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City Lights

(silent 1931 b 87')

En: 9 Ed: 9

Not only did Charlie Chaplin write and direct this masterpiece, he also composed the delightful musical score. A tramp finds a rich friend and helps a blind woman.

Three years into the talking-pictures era, Chaplin's last silent film begins with political speeches in garbled sound followed by the unveiling of a statue for "peace and prosperity" which reveals the homeless tramp (Chaplin) asleep. A blind woman (Virginia Cherrill) sells the tramp a flower, and hearing a car door, she assumes he left without his change. The tramp meets a drunk rich man (Harry Myers) who puts a rope around his neck and ties it to a boulder in order to drown himself in the river. By mistake he throws the tramp in; but they manage to save each other. He takes the tramp home, and they drink to their friendship. His wife has left him, but the tramp stops him from shooting himself. Deciding to live, they go out on the town to a fancy restaurant, where their inebriation causes numerous comic errors in awareness. He gives the tramp his car and some money to buy flowers. The tramp gives the blind girl $10 and hands the bouquet to the butler. The tramp takes the girl home in the car and tenderly kisses her hand. In the morning the rich man wakes up sober, has the tramp thrown out, and takes off in his car.

The blind girl tells her grandma about the wealthy man she met. Drunk again, the rich man welcomes the tramp, and they go to a party; but the next morning the tramp is thrown out again. The tramp finds the girl at home sick. He gets a job cleaning the street. Visiting the girl during lunch, he tells her about a doctor in Vienna who could cure her sight. He finds her eviction notice and says he'll pay the rent. Late returning to work, the tramp loses his job. A man offers to box with him if they go easy and split the money; but he has to leave and is replaced by a guy who says it is "winner take all." In a hilarious boxing match, the tramp dances behind the referee but is eventually knocked out. He meets the rich man after he has returned from Europe, and they go to his house, which is being robbed. He gives the tramp $1000 for the girl; but after the robbers knock him out, he forgets all about it. The tramp runs away from the police and gives the girl the money. Then the tramp is arrested and put in prison. In the autumn the girl can see and has a flower shop. She watches some kids harassing the poor tramp. He stops and seems to adore her; she laughs that she has made "a conquest." Then she gives him a flower and a coin. As she touches his hand, she realizes who he is. In one of the great moments in cinema history, he says to her, "You can see."

Charlie Chaplin won the hearts of millions of people around the world with his portrayal of a poor tramp whose clever foolishness makes us laugh. This story shows that even a poor tramp can save a rich man's life and help bring about great healing. Manners and social customs are spoofed by numerous comic bits, while the deep kindness expressed for and by the girl awaken the simplicity of innocent love.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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