Movie Project #3: City Lights [1931]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

City Lights [1931]

City Lights [1931]
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Country: USA

I have fond memories of Charlie Chaplin. Even during my close-minded movie watching days of my youth, I always enjoyed watching his work. I couldn’t tell you specifically what movies I saw back then, but when he was on the television I would be there until the very end.

Revisiting Chaplin in the form of 1931’s City Lights was a blast for me. This movie is a wonderful hybrid of comedy, drama and romance. Chaplin, playing his recurring Tramp character, falls in love with a beautiful blind woman (Virginia Cherrill). Her family is going through a bout of financial trouble and they are about to be evicted from their home. Realizing this, the Tramp does everything he can to help out his new love interest.

This scenario leads to some truly hilarious moments. At one point, the Tramp accepts a boxing gig in which his opponent agrees to go easy on him and split the profits 50/50. His opponent, apparently on the lam, runs off before the match. The Tramp’s new opponent has no interest in working out a deal, and therefore he has no choice but to fight legit. What transpires is a classic scene in which the Tramp dances around carefully behind the referee, thereby evading any attacks from his much bigger adversary. It’s equal parts clever and hilarious.

City Lights

The Chaplin slapstick humor I know and love is present from the get go. The opening scene shows a city dedicating a new statue, only to see the Tramp sleeping on it when it is unveiled. As he frantically tries to leave the statue, he gets his pants hooked on the figure’s giant sword. When the National Anthem is played, he continues to slip around aimlessly. It’s a wonderful introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the film.

I would be remiss not to mention the Tramp’s on-and-off friendship with an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers) who only enjoys his company when he is drunk. The scene where the two of them get drunk and then go out for a night on the town is just brilliant.

Really, City Lights is fantastic with memorable scene after memorable scene. It’s amazing to think that this movie is 80 years old, yet it’s still hilarious in this day and age. The way Chaplin interweaves drama and romance into this is a thing of beauty. And, of course, who could ever forget the ending, one of the most iconic in all of cinematic history? I loved City Lights, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of Mr. Chaplin’s filmography.


7 thoughts on “Movie Project #3: City Lights [1931]

  1. Custard says:

    It is truly embarrassing to say that I have not seen very much of this type of film. I can’t name a silent film that I have watched from start to finish. Bad huh?

    I really need to broaden my horizons

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