City Lights

City Lights

4.6 10
Director: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Allan Garcia

Cast: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Allan Garcia

     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
Graceful, poignant, and sidesplittingly funny, City Lights is one of Charlie Chaplin's most wondrous feature-length films. This 1931 black-and-white silent gem features the writer-director Chaplin as the endearing Tramp, who falls in love with an angelic blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill). By forming an on-again, off-again friendship with a drunken millionaire, the Tramp gets enough money to pay for an operation to restore her sight. City Lights matches the delightful sight gags that Chaplin was famous for with a first-rate melodramatic narrative. As always with Chaplin, there is surprising delicacy and precision in every scene. The film's score, composed by Chaplin himself, deftly accompanies the lithe lyricism of his choreographed pantomime. In one of the funniest scenes, Kurt Weill-like expressionistic music leads up to a boxing match from which the Tramp hopes to pick up some money. A dainty flute solo takes over once the hapless pugilists hilariously try to duke it out. Indeed, the movie floats like a butterfly toward its enormous payoff, one of the most powerful finales in all of cinema.
All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Many critics consider City Lights to be Charles Chaplin's finest film, no small accomplishment considering his long string of great films. The film is a Chaplin tour-de-force, as he has his hand in almost every aspect of its production. He co-wrote, produced, directed, scored and edited the film. Unwilling to bend to the winds of change, which saw the introduction of the spoken word in movies three years earlier, Chaplin's is a silent film. However, he does use music and sound effects cleverly throughout, even employing them pointedly to satirize "the talkies." Other familiar targets are the hypocrisy, prissiness, and arrogance of wealthy "polite society" and cruelty to society's less fortunate, lovable outcasts like The Little Tramp himself. Of course, Chaplin's physical comedy is riotously funny. He dances along the highwire between hilarity and disaster with aplomb. All the while, Chaplin's Little Tramp maintains his dignity and sense of fair play. City Lights's parallel plot lines unfold effectively, as the storyline involving The Little Tramp and the suicidal millionaire presages themes developed more fully in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. The pathos-ridden love story with the blind flower girl plays on universal themes, such as the intoxicating blindness of love and the rejuvenating power of selflessness. A graceful, athletic artist of pantomime, Chaplin's Little Tramp moves effortlessly between figures of destitution and wealth, aiding and abetting all around him. City Lights is a paean to our best impulses, a plea for humanitarianism and justice. Most important, it is the work of a master craftsman, in full control of his craft.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/12/2013
UPC:
0715515111119
Original Release:
1931
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
1A
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Time:
1:26:00

Special Features

New digital restoration from a 4K film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance; Chaplin Today: "City Lights," a 2003 documentary on the film, featuring Aardman Animations co-founder Peter Lord; Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design, a new interview program featuring visual effects expert Craig Barron; Archival footage from the production of City Lights, including film from the set, with audio commentary by Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran; a costume test; a rehearsal; and a complete scene not used in the film; Excerpt from Chaplin's short film The Champion (1915), along with footage of the director with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918; Trailers; One Blu-ray and one DVD, with all content available in both forms; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charles Chaplin The Tramp
Virginia Cherrill The Blind Girl
Harry Myers The Millionaire
Allan Garcia The Millionaire's Butler
Hank Mann The Boxer
Florence Lee Blind Girl's Grandmother
Albert Austin Street-cleaner
Henry Bergman Mayor,Janitor
James Donnelly Foreman
Jean Harlow Guest
John Rand Tramp
Stanhope Wheatcroft Man in Cafe
Robert Parrish Actor
Eddie Baker Actor
Jack Sutherland Party Guest

Technical Credits
Charles Chaplin Director,Score Composer,Editor,Producer,Screenwriter
Albert Austin Asst. Director,Screenwriter
Henry Bergman Asst. Director,Screenwriter
Harry Crocker Asst. Director,Screenwriter
Carl Davis Musical Direction/Supervision
Charles Hall Art Director
Alfred Newman Score Composer
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- City Lights
1. Civic Pride [4:58]
2. Window-Shopping [2:09]
3. A Flower Girl [4:22]
4. Lifesaver [4:36]
5. "I'll Live!" [4:41]
6. Burning Up the Town [6:17]
7. "Am I Driving?" [7:04]
8. A Different Man [3:32]
9. Party for the Tramp [4:21]
10. The Morning After [4:00]
11. Odd Job [4:49]
12. Lunch With a Millionaire [5:30]
13. Easy Money [6:45]
14. Not So Easy [6:30]
15. Money For the Girl [7:10]
16. "This Is For Your Eyes" [3:27]
17. A Flower Shop [6:20]
1. Color Bars [:20]
1. "The Landscape Had Changed" [6:29]
2. Playing With the Human Body [3:23]
3. Meeting the Flower Girl [2:22]
4. Gentleman Tramp [3:33]
5. Boxing Scene [5:04]
6. The Final Scene [5:53]

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City Lights 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"City Lights" is truly one of the greatest films ever made. Chaplin's mastery of pantomime, combined with an ingenious plot, provides us a film that resonates with us still. This film has laughs and packs an emotional wallop that will leave you in tears of happiness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let me join the consensus and call Charlie Chaplin¿s ¿City Lights¿ a masterpiece. It¿s only 81 minutes long, but they are among the best 81 minutes you could spend at the movies, and the last five minutes are simply exquisite. Simply keep your Kleenex box at arm¿s length as I doubt if there has been a more honest heartbreaking scene captured on film. When the formerly blind girl gives the Little Tramp a flower and ultimately says ¿Yes, I can see now¿, the scene takes on such emotional gravity as to defy explanation. Chaplin was at his zenith in 1928 when he took more than two years to develop and film this story, and the Little Tramp had already been a familiar character to audiences for over a decade. He had already made ¿The Gold Rush¿ (1925) and ¿The Circus¿ (1928) starring his character, both classics, so it¿s obvious he felt a need to take a somewhat different direction and explore an opportunity to deepen the character this time. The advent of talkies didn't stop Chaplin from making this ¿Comedy Romance in Pantomime¿ (as he subtitled it), as he knew giving the Little Tramp a voice would limit his character¿s appeal as a universal character. What I particularly enjoyed in this film is how the Little Tramp fancies himself as a well-mannered gentleman in spite of all the circumstances that bring him down, even going to prison for love. It is this self-delusion and his subsequent mistaken identity as a millionaire that leads him to the blind flower girl, played in an effectively plaintive manner by Virginia Cherrill. Her performance is a greatly underrated element in this film, as she displays the right amount of vacant innocence to make the last minutes so memorable. Simply compare her to the screen test shown of Georgia Hale, Chaplin¿s leading lady in 'The Gold Rush' and an obviously more experienced actress than Cherrill, who struggles to show the right balance between condescension and beatific revelation when she realize the Little Tramp is the ¿wealthy¿ gentleman who paid for the restoration of her sight. Of course, this would not be a Chaplin film without the brilliance of his comedy routines and there is a treasure trove of classic scenes ¿ the rising and lowering of the street elevator, the shifting musical chairs scene at the nightclub, the mock suicide at the canal and especially the boxing scene, which has been imitated so many lesser filmmakers (and was according to the footage included as a DVD extra, inspired by an earlier Chaplin short ¿The Champion¿ from 1915). Even a simple moment like when the Little Tramp mistakes a piece of thread from his vest for a ball of twine is impressive for the sheer delicacy of the moment. And special mention needs to go to Chaplin¿s musical score, where he beautifully interweaves José Padilla¿s 'La Violetta' as his love theme. The transfer to DVD is very good, and the 2-DVD set also has plenty of extras, though they are of variable interest. The Serge Bromberg documentary is quite interesting, as is the footage of Chaplin from a Vienna press tour since it captures the long-forgotten worldwide frenzy he created back then. The aforementioned Georgia Hale screen test is very interesting but runs on a bit too long. The 10-minute home movie of his trip to Bali has a certain anthropological interest but seems rather pointless otherwise. Regardless, the movie itself is rewarding enough and an exquisite jewel that completely justifies Chaplin¿s reputation as one of the world¿s leading filmmakers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only did Chaplin star in this film, also wrote, directed and composed the music. The story is so perfectly developed in silence that the first two times I viewed it, I couldn't see the final five minutes through my tears, even though I knew what was going to happen.
yogi_bear More than 1 year ago
The golden years of Charlie. Unsurpassed by any other comedian. Silent makes it one of a kind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After watching this film, I realized I had just experienced one of the most remarkable moments of cinema at its finest. This is absolutely Charlie Chaplins finest hour and one of my favorite films of all time. It is one of the greatest comedies I have ever seen in my life. The end was heartbreaking and sad. This is one of the greatest American films ever made.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not Chaplin's best film, but it is definitely up there. It is heartwarming, but still one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. The ending is one of the best ever caught on film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I made the pre-order for this item on 8 Nov., but B&N have postponed the shipping, and I have not received the item yet. B&N says that they have shipped the item on 7 Dec by international Priority Airmail , which usually takes 4-14 business days to Japan. This can't be a "service", can it be? I can not review the item which I have not received, so I rate the service of B&N instead.