CITY LIGHTS (U)
D: Charles Chaplin
United Artists (Charles Chaplin)
USA 🇺🇸 1931
W: Charles Chaplin
DP: Rollie Totheroh
Ed: Charles Chaplin
Mus: Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin (The Tramp), Virginia Cherrill (The Blind Flower Girl), Harry Myers (An Eccentric Millionaire), Florence Lee (The Grandmother)
Possibly the last great silent film and certainly one of the best of Charlie Chaplin's works. The screen legend himself lists it as the favourite of his own works, while other big screen comedians, directors and actors name it as one of their biggest influences. Even if you haven't seen City Lights, so many of the visual gags are so iconic that they've etched their way into popular culture via other mediums, films and TV shows.
Chaplin plays his familiar tramp character, a well-intentioned hobo whose actions always seem to land him in hot water. He falls in love with a blind flower seller in debt, and after befriending a drunken millionaire, finds the money to save her eviction and fund an operation to help her see.
Though silent pictures have since become an archaic part of filmmaking, City Lights stands out as a classic not just for the time, but of the comedy genre as a whole, with brilliantly timed gags, mimes and visuals, from the opening gambit where Charlie's tramp gets caught sleeping on a newly-unveiled statue, to a prizefight which he participates in hoping to win the cash and the girl.
The film was a huge risk at the time for Chaplin, who was under pressure from the studio to move with the times and convert to talkies, instead he went completely against the grain and produced a true masterpiece of golden age cinema.