a graduation gift and we hunkered down in those old historic seats feeling the same heavy defeatism with the underlying soaring optimism that they felt.

Soooo… my recommendation is the next time you’re feeling like your life is a mess and you’re struggling to make ends meet or get anything to work out, watch Modern Times.  It’s funny, cool, sweet, happy, sad, cute, and most of all doesn’t need words to convey any of that awesomeness.  Emotion and expressive visuals is all it needs.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that one of the first times that Charlie Chaplin’s voice was ever captured on film is of the nonsense song he sings near the end of the movie.  HILARIOUS!

Peace out Bitches!


P.S.  This film is why the first dance at our wedding was to “Smile” composed and written by Charlie Chaplin for this film’s closing scene.  Of course, the fade to Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” was strictly keeping in theme.  It’s the same idea!  “I ain’t got no money.”  😀


3 thoughts on “Broke and in Love: Relating to Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”

  1. […] their Summer Classic Film Series.  It’s my husband and my time honored tradition (see previous post).  After enjoying a thoroughly rousing viewing of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) last night, […]

  2. Andrew Owens says:

    🙂 I feel as if you were thinking of me when writing this.

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