Another masterpiece by Chaplin. This 1931 movie followed “The Circus” and is truly a classic. It is like watching poetry in action on the screen. The shooting of this movie was full of stops and troubles for Charlie but the finished product flows perfectly. Chaplin’s pantomime works so well in this silent movie that you never miss dialog.
While other movies at the time were going toward “talkies” Chaplin stuck stubbornly to silent and the film is all the better for it. Sound films at the time were in their infancy and they were more times than not very clumsy. The actors would talk too loud and be glued to a single spot because of bulky cameras and microphones they had to use.
The Gold Rush has been mentioned as Chaplin’s best movie but this one is just as good or better. The last scene is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie…silent or otherwise.
Chaplin had trouble with Virginia Cherrill the leading lady. She wasn’t an actress, she was a Chicago Socialite. Chaplin liked working with someone with little or no acting experience. He spent weeks showing her how to hold a flower properly. Chaplin was a perfectionist and would think nothing of shooting a scene over 300 times.
He spent almost 3 years filming this movie and almost scrapped it all at the end and replace Virginia and refilm but decided against it when he looked at the cost. After all of the trouble he went through including a divorce at the beginning of filming…he turned out another masterpiece.
If you haven’t tried a silent movie…give this one a try. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made some of the best comedies ever…not just in the silent period.
Below the trailer is an outtake from City Lights that he didn’t use…it’s brilliant how he used a simple piece of wood on a city grate to make a great comedy scene that he deemed unworthy. I used this clip in an earlier post on the Unknown Chaplin…if you get a chance… watch it…it’s only around 7 minutes long.
Short plot description of City Lights from IMDB
A simple story of The Little Tramp who meets a lovely blind girl selling flowers on the sidewalk who mistakes him for a wealthy duke. When he learns that an operation may restore her sight, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have the surgery. In a series of comedy adventures that only Chaplin could pull off, he eventually succeeds, even though his efforts land him in jail. While he is there, the girl has the operation and afterward yearns to meet her benefactor. The tear-inducing closing scene, in which she discovers that he is not a wealthy duke but only The Little Tramp, is one of the highest moments in movies.