Limited edition photographs available to purchase.
City Lights, released in 1931, was Charlie Chaplin’s fourth film for United Artists.
City Lights is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films of all time. Charlie Chaplin wrote it, starred in it, directed it, produced it and even composed the music.
It was his fourth feature-length film for United Artists, and was released on 30 January 1931, a full three years after his previous UA release, The Circus. The era of taking pictures was in full flow when Chaplin released City Lights, but he knew that it would be a silent film. In his autobiography Chaplin wrote: “I was determined to continue making silent films, for I believed there was room for all types of entertainment. Besides, I was a pantomimist and in that medium I was unique and, without false modesty, a master. So I continued with the production of another silent picture, City Lights.”
The plot centres around the tramp’s relationships with a blind flower seller, played by Virginia Cherrill, and an alcoholic millionaire, played by Hank Myers. Meeting the flower-seller for the first time, the tramp does not realise that she is blind, and she mistakes him for a wealthy man. The tramp then meets a millionaire, whom he saves from drowning. His new friend takes the tramp for a night on the town. After a drunken night out they wake-up sober in the millionaire’s mansion, but the millionaire he has no recollection of meeting the tramp, who is put out on the street.
He meets the flower seller again, and escorts her home. There he discovers that her rent is in arrears, and that her sight could be restored if only she could get to Switzerland for an expensive operation. The tramp tries to raise funds through stints as a street cleaner and prize-fighter. Ultimately his millionaire pal gives him the money to help, but he is drunk when he gives him the funds and forgets when he is sober. The tramp ends up in jail, but not before he has given the money to the blind girl. After his release from jail, he comes across an elegant flower shop, and the now fully sighted flower girl, who is in charge of the shop. She gives the tramp a coin out of sympathy and as their hands touch, she realises who he is.
Chaplin’s performance in the film’s final scene, at that moment of recognition, has been called “the greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.”