City Lights (1931)

As Charlie Chaplin started work on this comedy in 1928, sound was beginning its reign. Nonetheless, he persisted in making silent movies, partly because he felt the Little Tramp would be less effective if he spoke and partly because early sound technology was so limited it would have made much of his physical humor impossible. Such was his popularity at the time that this story of the Little Tramp’s efforts to raise $1,000 so a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) can have a sight-giving operation became one of his biggest hits. The film’s combination of slapstick and pathos is effective and has won praise as one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made. Some of Chaplin’s scenes with Cherrill, particularly at the film’s end, are heartbreaking. Yet it also has uproariously funny scenes, particularly his attempt to survive a boxing match with nothing but fancy footwork. Chaplin spent three years making this film. For his first encounter with the blind girl, he demanded 342 takes, which has been called the most ever attempted on a single shot.

The recent 4K restoration of CITY LIGHTS was transferred from 35mm elements held at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy and the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles. It is presented in collaboration with Janus Films.

Dir. Charles Chaplin

In attendance: Jason Lee