City Lights Review


Charlie Chaplin is undoubtedly one of film history’s most beloved figures, and City Lights is one of Chaplin’s most beloved films. I found it to be a poignant love story, but the comedy was a little uneven for my taste. Some of the gags are great; others are a little awkward. The film has a lot to offer for sure, but it’s not one of the brilliant comedian’s funniest efforts.

In City Lights, Chaplin reprises one of his most popular characters, The Tramp, a strange, lonely homeless man. One night, he saves a drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) from killing himself, so the two become friends. But the millionaire doesn’t remember him in the morning, and The Tramp is forced back onto the streets (but not without a nice little reward for his troubles). He also meets a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), whom he falls madly in love. She reciprocates his feelings—but it’s unclear why. She can’t see him and she’s under the impression he’s a rich man. So he goes back to the millionaire at nights (when he’s got a drink or two in him) and spends his days making the flower girl think he’s a rich prince. But when she is offered the chance to regain her sight, The Tramp must decide whether he will give her that chance and show her who he really is or keep her in the dark and thinking he’s the man of her dreams.

The two separate storylines flow seamlessly together, but one is much stronger than the other. The romance between The Tramp and the flower girl is incredibly sweet. He seems very earnest and genuine. She’s a little naïve but is grateful for having this man in her life. The film’s conclusion is just terrific and brings their love story to a predictable, but incredibly happy ending.

The comedic portions of the film just aren’t as strong as many of Chaplin’s other films. Some of the bits are really funny. There’s a boxing match that’s just a riot, and the film’s opening sequence with The Tramp ruining the unveiling of a statue is also quite funny. Some of them, however, just don’t generate the same laughter. Much of the material with the millionaire is just silly and goes on for too long (the scene during which the millionaire spills liquor down The Tramp’s pants comes to mind, as does the scene during which The Tramp swallows a whistle).

There’s no denying the love people have for this film, and while I did enjoy it quite a bit, I just didn’t think it was a classic. The Gold Rush is probably my personal favorite Chaplin film. It contains several iconic moments. This one only has one scene which will stick with me (the ending). It’s a fun, enjoyable silent film, but not one of the director/actor/producer/writer’s best.

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