Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Study Guide - City Lights (1931)

Director :Charlie Chaplin

Stars :
Virginia Cherrill .... A Blind Girl
Harry Myers .... An Eccentric Millionaire
Al Ernest Garcia .... The Eccentric Millionaire's Butler (as Allan Garcia)
Charles Chaplin .... A Tramp

Preparation :
Read the movie reviews by Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli.

Historical/Social Significance :
Cinema historians have described City Lights as an anthology of some of the funniest gags that 30 years of silent cinema had produced.
"If only one of Charles Chaplin's films could be preserved, "City Lights" would come the closest to represent all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp -- the character said, at one time, to be the most famous image on earth." Roger Ebert

"Orson Welles said that City Lights was the greatest film ever made. Whether or not he is right, the final scene is certainly the most indelible cinematic moment in my mind. The mixture of mutual love and despair on the faces of Chaplin and the flower girl—all in a few fleeting seconds—display more emotion than thousands of words of dialogue could ever convey. " Ron Delbanco

Synopsis :
The Little Tramp saves a millionaire from drowning and romances a blind flower girl.

    Guided Questions for Viewing :
    Assessment questions will be based on the following :
  • What was Chaplin saying about a society where upper class patrons revere statues but chase away penniless humans who sleep on them?
  • What was your favorite scene? Describe why you like it.
  • How are the police depicted in the movie? Give examples.
  • The last line of the movie has the girl telling the Tramp, "I can see now." What was she really saying?
  • How are the people in the upper class portrayed in the movie?
  • How does Chaplin use the background of the Great Depression to get Americans to think on economic class and wealth? Give examples from the movie.
  • Do you think this movie, which is almost 75 years old, is still relevant today? Discuss this with reference to the movie.

Ebert, Roger. "City Lights" December 21, 1997 .

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