A Woman of Paris (1923) Director: Charlie Chaplin
Unlike Chaplin’s other films, A Woman of Paris, is a tragic drama and Charlie Chaplin does not appear in the film. It was a box office failure, as many audiences came to the film expecting to see a classic Chaplin film. Its financial failings caused great pain to Chaplin at the time. In some ways, it may be considered his first feature productions, as it was released through his newly formed United Artists production company.
The beginning of the film shows a title warning the audience that Chaplin does not appear in the film (though he makes a minor appearance a the train station scene). It tells the story of Marie St. Clair, a woman of Paris, who plans a romantic rendezvous with her lover, Jean Millet. Upon realizing this, both her father and his family reject Marie, so Jean and Marie plan to meet at the train station to flee Paris and get married. In actuality the film was shot in Los Angeles, CA. However, Jean’s father suddenly dies causing him to call and cancel their escapade. Years later, Marie is living a lavish life in Paris as the mistress of Pierre Revel. By accident, she bumps into Jean who is now living in a flat with his mother. They rekindle their romance, but Jean’s mother does not approve so he tries to appease her, but Marie overhears and runs away back to Pierre. In a frenzy, Jean goes to attack Pierre and n the ensuing he mortally wounds himself. In anger, Jean’s mother goes to find Marie to kill her, but she finds her weeping over the body of Jean. So the two embrace and leave Paris together to start an orphanage in the country for children. One day they catch a ride back and pass a chauffeured coach, and inside is Pierre. A man asks him whatever happened to Marie, and he says he does not know.
The story for the film is loosely based on Chaplin’s romance with Peggy Hopkins Joyce, a notorious lavish socialite of the ’20s and ’30s who had numerous affairs in France and the United States. Upon its release, the film was not well received by audiences, however it has received continued critical acclaim for the complexity of its characters and story, a novelty for the time. Mary Pickford gave notable praise to the film.
I found A Woman of Paris to be rather bland and forgettable, but certainly not a poor film. The plot and character development are both unique novelties for the time, however the film is greatly overshadowed by Chaplin’s other, grander works. If not for Chaplin, the film would likely be forgotten.