"Time brought many changes to the Circus; new hopes and new ambitions."
The Circus is perhaps one of Chaplin's most under appreciated films considering it was directed after his acclaimed The Gold Rush and before his most critically adored film City Lights. I really don't see why it is considered a lesser film because it has one of the best love stories and in my opinion the best ending as well. I know City Lights' final scene is one of his best, but I think this one fits his character even better. It is hard for me to pick a favorite film from Chaplin since they all have something unique about them, but it doesn't deserve to be considered a lesser work and more people should check this out. There are several stand out scenes in every one of his features and The Circus is no exception. Some of my favorite include the scene where he locks himself in the lion's cage, the scene where he is walking through the tightrope (a physically demanding scene), the scene where he is in the mirror maze, and the final scene where he walks off to the sunset with his unique and cheerful walk. The Circus is a fun and entertaining film with perfect pacing which never drags. The tramp always reminds us that no matter how difficult our circumstances are, we must never lose our hope and we must remain true to ourselves. One moment he can be stealing food from a baby (but he does it in such a sweet and funny way that we don't judge him), and the next he can be sharing a piece of bread with a lonely girl. He might be unfortunate and clumsy, but he has a heart of gold. The Circus captures the essence of the tramp really well and Chaplin balances pathos with slapstick perfectly once again.
In The Circus we follow the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) who once again is a victim of his circumstance. After a pickpocket (Steve Murphy) steals a wallet, he hides it in the Tramps pants so he isn't discovered. When a police officer realizes that the tramp is carrying the wallet he chases him across a nearby circus. A few clowns are doing their number, but the audience is bored to death until they see the Tramp running all over the place and stumbling across everything while the police officer chases him. He turns into a sensation without realizing it and the Circus Proprietor (Al Ernest Garcia) hires him. He asks the Tramp to do some funny stunts, but he isn't funny so he decides to put him to work as a janitor. The Proprietor realizes that the audiences love the Tramp when he is actually being his clumsy self stumbling all over the place without trying to be funny so he takes advantage of the situation and uses him. The tramp falls in love with the Proprietor's step-daughter, a Circus rider (Merna Kennedy), who is treated poorly by him. But when she falls in love with the tight rope walker (Harry Crocker), the Tramp loses his magic touch. Perhaps if he can do that act, the girl might fall for him, but it is an extremely risky act.
The way Chaplin establishes each of his characters through a simple scene and few dialogue boxes is impressive. He also has an amazing talent to make audiences laugh through comedic acts that we've seen before, but adding his unique personal stamp. What's amazing for me is that each lead actress in his films are different, but they all look so much alike. The love story in The Circus is the one that works best for me and seems more believable. The Circus has a lot of heart. Many complained that The Gold Rush lacked a better ending and in The Circus Chaplin managed to deliver one that captured his essence. It may be far less adventurous, but the love story worked much better. City Lights manages to capture the best elements from both those films: a tender love story, some hilarious scenes, and another great ending so that is why it is considered a superior film, but by no means does The Circus deserve to be neglected like it has been by many.