review for Modern Times on AllMovie

Modern Times (1936)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Charles Chaplin's last "silent" film hilariously satirizes Depression-era social ills through the Tramp's disastrous encounters with the industrial age. Chaplin turns his factory worker's nervous breakdown into comic set pieces involving an automated feeding machine, an inability to stop tightening bolts, and, most famously, his entrapment in machinery gears. In a potent satire of authoritarian idiocy, Chaplin repeatedly ends up in jail for stumbling into worker riots and "Communist" protests, yet his ability to quell a prison break while accidentally hopped up on cocaine (!!) earns him the sheriff's respect. Paulette Goddard's fetching Gamin helps Chaplin find work as a singing waiter, but police intervention leaves their togetherness as their only hope. Accompanied by a Chaplin-composed score (including Smile) and synchronized sound effects, numerous bits of business showcase Chaplin's silent gift for physical comedy, including a department store roller skate and maneuvers with a food tray. In a send-up of talking pictures and technology's dehumanizing effects in general, the only voices heard in the movie (save for Chaplin's gibberish song and his fellow waiters' warbling) come from the factory's Orwellian telescreen P.A. system, a phonograph, and a radio. Three years in production, Modern Times became another international success for Chaplin (though it was banned in Germany and Italy) and one of the signature works of his career.