The late 1920's made leaps forward in advancement of cinema technology by introducing synchronized sound system. First introduced in the Warner Bros production The Jazz Singer (1927), directed by Alan Grosland, which was the first full-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue, singing and sound effects. This was the mark of change of times in Hollywood, a change that some did not digest too well.Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) who had established himself a role of a lifetime as the lovable Tramp who had appeared in such films as - only to name but a few - The Kid (1921), The Circus (1928, which also had brought him a special award at the first Academy Awards) and City Lights (1931).
Chaplin also saw the advancement and popularity of sound cinema - the 'talkies' - as a threat, stating; "Silent comedy is more satisfactory entertainment for the masses than sound comedy."To Chaplin, the entering of synchronized sound would inevitably mean the retirement of the Tramp and in this matter he would not compromise; it was either the sound film or the Tramp - the two could never co-exist. By the end of the 1930s, Chaplin had made The Great Dictator (1940) and had finally moved on to make 'talkies' - a decade later than most Hollywood film-makers. However, before The Great Dictator, Chaplin had criticised the arrival of sound cinema in City Lights and, more importantly, Modern Times.Chaplin saw that the time of the Tramp was gone and he would have to give in to advancing technology, but he could not resist making a gripe against this modernization.
Thus, the full-length motion picture production of Modern Times by the United Artists (a production company started in 1919 by Chaplin himself together with his friends, some of the other leading figures of early Hollywood; Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and William S. Hart) and written and directed by Chaplin himself, finally got started, giving Chaplin a chance to let out the frustration. However, the era of 'talkies' did not stop Chaplin from producing films; he later produced such great pieces of cinema art as The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952).
But Chaplin was right; it was the end of the Tramp, who after Modern Times has not appeared in films.Modern Times (1936) was released after the dawn of the 'talkies' and it was Chaplin's last stand against the synchronized sound film as well as his last full-length silent film. Although it has more widely been said to present the form of quasi-silent film (http://www.filmsite.
org/mode.html), as it lacks traditional synchronized dialogue and instead all sounds are from the machines, the Tramp himself is still a "mute".The film starts with the familiar little man with his tiny moustache trying frantically to keep up with the production speed of a factory, tightening production line bolts. His work gets interrupted when he is chosen to try out the new machine, which is supposed to feed the worker so he would have two hands free for work even during lunch times. But as the experiment backfires, the Tramp is sent to an asylum, believed to be insane. But this is not the end of his miseries: as when freed from the asylum, he is imprisoned again and again for various (misunderstood) offences such as stealing or being a Communist (which was, at the time, also beginning to become a big worry in Chaplin's personal life).
In a way, Modern Times is the only Chaplin film that really has a happy ending. In the end, the Tramp who does his trademark exit, walking towards the unknown, and whereas we have got used to seeing the Tramp leaving alone, this time he got the girl and is walking to the distance a beautiful girl (Paulette Goddard, at the time also Chaplin's spouse in real life) next to him. The ending scene is also filled with Smile, a melancholically optimistic piece of music composed by Chaplin, which gave audiences hope for a better future.This was the end of an era for Chaplin.
He knew his next film had to be a sound film. And in 1940, Chaplin released his first all sound film, The Great Dictator. Unable to be released from his lovable Tramp just yet, Chaplin produces the audience a Tramp-like figure who we get to know as the Barber. Associating him to the Tramp is too easy, and most likely this was the case for Chaplin as well, as he keeps the Barber a quiet persona, not killing the memory of the Tramp with a voice.As a contrast, Chaplin has created the character Hynkel who will do the talking. Maybe for Chaplin, whose background of cinema and skills in the slapstick comedy and variety theatre where everything was pantomime, movement without talk and that is why Chaplin's comedy came from they way the Tramp moved, how he dealt with any obstacles coming his way, not the dialogue.
And this was one of the main reasons to have wanted to keep his character silent, thus immortalising the Tramp. The Chape Music Hall was too deep in his veins.During the filming and release of the Modern Times, America was in the grip of the aftermath of the Great Depression (c. 1929-1933) and in the beginning of the Red Scare Communist hunts in the United States.
Chaplin often used the political themes in his films, unnerved how the authorities might perceive them (Chaplin was later exiled from the States and heartbroken and insulted he settled into Switzerland). The events that the Tramp faces during Modern Times echoes the sentiments of millions of the time; poverty, unemployment and hunger. Chaplin brings these scourges to his audience through his comedy with inventive and memorable routines and scenes that portray the struggle of working class against the era of mechanization.As Chaplin did not accept the era of synchronized sound, the film Modern Times does not include traditional man-to-man dialogue, but mere sounds effects representing the might of the machine era, which is spreading over mankind. Chaplin takes the opportunity to mock the sound films, like he has already done in the beginning scene in City Lights (1931) where two authorities talk and their voices come out as not words and dialogue, but as kind of "donaldducky" sounds; incomprehensible, squeaking.
When the factory manager talks, his words come out with the mechanical sounds from machines, so no real words are exchanged. People are not seen talking to each other's like humans but everything is reduced into material state, where humanisation is lost.All dialogue in Modern Times comes from various machines of the modern world; the radios, television screens and other manufacturing works at the factory. The only time we hear actual human voice instead of all machine sound effects or subtitles, is when the Tramp sings his now famous, gibberish nonsense song. When Chaplin's Tramp finally sings this song, it is like he wanted to test could the Tramp survive sound era. He had an experiment, and as the Tramp never entered sound films, he must have decided against it and the Tramp had to retire, as did in many ways, Chaplin's faith in art.