FilmStruck Forum: Chaplin, Bogie and More
Exploring the Streaming Movie Service
As I continue to explore and acclimate to FilmStruck, I’m finding that my biggest ‘problem’ is trying to decide what to watch. But alas, I’m muddling through making those difficult decisions, and in the process, I’m having a lot of fun — I’m seeing some movies that I haven’t seen in ages (and they’re bringing back some wonderful memories), some that I thought I never saw but did (with some deja vu moments), and some that I’ve never ever seen before (or even heard of)…
So, for my 2nd FilmStruck Forum post, I’d like to share three films that I thoroughly enjoyed this month…
THE CIRCUS, 1928
The Circus, 1928, directed, produced, written by, and starring Charlie Chaplin
Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore Charlie Chaplin films… And FilmStruck has an impressive selection of them, including City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Kid, Limelight, Monsieur Verdoux and The Great Dictator, among others. This time around, I decided to watch The Circus — mainly because I own the soundtrack and fell in love with the song “Swing Little Girl” (sung by Chaplin) from the first time I heard it.
As it turns out, I’d seen this film before, although I didn’t remember it until I was about 15 minutes in – but that was perfectly alright by me, as there were still many surprises for me as the film unfolded. In a nutshell, Chaplin plays the Tramp who unwittingly stumbles into a job and stardom at the Circus, and who falls in love with the Ringmaster‘s stepdaughter along the way… I always marvel at Chaplin’s mastery of acrobatics, and I wasn’t disappointed here — his timing is impeccable and he makes everything look so natural — whether he’s falling over something, knocking something down – or walking a tightrope. Although his character in this film was not as sympathetic for me as in other Chaplin films, I was absolutely moved by the ending — an ending, by the way, that I never expected. Definitely worth seeing if you’re a Chaplin fan.
- The Circus was the 7th-highest grossing silent film in cinema history taking in more than $3.8 million in 1928.
- The song “Swing Little Girl” was added to the soundtrack by Chaplin for the 1969 re-issue of the film.
- Chaplin did walk the tightrope himself… he practiced tightrope walking for weeks before filming and performed on a rope 40 feet in the air. That footage was damaged however and Chaplin had to re-shoot. Chaplin believed that the new footage, which was included in the film, was not as good as the original/lost footage.
DEAD END, 1937
Dead End, 1937, directed by William Wyler, and the first film starring The Dead End Kids
My next pick was one that I hadn’t seen in ages – and one that my Mother introduced me to as a kid — so needless to say it brought back some fond memories :) Seeing this one on FilmStruck was a welcomed and pleasant surprise for me. I have such vivid memories of this one growing up… Set in the slums on the East Side of NYC, sweet sis Drina (Sylvia Sidney) waits for her knight in shining armor, honest architect Dave (Joel McCrea) is frustrated by lack of work and tempted by rich mistress Kay (Wendy Barrie), gangster Baby Face Martin (Bogie) returns home to heart-broken mom (Marjorie Main), and Drina’s gone-astray kid brother Tommy (Billy Halop) gets into real trouble with the Dead End Kids. I thoroughly enjoyed this one… and, not to completely give away the ending, I will just say that crime doesn’t pay…
- The set was painstakingly created for the studio… the actual Dead End was in NYC on the corner of East 53rd Street and the East River. The pier and the tenements are long gone now, but you can look for traces around Sutton Place Park and FDR Drive exit 11.
PANAMA HATTIE, 1942
This one I had never seen before, and what a pleasant surprise it was! Starring Ann Sothern, Red Skelton, Dan Dailey and Lena Horne, this is a fun musical — but what struck me most were the dance performances of The Berry Brothers! I must admit, I never heard of them before – but wow. I will be watching this one again for their wonderful dance scenes. A new discovery for me, and you can bet that I will be exploring more Berry Brothers films.
- In 1938, The Berry Brothers faced off with The Nicholas Brothers in a historic dance competition at NY’s Cotton Club.
- You can see some Berry Brothers youtube clips here.
And just to remind everyone, we’re giving away LOTs of FilmStruck subscriptions this year, courtesy of FilmStruck. So stay tuned…
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Thanks for reading, and see you next month!
–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub