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Charlie Chaplin – City Lights2019-04-16T14:52:08+00:00

Project Description

Charlie Chaplin: City Lights

A very warm welcome to the fourth in our series of monthly releases of limited edition Charlie Chaplin photographs for 2019—part of our celebration of the 130th anniversary of his birth—where each month we focus on a key Charlie Chaplin film.  

Over the course of 2019 we will build a substantial collection of important Charlie Chaplin photographs—all of which are available to purchase and hang on your walls at home or in your office. 

You can see photographs from previous months here. This month we launch a collection of images from one of Charlie Chaplin’s most acclaimed  films, City Lights, released in 1931. 

The images that follow are available to purchase in limited editions as museum-quality archival handmade silver gelatin photographs, in a range of sizes from 10 x 12 inches to 48 x 60 inches.

Scroll down and select an image for full details.

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CITY LIGHTS(1931)

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.”

On the statue

On the statue
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“The [premiere] started. The first scene opened. My heart pounded. It was the unveiling of a statue. They began to laugh! The laughter increased into roars. All my doubts and fears began to evaporate. And I wanted to feel. For three reels they laughed. And from sheer nerves and excitement I was laughing with them.”  Charlie Chaplin

The tramp and the flower girl

The tramp and the flower girl
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In this well known image, the tramp buys a flower from the blind flower seller, played by Virginia Cherrill. The scene where the tramp meets the blind girl took weeks to film —reportedly 360 takes.

The director demonstrates

The director demonstrates
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Chaplin was a meticulous director. Here we see him acting out the kneeling position of the flower girl, demonstrating the body position and facial expression he wanted Virginia Cherrill to adopt.

Walking down to the river

Walking down to the river
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Here’s the tramp, walking down to the river, part of the scene where he saves the millionaire, played by Harry Myers, from drowning.

The tramp by the river

The tramp by the river
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An atmospheric image of the tramp by the river bank.

The tramp and the millionaire greet the cop

The tramp and the millionaire greet the cop
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The tramp saves the millionaire from his suicide attempt. The scene involved a drenching for both Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers. The role of the millionaire was originally given to an actor called Henry Clive. Once he discovered that he would have to jump into a tank of water, Henry Clive made a sharp exit from the set and walked out of the movie. Four days of shooting were lost while they found a new actor to play the millionaire—a part taken by Harry Myers.

At the restaurant

At the restaurant
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A night out with his new best friend ‘burning up the town’ provides the tramp with the opportunity for much comedy business. Some drunken misunderstandings with other diners lead to the tramp and the millionaire partially removing their jackets—a sign of readiness for a bit of fisticuffs—but in reality, their arms were trapped in their sleeves.

The tramp buys flowers

The tramp buys flowers
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Waking up after his night out with his new millionaire buddy, the tramp sees the blind flower girl and buys the entire contents of her basket.

A true gentleman

A true gentleman
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The blind flower seller lives with her grandmother. The tramp drives her home in the millionaire’s car after buying her entire basket of flowers.

The millionaire’s party

The millionaire’s party
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The tramp bumps into the millionaire and is invited to a party at his mansion. In this staged photograph we see the tramp in black tie, surrounded by female party guests.

The millionaire’s living room set

The millionaire’s living room set
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Photographs such as this—which document the empty set where important film action took place—will be a feature of each collection of photographs we launch throughout 2019.

Even though this photograph acts as a simple photographic record of the set layout, it is remarkably evocative—it is impossible to look at this photograph without thinking of the action that took place there.

An elephant passes

An elephant passes
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The tramp takes a job as a street cleaner to raise funds for the blind girl’s eye operation. He discovers that some passers by are responsible for more mess than others.

The Contender

The Contender
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After being fired from his job as a street sweeper, the tramp tries his luck at boxing.

The tramp and the new fighter

The tramp and the new fighter
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Things don’t go to plan in his first bout.

The flower shop

The flower shop
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The tramp discovers the flower girl in her new shop. She can see. Her eye operation—which he funded, and served time in jail as a result— has been a success. If you look carefully you can see the film crew in the reflection in the window.

Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill on set

Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill on set
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The Spencers. Winston Spencer-Churchill visits Charles Spencer Chaplin on the set of City Lights.

 Want to see more?

To find out all about our plans for 2019—in which we celebrate the genius of Charlie Chaplin—just click on the green button below, and read on.

Back to the Charlie Chaplin main page

Charlie Chaplin ™ © Bubbles Incorporated SA 2019
Photographs © Roy Export S.A.S / Roy Export Co. Ltd
Scans by Cineteca di Bologna / Musée de l’Elysée