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The Little Tramp: City Lights

Jul 8, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Charlie Chaplin, gags, writing

Cons:direction, continuity

The Bottom Line: A good fundamental Charlie Chaplin movie that all movie buffs should see and Chaplin fans should own.


City Lights (1931)

City Lights has a formidable reputation. It seems many call it the THE GREATEST FILM and it's hard to argue with the huge numbers of viewers; but –

I watch films for entertainment, as many people do, and do not purport to have that special insight that allows me to see what others cannot. The silent film era is not one that interests me terribly much, although I am truly sorry that many old films have disappeared due to deterioration. I honestly do not get all jived up about a viewing of Nosferatu or Metropolis but will watch it if it's convenient.

Chaplin has several of these old films still available and they should be treasured. That said, they do not deserve bowing and scraping as if they were the second coming of Jesus Christ. Chaplin, Keaton, and Harold Lloyd – what, you never heard of those other two - all made good films and Keaton's from what I've seen of them were quite a bit superior to Charlie Chaplin's. Go check em out if you really like Chaplin.

The silents were made in a time before TV – in fact; they were the TV of the day and were churned out cheaply to be shown weekly at the movies and frequently discarded after their runs. I’m sure if we could survey all the silents ever made we'd find plenty superior to City Lights. Unfortunately, they no longer exist for the most part because they were considered expendable.

City Lights consists of a couple of tenuously related stories. Charlie is his lovable Little Tramp character and the scenes alternate between his time with a millionaire (Harry Myers) who loves him when drunk and can't remember him when sober. This alternates with a tender love affair with a blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill) who mistakes him for a millionaire when he crawls through a limousine to avoid a policeman. Thereafter Charlie spends his time trying to get money so the blind girl can have her eyesight restored by a new process he saw in the newspaper. When he does this the girl cannot recognize him until she touches his hand. The camera fades on an ambiguous smiling Tramp.

My favorite scene happens early and many might miss it. Several politicians are unveiling a statue and are shown giving speeches and congratulating each other. The words coming out of their mouths are just vague humming sounds in time with their lip movements. So I guess Chaplin was telling the world what he thought about the power of talking in movies – in other words, not much!

Chaplin was a great pantomime – he was not a great director. Many of the scenes have continuity goofs that would be pointed out by eagle eyed viewers, yet for some reason they give Charlie a "bye" - I wonder if it is because of nostalgia or the formidable reputation of the movie.

Chaplin must have been in great physical condition to do some of the strenuous stunts he pulls off, seemingly without effort. There are lots of little moments worth seeing like when Charlie creeps up to watch the flower seller after she thinks he left and she innocently throws her bucket of water in his face.

The film is not totally silent as it has synchronized sound effects and is scored with Chaplin's own score.

The DVD is available from Warner Bros and consists of the 87 minute black and white movie along with a large quantity of extras, including a full length documentary and many historical clips.

If Charlie Chaplin is your thing, this video is essential for your collection!


Recommend this product? Yes

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