#46: City Lights [1931]


Charlie Chaplin knew what he was doing when he decided to continue making silent films despite the introduction of 'talkies'.
It's not simply because the Little Tramp character works best in that mode, but there's something to be said about a purely physical humour: it transcends language and culture barriers. He proves this in the opening scene, where the Little Tramp ruins the public unveiling of a new statue by dangling from it (accidentally) by his trousers, whilst attempting to salute during the national anthem. It might sound ridiculous, but that's the point, and it works. My brother and I were roaring with laughter at countless times throughout the film, and considering it's nearly a century old, that's really impressive.
We decided our favourite scene was when the Little Tramp visits a dance hall with his new (inebriated) friend (Harry Myers), and things get a bit rowdy. Aside from the gift of general hilarity, the scene gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I've never even lived in: the (inebriated) Little Tramp indignantly flings off his dinner jacket to come to the aid of a female performer he mistakenly believes to be wronged, at which point every other man stands up, ruffled, to protest his indiscretion. It's a wonderful moment capturing the true age of chivalry. 
Of course, no film would be complete without it's love interest. For once I was actually affected. I found myself in tears at the final scene of City Lights and I'm not ashamed to admit it (because my researches reveal this is a common reaction among all genders). Virginia Cherrill plays  the Blind Girl that the Little Tramp falls for on the streets. She is the stereotypical deserving poor, selling flowers on the street corners and looking after her grandmother. To help her make rent the Little Tramp takes a job street sweeping, fights in the boxing ring, and even falls foul of the law. But will she accept him for who he is? Well, you'll have to watch it to find out why I cried, one way or the other.

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