A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923)

Edna Purviance, Clarence Geldart, Carl Miller, Lydia Knott, Charles K. French, Adolphe Menjou, Betty Morrissey, Malvina Polo, Nellie Bly Baker,
A kept woman runs into her former fiancé and finds herself torn between love and comfort.
  • 6.9 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Charles Chaplin, Director:
  • Producer:
8 / 10

Beautifully directed and acted

Charles Chaplin is noted for his comedy performances, and deservedly.

His direction, though, should be more highly regarded, if only for this one motion picture.

Compare the quality of the photography and the smoothness of the editing to, for example, "The Gold Rush," of about the same time.

"A Woman of Paris" is very modern; "The Gold Rush" is downright primitive (but, in spots, brilliant).

"A Woman of Paris" also shows some admirable acting talent in, really, all the players. Some of the lesser characters are still played beautifully, despite being "lesser," especially Marie's maids and her, more or less, friends, and very especially the masseuse.

And the scene where the artist's mother, played by Lydia Knott, bent on revenge, comes upon Marie -- with no words, just body movement and facial expression -- she tells the audience what the proverbial thousand words could not so well.

Credit for part of that good acting must, of course, go to the director, but even the best director can't make much of poor actors.

Chaplin had very good actors. Adolphe Menjou reached stardom, and deservedly. What a tremendous talent; he could do everything.

Edna Purviance should have achieved much more acclaim. She performed admirably, especially in this movie, and she was attractive. Fame is certainly fickle.

In some ways, "A Woman of Paris" might be written off by a few as "soap opera." But it is well worth watching for the performances and, especially, for the directing.

8 / 10

A Chaplin film without Chaplin as a performer

1923's "A Woman of Paris is probably not what you'd expect in a Chaplin film based on the totality of his body of work, both in features and in shorts. However, that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile viewing. It just means if you are new to Chaplin, you might not want to start here.

"A Woman of Paris" showed Chaplin's talent behind the camera without him appearing in front of it, except for a lone cameo in which he quickly appears and then disappears acting as a luggage boy. He made it for two reasons, to do some pioneering in cinematic technique and to help give his long time costar and companion Edna Purviance a career boost. The film is actually quite good with great performances by Purviance and by Adolphe Menjou as a carefree playboy. The film did make a star out of Menjou. It didn't really help Purviance that much. The film is about a pair of star-crossed lovers that circumstance drives apart and then brings back together and the eventual tragedy that occurs due to the weakness of will of Purviance's character's one time fiancé, played by Carl Miller.

The film was a failure at the box office, not because it was bad, but because audiences expected to see Chaplin when they went to a Chaplin film. After the failure of this film, Chaplin went back to formulas that were tried and true for him and never really went out on a limb experimenting again, which is too bad for all of us.

7 / 10

Parisian Melodrama

I was looking in Charlie Chaplin's memoirs and I found that his original idea for the plot of A Woman Of Paris came from pillow talk with Peggy Hopkins Joyce involving one of her former boyfriends, a French publisher. From this came Charlie's idea to direct, but not appear in a film and hopefully make his long time leading lady from slapstick comedy, Edna Purviance a major dramatic star.

The reason given for the non-success of A Woman of Paris is usually given as the fact that people bought tickets and were disappointed that they did not see a Charlie Chaplin comedy. Probably on the silent screen, star images were even more fixed in people's minds than they were when sound came in.

But seeing it today it really does go overboard into melodrama. Edna's a simple country girl who loves Carl Miller, a struggling artist. Some blind mischances of fate and she winds up the paid woman of Parisian rake Adolphe Menjou. It's the tragedy of one romantic and the salvation of sorts for the other that are the basis of the story.

You couldn't make a film like it today, audiences would just laugh at it. In 1923 audiences were looking for laughs attached to the Chaplin name and found none. Edna does a fine job, but the public would not accept her in a drama. Adolphe Menjou as the rake comes off best in the cast.

The film ironically enough was Chaplin's first for the newly formed United Artists of which he was a quarter interest partner. After this one failed at the box office, he went back to cranking out the comedies we expected from him.

Back when I was working person at New York State Crime Victims Board, I had a claimant named Wayne Purviance who was the victim of an anti-gay bias attack in 1982. It was a crime that galvanized the GLBT people of New York City, this person in particular. Wayne was the grand nephew of Edna Purviance.

He's no longer among the living, but to you Wayne Purviance who took some real blows for millions of people, this review is lovingly dedicated to you and your wonderful aunt.

8 / 10

I'm giving this an 8 despite its many faults

Marie St. Clair (Edna Purviance) is running away to Paris with boyfriend Jean Millet (Carl Miller). Unfortunately his father dies and he can't go. She goes alone. A year later she is a "kept" woman of rich Pierre revel (Adolphe Menjou). Then, by accident, she runs into Jean who has moved to Paris with his mother. She still loves him...but will he want her now? There are some huge problems with this film. For one thing--the overbearing music score that director/writer Charlie Chaplin added in 1977. It's loud, annoying and obtrusive. Often it doesn't even match what's on the screen! Cheerful music playing during dramatic sequences totally destroy any effect those scenes might have held. Also the plot is just ridiculous and very corny and VERY melodramatic at the end.

I'm giving this a high rating for a few reasons: it's beautifully directed by Chaplin--just stunning to look at. And, despite the plot, all the actors are just fantastic. Miller is handsome, strong and very affecting as the hero. Purviance is just perfect as Marie--you feel all her pain and indecision. Best of all is Menjou--this made him an instant star. He's just great as the heartless Revel.

So, I recommend it. Just turn the sound off and the acting will carry you over the rough spots.

5 / 10

Chaplin's first stab at drama is a lacklustre affair

Jean and Marie are madly in love and want to get married but their parents are opposed to it. They plan to elope to Paris but Jean has to back out at the last moment. Marie leaves without him and head to Paris. Within a year she has become quite the socialite, complete with wealthy boyfriend. Then she runs into Jean again and must decide between love and money.

Charlie Chaplin's first drama and also a rare movie of his where he does not star (he does appear though, in a minor uncredited role). The result is lacklustre.

It started off very well: I was engaged by the story of the two lovers fighting to be together against their parents' wills. However, once the setting shifted to Paris it became more melodramatic and like a soap opera, filled with social machinations. The engagement levels dropped and by the end I really didn't care too much about the characters.

The ending is overly dramatic, considering what lead up it, but does have a touch of poetry to it.

Overall, not entirely a waste of time but not great either.