The two endings of Modern Times

29th April 2020

Chaplin shot two endings for Modern Times. After the success of City Lights he first envisaged an epilogue similarly rich in pathos. Upon leaving hospital the tramp discovers that the Gamin, defeated by events, has decided to take religious vows. The two characters therefore meet before having to separate forever.

Modern Times

Alternative ending : Charlie departs alone - ECCI00024062


Modern Times

Alternative ending : Charlie with Gamin dressed as a novice at the Hospital - ECCI00024063


The way the tramp leaves this scene is almost exactly the same as the ending of The Tramp, 20 years earlier, the film that inaugurated the Chaplinian finale par excellence and where melancholy is tempered by the hope of a better future.

However, the presence of Paulette Goddard and their off film loving relationship inspired Chaplin to make a different finale, a film with two voices, in which the tramp finally finds his female alter ego. A dancer in Broadway productions in the 1920s, Goddard had tried her luck in Hollywood as early as 1929. She settled there in 1932, but remained relegated to minor roles. That same year she met Chaplin and they began a professional and romantic partnership that would last for eight years.

Chaplin made Paulette into a star: she was beautiful, vivacious, ambitious and intelligent. The press celebrated the perfect couple.

Paulette Goddard
credits Paulette Goddard

The bond between Paulette and me was loneliness” wrote Chaplin in his autobiography. "She was just out from New York and knew no one. It was a case of Robinson Crusoe discovering Friday for both of us.

On the morning of August 30th 1935 the Sierra Highway near Acton, California, was closed for filming.

In his final farewell to his audience, Chaplin had decided the tramp would not be alone.

The ending scene of Modern Times
credits The ending scene of Modern Times

The two figures walking into the horizon perfectly fulfil the first description that Chaplin gave of the two characters:

The only two live spirits in a world of automatons. They really live. Both have an eternal spirit of youth and are absolutely unmoral. Alive because they are children with no sense of responsibility, whereas the rest of humanity is weighted down with duty. Spiritually free. There is no romance in the relationship. Really two playmates—partners in crime, comrades, babes in the woods.”

Script draft / ECCI00313409
credits Script draft / ECCI00313409