Monsieur Verdoux (1940) Charles Chaplin


       In my review I wrote for Halo-17,  linked below, I said, “Monsieur Verdoux: A Comedy of Errors  may be Chaplin’s greatest film.” To elaborate, if I had to put them in order it would be a close race however, Monsieur Verdoux, is a brilliant dark, thought provoking comedy, as powerful now as it was over sixty years ago. It  is Chaplin’s greatest film. In my Chaplin hierarchy City Lights would be second with The Gold Rush right behind. They are three brilliant films at three different stages in the artist’s life.  In Verdoux, Chaplin’s message is that war is nothing but a business done for profit. If an individual takes the same approach, as Verdoux does, he is a murderer. Kill millions it’s business, kill one or two it’s murder. “Numbers sanctify” as Verdoux says in his own defense.

Attached here is my original review.


Attached here is a review by David Denby .

14 comments on “Monsieur Verdoux (1940) Charles Chaplin

  1. Dave says:

    John, awesome review. I have a lot of Chaplin that I need to catch up on, as I sadly haven’t seen a large chunk of his filmography. This one sounds incredibly intriguing to me. That is great stuff on the background of Chaplin and his relationship to the war effort. In fact, fter reading this I think I’m going to go ahead and bump this one to the top of the Netflix queue.

    As far as favorite Chaplin goes, the first of his films that I saw has endured as my favorite — Modern Times. I remember watching it in a college “history through film class” and loving it from the very beginning.


  2. John Greco says:

    Modern Times is a great film and is up on my list of Chaplin greats. Have you seen any of his classic shorts like The Immigrant, Easy Street, The Kid or Shoulders Arms. All terrific!


  3. R. D. Finch says:

    John, your three favorite Chaplin films are my three favorites too. Of the silents: 1. “The Gold Rush,” 2. “City Lights.” I can’t really compare the silents and the sound films. “Verdoux” is my favorite of the latter. I also found your Halo-17 review a fine piece of writing, but I do disagree with you about the effectiveness of the speech at the end, especially when compared with the speech at the end of “The Great Dictator.” I wrote about both films and the way Chaplin uses dialogue at The Movie Projector last fall. (I had just seen them a few days apart.) T.S. at Screen Savour has also just written about “Verdoux,” and his review is well worth reading. He’s less enthusiastic about it than you and I are but still views it on the whole favorably. “Verdoux” is one of five Chaplin films on the Cahiers du Cinema list of the greatest films of all time, along with “The Great Dictator,” “The Gold Rush,” “City Lights,” and “Modern Times.” It’s clear from the change in sensibility from “Dictator” to “Verdoux” that WW II had a profound effect on Chaplin. And there’s no doubt that the French are nuts for Chaplin!


  4. John Greco says:

    R.D., I have to agree that WWII affected Chaplin quite a bit. Verdoux is a brilliant film that was far ahead of its time. I am curious if you have ever seen the 1942 “sound” version of “The Gold Rush.” In this version, Chaplin added narration, and music, additionally he edited some scenes, which changes the film. I found the narration detrimental to the film, repetitive to what we were visually watching. It did not do anything to advance the story. interesting to see but I prefer the original.

    I will check out your article and the article by T.S.


  5. R. D. Finch says:

    John, I’m glad you asked me that. I’ve seen “The Gold Rush” many times but not for a number of years. However, a few months ago I did watch the very version you refer to on TCM. I had not seen that version before, in fact, had never even heard of it, so I got quite a shock. Did you notice it was dedicated to Alexander Woolcott, well-known curmudgeon, member of the Algonquin Round Table, and supposedly the inspiration for the Sheridan Whiteside character in “The Man Who Came to Dinner”? Anyway, I sure did notice the difference. I had to remind myself to ignore the small changes and especially Chaplin’s irritating narration. What was he thinking? It was interesting, however, to hear him speaking verbatim the words the characters were mouthing! I once wrote an essay for a film class about the Dance of the Rolls scene, and I remember writing how at the end of the scene as it slowly fades out, you can feel the Lone Prospector’s dreams fading with the light. In this version, he gets up from the table and walks to the door, and you can just barely detect the scene starting to fade before it cuts to him walking down the street in front of the saloon where the New Year’s party is in full swing. If you hadn’t seen the original version with the slow full fade, you probably wouldn’t even catch it. For me that one little change, coming at the end as it did, diminished the effect of the whole scene, to me the greatest one in the movie. Maybe TCM shows that version because the print is better, but like you I sure prefer the original.


  6. Dave says:

    John –

    I haven’t seen much of Chaplin’s shorts, but I do have a copy of The Kid that I am planning on watch later today. I’ll post my thoughts here, if you don’t mind, once I have had a chance to watch it!


  7. John Greco says:

    R.D. – I did notice the dedication to Wolcott which was interesting. For someone who may never have seen the original version, the “sound” version may seem really good, and suprisingly some critics at the time of its release thought it was an improvement. Like yourself I much prefer the original version.


  8. John Greco says:

    Dave – Please do post your thoughts on “The Kid.” Would like to hear them.


  9. Dave says:

    John –

    I watched The Kid and really enjoyed it. In fact, it inspired me to go ahead and try and write a little review myself for the blog. Since I’m such a greenhorn when it comes to Chaplin, it’ll be interesting to see how it works. The thing that really stuck out to me was Jackie Coogan. Chaplin was as good as usual, but Coogan was amazing. His mannerisms and acting were like an adult who was trapped in a child’s body. Amazing that he could do that at such a young age. Look for the review in the near future… I owe you credit for giving me the encouragement to finally watch it.


  10. John Greco says:


    I am glad you liked it, It is a good film and you right about Coogan, he was amazing. After this film he became a popular child actor. Coogan was screwed by his parents financially. He made millions as a kid and they spent it all leaving him broke as an adult. Apparently, Chaplin helped him out during his hard times.

    I will definitely check out you review.


  11. Dave says:

    The other Chaplin that intrigues me is the one that you and R.D. have been discussing – The Gold Rush. I’m going to need to just go ahead and get in the original version from Netflix or buy. The version that I have on the DVR that was recorded on TCM is the 1942 version that you bring up. That apparently is the only version they ever show, as I’ve recorded it twice on the channel and both times it has been the “sound” version. For that reason, I’ve purposely not watched it yet and am holding out to see it in its original version.


  12. John Greco says:

    Dave, – It is best if you watch the original silent version first then follow it with the sound version. If Netflix has The Gold Rush 2 disc collection that is part of what they call The Chaplin Collection get that. It has both versions and supplemental material. I found was fortunate enought to find this at my local library.

    It is suprising that TCM only shows the later version.


  13. Sam Juliano says:

    John, I also loved THE KID, but prefer THE CIRCUS from that early period. I respect your love for VERDOUX here, and enjoyed reading your magnificent review on the back link, as there is no one I love more than Chaplin in the wide patheon of cinema.

    But his greatest film for me is unqestionably CITY LIGHTS for all sorts of reason, not the least of which is that last scene with the blind girl (my favorite individual scene of all-time in any film) and a close second is MODERN TIMES.

    But’s it’s true that VERDOUX is unlike anything he’s done and the Cashirs (and T.S. of Screen Savour) are right to elevate it at the expense of what I have always seen as Chaplin’s weakest feature-length film apart from the last one: THE GREAT DICTATOR. I like LIMELIGHT more too.


  14. John Greco says:

    I love “City Lights” and listed it on Dave’s Goodfellas site as my favorite film of 1931. The ending is heartbreaking, I agree. I just have a fondness for dark comedy and Verdoux is Charlie’s darkest, at least of the films of his I have seen. BTW – I had the opportunity see “City Lights” with a live orchestra when I was living in Atlanta some years ago. A real thrill.


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