King in New York, A [1957]

A King in New York A King in New York, Charlie Chaplin's penultimate film--featuring his final starring performance--was made in 1957 but wasn't officially released in America until the '70s, when it, surprisingly enough, won an Oscar for Chaplin's score. What took so long? Thanks to his politics and unorthodox personal life, Chaplin was pretty roundly hated by the late '50s, but had the movie been better, someone might've brought it stateside sooner. Chaplin plays King Shahdov of Estrovia, on the lam when revolution grips his homeland. In New York, despite the occasional indignity, he's treated as royalty until he takes a stand against the commie-hunters, a plotline that hit way too close to home at the time (Chaplin, remember, was ahead of everyone in attacking Hitler when he made The Great Dictator). There's one inspired bit, as Shahdov orders dinner over the din of a supper club, but overall, the satire is strident, and Chaplin's takes on such things as technology and pop music make him look decidedly like an old fogey. --David Kronke A Woman of Paris At the height of his popularity, Charlie Chaplin chose to make a straight dramatic feature--without himself in a starring role. The plot of A Woman of Paris is perhaps not new: after a tragic misunderstanding, a small-town girl (former Chaplin paramour and longtime co-star Edna Purviance) goes to Paris and becomes the mistress of a rich playboy (Adolphe Menjou). But if the outline is familiar melodrama, the film still looks remarkable for its measured, adult attitude toward its characters; they are not black or white, but complicated, sophisticated shades of gray. Menjou, in particular, is a charming and thoroughly delightful cad. The film's matter-of-fact spirit on the subject of how adults conduct their sexual lives is also impressive. Critics loved the picture, but audiences did not, and Chaplin soon returned to comedy. He can be glimpsed, disguised, in a one-scene walk-through as a clumsy train porter. --Robert Horton

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