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Movie Review: The Circus (1928)

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In The Circus Charlie Chaplin yet again demonstrates just why he is one of the most talented people to ever have lived. Chaplin was recognized as such for his work writing, directing, and producing this film by the first Academy Awards in 1929. They bestowed upon him an honorary award "For versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus." Chaplin also wrote the score, and sang the title song in the 1969 re-release.

Chaplin stars as his trademark character, The Tramp. When the story begins, the circus is currently in town, and The Tramp is visiting. While he is standing around watching a sideshow, a pickpocket is doing his work. When the pickpocket is confronted by one of his victims, he slips the stolen wallet and watch into The Tramp's pocket. Later on, when The Tramp notices he has some extra cash and is spending some of his newfound wealth, the wallet's original owner shows up and attempts to have The Tramp arrested. The Tramp flees, and the police officer chases after him through the circus in a bout of hilarity that is so humorous that the Ring Master of the circus (Al Ernest Garcia) offers him a job.

Since The Tramp has no job and no money, he accepts the Ring Master's offer and sets up a tryout for the following morning. Unfortunately since The Tramp was not intending to be funny when he was fleeing the law and it was just by coincidence that he ended up on stage during the chase, he fails miserably at his audition and the job offer is revoked. But when the disgruntled property men quit over some back pay, the Ring Master must find someone quick and the only man around is The Tramp.

The Tramp is terrible at being a property man; every time he tries to do his job he messes up thoroughly. He runs around on stage ruining whatever act is about to come on, but this doesn’t seem to matter because the crowd loves it. The Tramp has no idea, but he is the big draw for the shows and the big moneymaker for the circus.

The Circus then continues with comedic genius as The Tramp steals the show, falls for the girl (the Ring Master's abused stepdaughter played by Merna Kennedy), and fights the boss. This is really one of Chaplin's most underrated films. I personally enjoyed it more so than City Lights and almost as much as Modern Times.

I certainly don't consider myself a Chaplin expert, but this movie is great. He not only comes up with a wonderful story of love and sacrifice, but he sustains a great amount of humor throughout the picture that is sure to bring a smile to anyone's face, young or old, and at only 68 minutes long it's a much better hour spent than, say, watching an episode of CSI: Miami.

Grade: A

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