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City Lights (1931)

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Movie Info & Cast

Synopsis

Charles Chaplin was deep into production of his silent City Lights when Hollywood was overwhelmed by the talkie revolution. After months of anguished contemplation, Chaplin decided to finish the film as it began--in silence, save for a musical score and an occasional sound effect. Once again cast as the Little Tramp, Chaplin makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who through a series of coincidences has gotten the impression that the shabby tramp is a millionaire. A second storyline begins when the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. When drunk, the millionaire expansively treats the tramp as a friend and equal; when sober, he doesn't even recognize him. The two plots come together when the tramp attempts to raise enough money for the blind girl to have an eye operation. Highlights include an extended boxing sequence pitting scrawny Chaplin against muscle-bound Hank Mann, and the poignant final scene in which the now-sighted flower girl sees her impoverished benefactor for the first time. Chaplin's decision to release the silent City Lights three years into the talkie era was partially vindicated when more than one critic singled out this comedy in pantomime as the best picture of 1931.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Cast

  • Virginia Cherrill
  • Florence Lee
  • Harry Myers
  • Al Ernest Garcia
  • Hank Mann
  • Charles Chaplin
  • Wyn Ritchie Evans
  • Jack Alexander
  • T.S. Alexander
  • Victor Alexander

Did You Know?

Trivia

  • When the film opened on 31 January 1931, Albert Einstein joined Charles Chaplin at the theater. When the film opened in England, George Bernard Shaw joined him.
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Goofs

  • (at around 1h 25 mins) During the film's final scene, The Tramp is seen holding the flower to his face when seen from the front; when seen from the rear, he is holding it to his lapel.
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Quotes

    • The Tramp: Be careful how you're driving.
    • Eccentric Millionaire: Am I driving?
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Atom User Reviews

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Metacritic

100

One of the films in the running as Charlie Chaplin's funniest and most adroitly balanced between comedy and pathos. [7 Sept 1990]

Metacritic review by Jay Carr
Jay Carr
Boston Globe
100

If only one of Charles Chaplin's films could be preserved, “City Lights” (1931) would come the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp--the character said, at one time, to be the most famous image on earth.

Metacritic review by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
100

The closing shot of Charlie Chaplin's face in City Lights, his heart breaking: the highest form of screen acting, the most effective tear extraction exercise the medium has yet to offer.

Metacritic review by Michael Phillips
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune