75. City Lights (1931)

United Artists 1923-52

Film still for City Lights


As the City dignitaries unveil a classical statue, Charlie is revealed sleeping on the lap of Peace. Attempting to get down, he catches his trousers on the statue's sword. He escapes in the ensuing chaos and wanders around the streets. He admires a nude statue for its artistic qualities, and to get a better perspective, steps backwards onto a pavement hoist that has risen from the void to meet his foot. Charlie is chased away by the lift's operator and avoids a cop by stepping into a limousine and climbing out the other side, in front of a blind flower girl. Thinking Charlie belongs to the limousine, the girl asks him to buy a flower. When he drops it he sees that she is blind. He pays her but before she can give him his change the limousine drives off and she assumes he has left leaving her the change. Charlie sits by her side and watches her go about her daily business, getting soaked when she throws out the flower water all over him. That night Charlie looks for a place to sleep on the embankment where he runs across a wealthy-looking drunk, trying to drown himself with a rope around his neck tied to a stone. Charlie tries to save him from himself and accidentally gets the noose round his own neck and falls in the river. The drunk pulls Charlie out and falls in himself. When they finally make it onto dry land the drunk has sobered up and thanks Charlie for saving his life. He takes him back to his mansion where the disapproving butler reveals that the rich man's wife has left him. All is well until the man has one drink too many and becomes suicidal again. Prevented from shooting himself the rich man takes Charlie to a nightclub where Charlie tries to light a sausage thinking it is a cigar; sets fire to a matronly lady before putting her out with a soda siphon; then mistakes a party streamer for the spaghetti he is eating. He further misunderstands an apache dance and tries to rescue the young lady.

Next morning the rich man gives Charlie his Rolls Royce when he admires it, but is refused admission to the house by the butler. The blind flower girl passes by as the rich man demands that the butler admit Charlie, in turn asks for some money to buy flowers from the girl. He buys the lot and then drives her home in the car. She says that he can see her home whenever he wants and goes inside. Charlie returns to the mansion to find himself shut out once again. The rich man, now sobered up, fails to recognise Charlie outside the house and gets in the car and drives off. The blind girl tells her grandmother about the gentleman who has brought her good fortune and confesses she is taken with him. Charlie, still in his borrowed clothes is walking the streets when the rich man runs into him again, but now that he is inebriated has no trouble recognising his friend. Another wild party ensues with Charlie swallowing a whistle and getting hiccups at the same time. This causes some confusion with a cab driver and a dog who think they are being called. The following day the rich man, sober once more and forgetting who Charlie is, throws him out of the house, now in his own rags. The rich man leaves for Europe.

Charlie goes to the blind girl's pitch but she is not there. He goes to the house to find that she is ill and he takes a job as a road sweeper to help pay for the doctor. He is alarmed by a herd of mules passing through his patch followed by a circus elephant. He brings groceries and a newspaper to her house and tells her of a famous doctor who can cure blindness, free to the poor. He sits while she winds wool and is too polite to say when she catches a strand of his woollen underwear and unravels it. He finds a letter threatening the girl and her grandmother with eviction if they don't pay their rent and goes out to seek some means of paying the debt. He loses his job as a sweeper but is offered easy money to take part in a prize fight. He arranges to split the money with another fighter and pull the punches but before he gets in the ring the other fighter is replaced and he has to fight for real. He avoids being knocked out for a while but gets his head stuck in the bell rope and is finally finished off by his opponent. Roaming the streets again he meets his old friend the rich man back who is back from his travels and very drunk. He promises Charlie $1000 to help the girl but thieves are concealed in his house and take the money, knocking the rich man unconscious. When Charlie tries to save the money he is accused of the theft by the butler. The rich man returns to his senses but again doesn't remember Charlie or giving him the money. Desperate to help the girl Charlie grabs the money and runs to her house saying he is going away for a while. Outside he is arrested.

Months later the girl is running a florist's shop, her sight restored. Charlie - out of prison and destitute - goes to see if she is at her old place. A young gentleman enters the flower shop and she is disappointed that it is not her benefactor. Charlie passes the shop where a flower is discarded. The newsboys tease him for picking it up but she smiles at him and gives him a flower. As she brushes his hand she realises the truth and they smile at each other.


Chaplin-United Artists
Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin
Roland Totheroh
Mark Marlatt, Gordon Pollock
Assistant Directors:
Harry Crocker, Henry Bergman, Albert Austin
Art Director:
Charles D. Hall
Charles Chaplin
Arthur Johnson
Music Director:
Alfred Newman
Charles Chaplin
Musical Themes used in addition to original compositions:
'Star-Spangled Banner','Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here','Dixie', 'I Hear You Calling Me', 'Home, Sweet Home', 'La Violetera' (Jose Padilla), 'Swanee River', 'How Dry Am I','St Louis Blues' (W. S. Handy)
Charles Chaplin (The Tramp)
Virginia Cherrill (The Blind Girl)
Florence Lee (Her Grandmother)
Harry Myers (Millionaire)
Hank Mann (Boxer)
Eddie Baker (Referee)
Tom Dempsey (Boxer)
Eddie McAuliffe (Boxer who leaves in a hurry)
Willie Keeler (Boxer)
Victor Alexander (Knocked-out Boxer)
Tony Stabeman (Victorious Boxer, later knocked-out)
Emmett Wagner (Second)
Joe Herrick, A. B. Lane, Cy Slocum, Ad Herman, Jack Alexander (Extras in Boxing Scene)
T. S. Alexander (Doctor)
Allan Garcia ( Butler)
Henry Bergman (Mayor and janitor)
Albert Austin (Street Sweeper and Burglar)
Joe Van Meter (Burglar)
John Rand (Tramp)
Spike Robinson (Man Who Throws Away Cigar)
Tiny Ward (Man on Lift in front of Art Shop)
Mrs Hyams (Flower Shop Assistant)
James Donnelly (Foreman)
Harry Ayers (Cop)
Stanhope Wheatcroft (Man in Café)
Jean Harlow (Extra in Restaurant Scene)
Mrs Pope [ Harlow's Mother] (Extra in Restaurant Scene)
Florence Wicks (Woman Who Sits on Cigar)
Mark Strong (Man in Restaurant)
Mrs Garcia (Woman at left of table in Restaurant)
Peter Diego (Man in mix-up with Coat and Hat)
Berry Blair (Woman at centre of table in Restaurant)
Robert Parrish (Newsboy)
?Austin (Newsboy)
Margaret Oliver, Charlie Hammond, Milton Gowman (Extras in Street Scene)
In Cut Sequence
Harry Crocker (Window Dresser)
Charles Lederer (Express Boy)
Edith Wilson (Younger Lady Looking in Window)
Blanche Payson (Older Lady Looking in Window)
Production started:
31 December 1927
Production finished:
22 January 1931
30 January 1931, Los Angeles Theatre
London Premiere:
27 February 1931, Dominion Theatre
8093 ft