Production design is an important element in film that creates the mood and overall feel to the story being depicted. Set-design essentiallly conveys the time period of the era the story is based in and creates an atmosphere for the plot. It’s all about the little realistic  details in set-design that can make a difference.

A film that is truly remarkable for its set and production design,”Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times” is the perfect example for the same.  Charles D. Hall was the man behind the stage and production design.

Set in the industrial era, the movie (1936) captures the journey of the not-so-ordinary Charlie Chaplin and his hilarious encounters while trying to find a job in the peak of unemployment.

The movie starts with the scene where he works at a mill and performs his daily task at the factory. The giant and elaborate machinery in the mill is remarkable to have been produced nearly 85 years ago! Moving on, things as usual never go right with Charlie as he ends up losing his job after suffering from a nervous breakdown.After his successful recovery, he moves ahead to start life afresh.Fascinated and curious as always, Charlie picks up a red communist flag from a passing vehicle. This soon lands him in trouble as he unknowingly leads on a protest and gets arrested.

Annex - Chaplin, Charlie (Modern Times)_01

Charlie fooling around as usual at the Mill.


Realistic working mechanical elements at the factory.

Meanwhile his future lady love (Sorry I ruined it!) is a young beautiful and charitable woman who feeds hungry kids including her motherless sisters and unemployed father.

Coming back to Charlie, he is sent to jail. After spending some time there, some goons raid the police station and free their imprisoned friends locking up the officers. Charlie luckily being outside the bars combats and manages to free the officers. This act of honesty and bravery manages to get him out of police patrol. He sets again in search of work and lands up in a dockyard.

The dockyard scene is also pretty impressive as massive ships are being “worked” upon. To construct a ship so big in size for a film set in that era must have definitely not been a piece of cake!

Being the clumsy Charlie that he is, he manages to wedge out a ship which soon costs him his job. Being dismissed by his boss, Charlie moves on unaffected for a new job. This is where fate lands him bumping into the lady outside a bakery shop. She had stolen bread from the bakery and was  caught by the baker. On being interrogated by the police, Charlie claims guilty as he longed to go back to jail.On being rejected by the police for his dishonesty, he commits acts of burglary to be taken seriously and nonetheless succeeds. He gets into the prison van and meets the girl. They manage to escape and long for a life together.

Charlie soon works at a department store but not for long when his ex-inmates barge into the store and make merry with wine and steal goods. The departmental store is iconic for its realistic appeal. It has five floors of goods which are arranged to perfection in various sections with working escalators to the rescue.


He gets dismissed again. On their uncertain trail they find a wooden run-down shack by a stream which they make their home. He goes back to work in the mill after jobs reopen. Destined to get back into trouble, Charlie is again sent to jail and completes his term.

Meanwhile his love interest finds a job in a restaurant as a dancer and gets well off. He joins her company as an unexpected dancer which turns out to be a success. However,as luck would have it, the lady gets caught by the police. That wasn’t meant to last as the lovebirds escaped and happily carried on towards the unexpected trial together.

Modern Times

Despite belonging to the Silent era, this movie definitely caused a laughing riot. Charlie Chaplin will remain a legend for his indebted contribution to cinema and remains a popular figure even in today’s era. It was a well made film with elaborate production design. The movie comes in the creme-de-la-creme category of Production Design. Despite being an 80 year old film, it is still remembered for its elaborate and realistic set-design. In the initial Industrial setup, there were rapidly moving conveyor belts, advanced displays at the shop-floor level with a panel of buttons for communicating with the boss.Giant cog wheels moved in the background to depict the ever-busy factory. In a particular scene there was a high-tech Billow’s speeding machine that was introduced. It was a solution to optimize efficiency. It was a robotic machine that would feed you while working and would perform a range of tasks from cooling your soup to sanitizing your hands.The dockyard also had a elaborate setup from life-sized ships to piles of woods being used to make them. Perhaps one of the most evident displays of excellent set-design was the departmental store with escalators. It had multiple floors. The ground floor had a range of food items along with a large display of alcohol. The fourth floor housed the toy store where numerous toys were placed in endless cabinets. The fifth floor had the bedroom display with an assortment of furniture and a high ceiling. The restaurant where the two worked was also well made. It was set up in a huge space with an orchestra at the back for entertainment. The tables were checkered with red and white tablecloths. With the orchestra at the center, the adjacent rooms to it included the dressing room and the pantry. Overall it was a delightful movie to watch with realistic set-backdrops. The movie is a classic and a definite must-watch for all film lovers across the globe.



1. Photo Credit: C.H. Lin, 2013,Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times, Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)

2. Photo Credit: C.H. Lin, 2013,Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times, Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)

3. Photo Credit: The Movie Marathon’s Blog, n.a, Countdown: Charlie Chaplin’s best moments as “The Tramp” (#10 – 06), Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)

4. Photo Credit: Gone With The Twin, 2012, Modern Times, Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)

5.  Photo Credit: Apisanet, 2007, Chaplin Charlie Modern Times Jt, Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)

6. NOVA, 2007, Introduction to theatre, Available from:, (Accessory 15 March, 2015)

7. Collins English Dictionary, n.a, Set Designer, Available from:, (Accessed 15 March, 2015)