Chaplin, neverendingly empathetic to his characters—and thus to their real-world counterparts, usually the poor and downtrodden of American society—crafted perhaps his crowning achievement with this 1931 silent, one of the last of its kind, coming well into the sound era. His famous Tramp character here falls head-over-heels in love with a blind flower girl (a marvelous Virginia Cherrill), but considering her inability to see the Tramp’s perpetually dishevelled outward appearance, various misunderstandings ensue as he valiantly tries to raise money for an eye operation. “Orson Welles, Robert Bresson, and Andrei Tarkovsky all named City Lights as their favorite film of all time—what further recommendation do you need? Here is one of the perfect movies, as well as the apotheosis of Chaplin’s mix of humor and sentiment… As for the Tramp’s relationship with the blind flower girl, it is one of the most moving in cinema, as direct, funny, and heartwarming a depiction of love as one could imagine.”—Ben Sachs, Cine-File Chicago.
Appears in: Friday Film Club
Genres: Silent Film, Comedy
Other Films by Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s singular blend of slapstick, pathos, and social satire made him one of the cinema’s great artists and his iconic Tramp remains one of the most recognizable characters in film history. In the short two-reelers he made for the Mutual Film Corporation a century ago, Chaplin honed his trademark themes and the inventive techniques …
Chaplin skates circles around his antagonists, figuratively, waiting tables in a swanky restaurant, and literally, at the rink next door.
On a Hollywood movie set a lowly stagehand does all the heavy lifting while his boss hogs the credit. The other workers go on strike, and a pie fight and Keystone-esque chase scene cap the explosive finale.
The Tramp goes straight after falling for beautiful social worker and becomes a police officer. But his challenging first assignment puts him squarely in the path of the tough guy who rules the roost on Easy Street.
In search of gold in turn-of-the-century Alaska, Charlie takes refuge with a fellow prospector in an isolated, comically imbalanced cabin where hunger forces him to eat that famous boiled shoe.