The eternal clown, Charlie Chaplin believed that the best solution to any problem was to poke fun at it. Thus, as fascism was the target of "The Great Dictator," the ills he saw in 1950s society were the targets at which h... more »e shot his satirical arrows in "A King in New York" (1957, 109 min.). The story is about an overthrown monarch who arrives in New York to find that his prime minister has absconded with all his funds. Running up massive bills in his hotel, he is persuaded to make television commercials. Meanwhile, the monarch meets a precocious lad who is being harassed by government agents to betray his parents. Frustrated by a society that pays enormous sums of money to buffoons and hucksters while undermining its own constitution is eventually too much for the monarch, and he leaves the country, but not before he passes on to the young boy the hope for a better future. Also included on this DVD is the legendary silent movie of manners, mores and morals, "A Woman of Paris" (1923, 91 min.), the first Charlie Chaplin film in which he did not appear.« less
Admit this is not his best, yet still funny enough!
harpo99 | Sasebo, Nagasaki Japan | 11/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Considering the worse surroundings of his creating job and life itself of those days -- and following "Limelight", one of his best -- "King in New York" should be generally rated lower than most of his other works, and also rated as the sign of the fading of his sharp genius. Even so, I can't help myself taking out this videotape very often and by the time it comes to the end, I usually find myself satisfied -- specifically, with two major funny sequences: "Bathtub nonsense" (I have named this after the accompanied tune of the sequence with the same title) and the pantomime at the night club (at which King Shadov was struggling not to laugh after facial surgery for uplifting). They are the perfect reminder of Chaplin-style pantomime slapstics in the good old silnet era. My imagination is that Charlie must have put a large amount of his passion into these sequences, and demonstrated first and instructed all by himself. In my opinion, these sequences alone give us a sense of consistency, finding not merely the same style of Charlie's comedy but its timelessness."
Why such an underrated classic?
Ed Uyeshima | 08/13/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, it's no masterpiece. And it's certainly no CITY LIGHTS or MONSIEUR VERDOUX. But this high-strung political satire from Chaplin has many hilariously inventive moments."
Chaplin's Idiosyncrasies Captured in Two Wildly Diverse Semi
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Combining two of Charlie Chaplin's more inconspicuous features into one DVD package really attests to the fact that neither 1923's "A Woman of Paris" nor 1957's "A King in New York" rank with his classics, but each provides certain pleasures that only a master filmmaker of Chaplin's status could create. Neither touches upon his Little Tramp character, which actually makes his artistic achievements in each film easier to discern. For Chaplin aficionados, viewing is a must. For others, realize that these two films represent marginally lesser work from this genius when one thinks of masterpieces like "City Lights" and "The Gold Rush".
Released in the UK in 1957 but not in the US until 1972, "A King in New York" is Chaplin's seriocomic indictment of the 1950's McCarthy witch-hunts and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), topics that have come back into the limelight thanks to George Clooney's evocative take on the Murrow-McCarty feud in "Good Night and Good Luck." At that time, Chaplin himself was expelled from the US forbidden to re-enter the country for nearly two decades. The plot focuses on King Shahdov of the fictitious country of Estrovia, an exile who arrives in New York after escaping a revolution occurring in his homeland. In a manner that recalls a bit of Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" (also released in 1957), a shrewd TV "specialist" makes the King a popular TV celebrity thanks in part to a hidden camera at a dinner party. This portion of the film is pretty amusing, especially when the King does commercials to help gain support for his high-minded plans to harness atomic power.
Unfortunately, the film starts to take a nosedive into polemics soon afterward, as the King strikes up a friendship with a precocious, politically aware ten-year old named Rupert, the son of labeled Communists who refuse to cooperate with the HUAC. There is still some Chaplinesque slapstick in this part of the film, but the contrived sincerity of the dialogue, along with some jokes that fall completely flat, weighs the film down considerably just when you hope it will take off into a more pointed satire. In his last starring role, a nearly 70-year old Chaplin plays the King jauntily, while Dawn Addams has a few sharp moments as the specialist, and Chaplin's son Michael plays Rupert with surprising aplomb. It's not the anti-American diatribe one would expect but rather a whimsical, sometime provocative film that progresses into heavy-handedness.
"A Woman of Paris" is far more of an anomaly in Chaplin's filmography. First, he doesn't star in this early silent film, although he does have an unrecognizable cameo as a porter. Second, it's a melodrama, not a comedy, except for a few passively amusing scenes with a masseuse. Considering that the film is over eighty years old, it looks surprisingly good with a consistently sharp focus and nice black-and-white contrasts thanks to Roland Totheroh's masterly cinematography. There are some tableaux-style shots of a Paris nightclub toward the end that are quite impressive. Chaplin re-scored the film music just before his death in the 1970's, and it provides a nice aural complement to the visuals of the often heavy-handed drama.
The story is centered on a small-town French girl, Marie St. Clair, who plans to elope to Paris with Jean, a struggling artist. Through a misunderstanding, Marie goes to Paris alone, where over the course of a year, she becomes the mistress of Pierre, a wealthy, insouciant playboy Pierre. Through a party location mix-up, Marie accidentally meets Jean in Paris, where they rekindle their love. However, Jean's clinging mother disapproves, and there are melodramatic twists which finally end when Marie finds her true calling. There is not as much exaggeration in facial expressions or physical gestures as one would expect from a silent film, and Chaplin wisely inserts title cards only when they are necessary, not every time a character speaks. At the same time, the plot twists on rather contrived dramatic turns that make the story seem more dated than it is. The long-forgotten Edna Purviance, a longtime Chaplin protégé and leading lady, can hardly convey the frailty of Marie with her Rubenesque stature, but she does manage the mercurial character changes with a certain finesse. Looking strikingly youthful, Adolphe Menjou, who was to become a dependable character actor for the next forty years, is terrifically dapper and surprisingly sympathetic as Pierre.
There are a number of extras with the DVD package that will interest mainly Chaplin aficionados. Some deleted scenes are included for both films but nothing that noteworthy. In half-hour segments, director Jim Jarmusch talks about his admiration of "A King in New York", while actress Liv Ullmann does the same for "A Woman in Paris". In various film clips, Chaplin is seen conducting his orchestra for "A King in New York" and appearing in a very old short based on Alexandre Dumas's "The Lady of the Camellias". There is also some home-movie footage of Paris in the 1920's."
CHAPLIN'S FIRST SERIOUS SILENT DRAMA AND FINAL COMIC POLITIC
C. Scanlon | among us humans | 08/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the Woman of Paris, Chaplin wrote and directed a very early silent full length feature film seriously examining the loose life style he discovered in Hollywood, not so much in Paris. He dared not place it in the America of the time, and so relied on American prejudices about Paris to place his tale of love and deceit there. He cleverly presented themes in a way which might pass the censors of the time, including gently alluded nudity, etc. And he got excellent performances from his actors, including Mr. Menjou, who subtly at the end expresses that he too deeply regrets having lost the Woman of Paris. A profound and interesting morality play, which reveals Chaplin's intellectual and creative side beyond the vaudeville escapades which made him rich and famous before being exiled at the behest of the powerful studios which could not control him.
In fact The King in New York directly examines the irony of his being accused of communism in America while actually practicing an overly successful capitalism which threatened the politically powerful studio system. It is like cutting back Tom Cruise's price tag by accusing him of scientology, but then it cancelled Chaplin's career and forced him to flee to Europe, at which point the US government refused his re-entrance.
This excellent double disk DVD explores carefully these and other issues, and is highly recommended.For further study of the political persecution explored in the King in New York, take a look at the Front with Woody Allen and Zero Mostel, The Cradle will Rock about Orson Welles, and of course Goodnight and Good Luck with George Clooney.
The King In New York also features a unique performance by Chaplin's own son as a radicalized young man spouting left wing opinions as virulently and mindlessly as the powerful right wing forces, although of course, far less effectively. Certainly Chaplin makes a point here about political rhetoric, a point rendered poignant by the boy's later utter defeat and humiliated regret at his betraying his parent's friends.
But this is essentially a comedy, with some sense of the Marx Brother's Fredonia and much of Chaplin's mugging and surprising agility even in old age. The commentary and extras are mainly a valuable addition rather than a distraction or embarrassment as in many other cases.
Above all do not miss a dedicated viewing of a Woman of Paris. Chaplin, early and intelligent, attempted something similar to a play by Ibsen, examining closely relationships of a wide variety: Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Sons, unsanctioned love, ideal love, commercialized love, commited and caring relations, commited but uncaring relations, etc. Read this movie as you would a serious romance novel of the period, as you might read Flaubert, or Joyce's Dubliners. Chaplin was reaching for a mirror of life that we might reflect, and learn from for our own lives. Chaplin here was ready to outgrow the popular Little Tramp comedies and write his best work. He included an apologetic message to his audience, which nevertheless wanted only broad entertainment and not high-brow reflections upon life and its meaning.
Now perhaps we are ready for such fare. Liv Ullman provides interesting insight into how to view this film when she suggests we see it as a modern movie done with different technology. Modern movies should yet approach this degree of subtlety and sophistication, of insight and of philosophy. We might even say it is an early feminist film; it is certainly humanist. "
A Woman of Paris: My New Favorite Chaplin Film
Rockinghorse Winner | Reseda, CA United States | 01/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was impressed by the realistic depiction of the characters, subtle acting and imaginative camera work. I didn't miss the sight gags since the story is so involving. I don't think you can have a proper appreciation for Chaplin's genius without seeing A Woman of Paris. It is certainly not a minor footnote, but one of the signal films of his career. Chaplin cannot resist his melodramatic instincts, and the plot veers off course toward the end, but for the first 3/4 of the film Chaplin manages to make twenties Paris come alive. These figures from another era nevertheless have the solemn ring of truth, as Chaplin paints with a finer brush than he ever had in his career. It is sad that A Woman of Paris has been relegated to a footnote in Chaplin's career, and to a pairing with the totally dissimilar and in many ways inferior, A King in New York. It is a wise, wonderful movie about the tricks of fate life can play in our lives, and about the particularly crushing effect life can have on women, who often are judged more harshly by society for making unconventional choices. This movie is highly recommended. Five well earned stars.