Thursday, October 6, 2011

City Lights (1931)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charles "Charlie" Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers
Rated: G
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Silent
Runtime: 87 minutes

Charlie Chaplin's little Tramp stars in this touching film about friendship and love.  On one of his walks the Tramp befriends a blind flower girl (Cherrill) who sells her wares on the street corner.  Desirous to help her, the Tramp tries to earn some money for her so that she can travel to Vienna and get an operation that will restore her sight.  Meanwhile, the he also befriends an eccentric millionaire (Myers), whom he stops from committing suicide in a drunken depression.  This new friend is only too happy to help the Tramp, but only when he's completely drunk.  When sober, he's a totally different person.  While trying to cope with the split personality of his rich friend, his love for the beautiful flower girl, and the series of rotten jobs he must perform to earn the money, the Tramp struggles for his fairytale ending.  But, will he get it?

I first heard about this movie from a little book about Charlie Chaplin that I found in a used book shop in Florida.  I've always thought Chaplin to be an interesting and iconic character (although I'd only seen one of his films) and still fondly remember my friend Sergio dressing up like the Tramp for a publicity stunt for our college's film club. This, however, was the first time I had actually seen a full-length Chaplin silent film, and I loved it!  The Tramp was both adorable and funny, and the storyline was so perfect, both in writing and performance, that one cannot help but be sucked into the story!  As an introduction to Chaplin's silent performances, City Lights perfectly rises to the occasion!

The plot is both romantic and funny, touching, suspenseful, and heartbreaking.  What more could one ask for in a film?

Chaplin of course, stole the show.  The Tramp is not one of the most iconic figures of cinema because of pure luck!  The character has obvious appeal.  He may be poor as dirt, with a hat and coat that are too small, and pants and shoes that are too big, but he sure doesn't live his life as a poor man!  In fact, this feisty little character seems to imagine himself to be a gentleman, even going so far as to treat his millionaire friend's butler as his own!  However, even though Chaplin is wonderful, I don't think it would be enough for him to carry the entire film on his shoulders.  The Tramp was supported by a delightful cast, with Virginia Cherrill's flower girl completely melting everyone's hearts, Myers's millionaire providing wonderful conflict and comedic relief, and Florence Lee playing the part of Cherrill's kind, gentle grandmother.

Although I enjoyed the entire movie very much, I have to say that for me, the best part was the ending.  The final scene of the film brought tears to my eyes, but, to prevent spoilers, I'm not going to tell you what actually happens ;)


  1. Such a great movie! Chaplin was a genius.

    Have you seen 'Chaplin' with Robert Downey Jr.?

  2. Steven,

    I'm actually embarrassed to say that I haven't heard of that film! I'll put it on my list right away, however, so that I can check it out :)


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