City Lights

USA 1931. Director: Charles Chaplin
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Meyers, Allan Garcia

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“Of all Chaplin's features, probably his most universally beloved is City Lights,” says Andrew Sarris. Albert Einstein is said to have cried with laughter at the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles in 1931. Described by Chaplin as “a comedy romance in pantomime,” this winning mix of slapstick, sentiment and social criticism has the Tramp falling in love with a blind flower girl. When he discovers that her sight can be restored with an expensive operation, he goes to extraordinary lengths to raise the necessary money — including an hilariously ill-advised turn as a prizefighter. She, for her part, believes her unseen benefactor to be a handsome millionaire. A synchronized musical score and comic sound effects were Chaplin’s only concessions to the new sound era; the film has nary a word of spoken dialogue. Jean Harlow appears as an extra in the nightclub sequence. James Agee called the famed final scene “the highest moment in the movies.” “The most wistfully Chaplinesque of Chaplin features” (J. Hoberman). "Of all the comedies ever made, City Lights is the best — Chaplin’s best, probably anybody’s best. . . It packs an emotional wallop” (Woody Allen). B&W, 35mm, silent with musical score. 87 mins.

REVIEWS

"Chaplin's most masterful blend of pathos and comedy ... You can't leave the planet without seeing this movie at least once."

San Francisco Gate | full review

"Come[s] the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius."

Chicago Sun-Times | full review

"It’s the most human of Chaplin’s films, and arguably his greatest."

New York Magazine | full review