This 1926 film must be one of the most underrated overlooked masterpieces ever made. I think that the reason is that our until then known comedian stays behind the camera (although he does a virtually secret cameo). But as a director only is a master, as he uses to be.
This movie can be seen almost as an intelligent Chick flick, hence the comparation with the director from La Mancha, because of the understanding of women real sensibility, the flashy fashion displayed and the multilayered characters: the good ones being not so good and the bad not that bad, just as so often happens in real life (an so little in movies), the weak romantic young male hero (an artist that wished that our heroine, Marie was as simple as she used to be), the nice but somehow egoist mother of him (indeed , parents are kind of selfish in this movie) . All this only add to Chaplin's artistic talent since he was a very male (even chauvinistic) man himself. You gotta take a close look to the acting, especially to frenchy Adolph Menjou who plays a more mature playboy: so cynic, so debonair, so manipulative but still you can consider that he could love Marie St. Clair. Edna Purviance (one of the best Chaplin Girls ever) plays the heroine St. Clair a woman that didn't have too much faith in love but still had traditional romantic dreams (marriage, babies and a man's respect). Secondary characters are very well crafted too (the girlfriends, the masagge woman, the restaurant guys).
We learn here (if we didn't know) that woman can have a tough time deciding between love and money when they don't come together and when both are needed in order to be independent, that parents can be wrong when overprotecting (and when actually they are protecting own interests which include their offsprings).
Menjou and Purviance
The story is set in France so american public wouldn't see themselves portraited as immoral. But this and the absence of Chaplin as The Tramp character didn't help to avoid this masterpiece to flop in the box office. Is not a comedy and it seems like the masses were not ready for him making a drama AND behind the camera.
A Woman of Paris was more or less based in a real life story told to Chaplin by her real protagonist Peggy Hopkins, a golddigger beauty dancer that succeded marrying several millionaires and that had Charlot as a target for a while (and yes, a guy commited suicide for her). A famous womanising, our director didn't say yes but neither no. At the end they have an affair and he got her and the story and she got him but not his fortune.