Charlie Chaplin finally got around to acknowledging the 20th century in this 1936 film, which substitutes machine-age gags for the fading Victoriana of his other work. Consequently, it's the coldest of his major features, though no less brilliant for it. Chaplin was criticized for stealing the assembly line sequence of Rene Clair's A nous la liberte, but Clair got it back by lifting some of City Lights for Quatorze juillet. Chaplin's rendition, at any rate, is much more alive and meaningful in character terms than Clair's; the difference between them is the difference between genius and talent. With Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, and a colleague from the Sennett days, Chester Conklin.
By Dave Kehr