Day By Day: 1936

Sunday, February 2nd: On this day in 1936, the New York Times was abuzz with the upcoming world premiere of Modern Times, which was scheduled to take place in just three days. The illustration below accompanied an article entitled “Enter Charles Chaplin, Tardily” which detailed what New Yorkers could expect on opening night:

“United Artists promises to transform night into day around the vicinity of Forty-ninth Street with powerful flood lights. And the police department, which somehow never misses these affairs, will be on hand to keep the crowds from swarming into the street and snarling traffic.”

The article explained that Chaplin would not attend the premiere because he didn’t want to battle the New York crowds and be “stared and pointed at as though I were a freak. I will be much happier staying in Hollywood waiting for the news of the film’s success or failure. I think and hope it will be the former.”1

“Though a rarely interviewed man,” the piece went on, “Mr. Chaplin divulged how the idea and title of his film originated.

‘I was riding in my car one day and saw a mass of people coming out of a factory, punching time-clocks, and was overwhelmed with the knowledge that the theme note of modern times is mass production, I wondered what would happen to the progress of the mechanical age if one person decided to act like a bull in a china shop–for instance to say ‘nuts’ to a red light and drive on–or scream at a concert that was boring. I decided it would make a good story to take a little man and make him thumb his nose at all recognized rules and conventions.'”2

Ad from The New York Times, Feb. 2nd, 1936

1The article quotes from Sheilah Graham’s interview Chaplin that was published in the Los Angeles Times on 1/27/1936, and featured in my “Day By Day” series here
2“Enter Charles Chaplin, Tardily,” New York Times, February 2nd, 1936

Stay tuned for the next installment of my “Day By Day: 1936” series, where I document one year of Chaplin’s life. Want to know what’s been going on so far? Click here.


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