Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

City Lights (1931)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

City Lights (1931)

In this memorable, quintessential Charlie Chaplin "silent "film released three years after the start of the talkies era of sound - it was a tale of blind love again featuring the famous Little Tramp character - an outcast, homeless man with baggy pants, tight coat, cane, large shoes and small hat; the Tramp functioned as a savior and wish-fulfiller for two individuals - a blind flower girl while masquerading as a wealthy duke, and a drunk millionaire who was repeatedly saved and befriended:

  • in the opening sequence (a mocking of talkies) - a boring public presentation in a public square to unveil an ugly monument to 'Peace and Prosperity' was in progress; it functioned as a clever in-joke against 'talking' films; as two Establishment figures spoke, Instruments (a kazoo and other squawking device) were substituted as their voices to parody and make fun of them - and talking films
  • when the dust sheet was lifted and removed from the Greco-Roman stone statue, it revealed the black-clothed little Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) vagrant who was blissfully sleeping in the central figure's lap; he embarrassingly made an effort to extricate himself and climb down off the statue, but the sword of one of the three statues had impaled and hooked him - stuck up the back of his pants; as he crawled off the large statue, his profile with his own nose next to the statue's huge outspread hand created a classic image - a monumental nose-thumbing gesture
Opening Scene - Tramp Caught on Sword of Statue
  • while taking an afternoon stroll in the busy city, the Tramp humorously admired a nude female statue in a store window, and narrowly avoided stepping backwards into an opening and closing freight elevator platform; the Tramp reprimanded one of the workers (Tiny Ward) riding on the platform, until it came to its full height and the workman towered over him; the cowardly Tramp tipped his hat and quickly exited
  • to avoid a motorcycle policeman, the Tramp stepped into and out of a parked vehicle onto the sidewalk in front of a beautiful Flower Girl (Virginia Cherrill) selling flowers; she heard the car door slam, assuming the occupant was a rich millionaire; she offered him a flower - a boutonniere, and he was immediately smitten even after realizing that she was blind and couldn't see him; he gave her his last coin for the flower
The Tramp Smitten by The Flower-Selling Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill)
  • after leaving, he snuck back to sit and silently watch her when she unknowingly threw a bucket of dirty water from a container into his face; that evening, she returned home in a good mood - she lived with her be-spectacled, shawled grandmother (Florence Lee); at her window, she dreamt and longed for more visits from the "millionaire"
  • later that night at the harbor on a concrete platform next to the water, the Tramp encountered a drunken and suicidal Eccentric Millionaire (Harry Myers) who had tied one end of a rope to a large stone and put the noose around his neck; the Tramp encouraged the man to be optimistic: ("Tomorrow the birds will sing!" and "Be brave! Face life!"); in his attempt to save the man, the Tramp almost drowned and was the one who had to be rescued; after they scrambled to safety, the two became buddies, as the millionaire exclaimed: "I'm cured. You're my friend for life"; the Tramp gave his characteristic comic leg-shake, and then the millionaire suggested: "We'll go home and get warmed up"
  • as a reward for being saved, the millionaire escorted his new-found friend back to his elegant mansion, where his Butler (Allan Garcia) named James informed him of the "news" that his wife had sent for her baggage following their divorce or separation; the millionaire attempted suicide a second time with a revolver, but was again prevented from doing so by the Tramp; the millionaire suggested that they change their clothes and drive in his Rolls Royce to town: ("We'll burn up the town!")
  • during a "night on the town" to celebrate, the two identically-dressed drunken gentlemen entered a crowded dinner and dance nightclub; the Tramp became involved in a number of unfortunate incidents - he set fire to a woman's dress with his newly-purchased, discarded cigar butt (and used squirts of seltzer water to extinguish the flames); in a hilarious spaghetti-confetti sequence, he mistook strings of confetti hanging from the ceiling as spaghetti strands on his plate, and he became wildly possessed by the rhythmic sound of the dance music and began twirling and dancing with the female whose dress was set on fire, and then with one of the waiters with a food tray precariously held high above his head; by early morning, the millionaire recklessly drove them back to the mansion in his Rolls Royce
  • the Tramp was offered the millionaire's Rolls and wads of cash as he left the mansion; he followed after the Flower Girl as she was passing by, and masqueraded as a rich duke by buying all of her stock of flowers for $10 dollars, refusing the change, handing her a total of three bills, and driving her home in the millionaire's Rolls; he was content to let her be overjoyed and believe that he was a very kind and rich man

In Front of the Mansion, the Flower Girl

The Tramp Purchasing Flowers - Posing as a Rich Man

Taking The Flower Girl Home in the Limo - Kissing Her Hand
  • when the Tramp returned to the millionaire's mansion, the rich man had sobered up, and couldn't remember anything that had happened; he had to be drunk to recognize the Little Tramp as his friend; the Tramp was pushed out by the butler at the front door, and he departed with sadness and disappointment
  • however, in a quick turnaround, the Tramp again met the drunken millionaire on one of the city's sidewalks outside the nightclub, who welcomed his "friend" again with open arms, hugs and a handshake, and arranged a "swell party" in his honor
  • during the party, the Tramp swallowed a whistle, a party favor, and then during an attack of hiccups, he whistled with each spasm; after he stepped outside to avoid distracting the other guests, he first hailed a taxi, and then was surrounded by a wild assortment of dogs
  • after sobering up by the next morning in the millionaire's bed, the Tramp again found himself unrecognized, and was ruthlessly ordered out of the mansion and thrown out by the butler; he learned that the blind flower girl was sick in bed with a fever, attended by a doctor and her grandmother; he sat dejectedly on the stairs
  • to become the flower girl's benefactor, the Tramp took a job as a street cleaner, and after shoveling up a small amount of manure left by a horse-drawn cart, he saw a long procession of mules, and then was prepared to run off after turning around and spotting an elephant coming down the street
  • meanwhile, the girl's Grandmother shielded news of an impending eviction for non-payment of rent - but the blind girl was hopeful: "He's coming today!"; the Tramp visited the girl's home with some food, and read to her from the newspaper about a Viennese eye specialist-surgeon in town who could cure her blindness, encouraging her to become hopeful about finally seeing him
  • as the girl was knitting and raveling up her skein of yarn, she mistakenly pulled a loose thread from the Tramp's undergarments and completely unraveled his clothing, as he squirmed and writhed next to her
  • the Tramp promised to pay for the blind girl's sight-restoring operation, by entering a boxing ring bout; he arranged for a fixed fight in his favor, with stand-in boxer Eddie Mason (Eddie McAuliffe) who agreed not to hurt him, and the plan was to split the purse 50-50 following the match; unfortunately, the stand-in fled when a telegram warned him that the cops were after him; the Tramp could not convince a massive, muscle-bound substitute Prizefighter (Hank Mann) to accept the Tramp's proposal: "Let's take it easy and we'll split fifty-fifty"; the Tramp watched as a Superstitous black Boxer (Victor Alexander), who had earlier worshipped a lucky rabbit's foot and lucky horseshoe, was carried off unconscious after his fight
  • during the marvelously-pantomimed prize fight, the Tramp balletically danced around in the ring to avoid the palooka's punches, nimbly hiding and ducking for safety behind the tall referee, and remarkably was able to get in a few effective punches; before long in the second round, the Tramp was knocked out cold
The Tramp's Fight Against a Real Prizefighter (Hank Mann) Before His Knock Out and Defeat
  • after the fight, the Tramp became hopeful when the millionaire reappeared and promised: "Now don't worry about the girl. I'll take care of her"; the Tramp was given $1,000 in banknotes, the money needed for the blind girl's operation that would restore her sight; just after stuffing the banknotes into his pocket, two robbers who were hiding in a living room closet and had seen the exchange of cash, emerged and knocked the millionaire out with a blackjack; when the Tramp summoned the police by phone, the burglars fled
  • naturally, an arriving policeman suspected that the Tramp was the guilty-looking thief - with the money in his pocket; after the millionaire regained consciousness, he again didn't recognize the Tramp as his friend and accused him of robbery ("Who is this man?"); the Tramp raced off, took the money to the blind girl's home, and gave her the money for rent and for a sight-restoring operation before he was arrested on a street corner, and imprisoned for robbery for nine months
  • in the tearful, sentimental ending, the down-and-out Tramp, now released from prison, saw the blind girl - with restored sight in the display window of her newly-opened flower shop of her successful business; he grinned and beamed at her with a melting smile; she turned and remarked to her grandmother about the beggar outside her shop: "I've made a conquest!"
  • when she saw the petals falling from a dead rose in his hand, she took pity on the Tramp (although she had been laughing when he was being teased by some teen newspaper boys) by offering him a fresh white rose flower and a coin; although the Tramp tried to scurry away and evade her, she exited her shop's front door to pursue him on the sidewalk

The Girl Touching the Tramp's Hand and Realizing He was the "Millionaire" - Instant Hand-Recognition

Ending: The Tramp's Reaction
  • simultaneously she realized, in a moment of hand-held recognition when she handed over the coin, that he was her unlikely benefactor-savior; she asked: "You?" and he shyly nodded positively; he pointed to his own eyes: "You can see now?" and she said that she could: "Yes, I can see now," and she held his hand to her chest
  • the film ended with a slow fade to black during a closeup of the Tramp's face and smile (with a rose stem in his mouth), both with uncertainty and joy, after she had identified him

Mayor (Henry Bergman) With a Kazoo-Voice at Unveiling of Statue

Viewing a Nude Statue In a Store Window With an Opening and Closing Freight Elevator Platform Behind Him

The Suicidal Millionaire with a Rope and Heavy Rock at the Harbor

The Tramp Encouraging the Millionaiire to Not Drown Himself

The Tramp With Drunken Millionaire at a Nightclub, Smoking Cigars

Mistaking Strings of Confetti from the Ceiling with Strands of Spaghetti

Wildly Twirling and Dancing With Unsuspecting Female

Reckless Drunken Driving

The Tramp Swallowing a Whistle During a Party in His Honor

Taking a Job as a Street Sweeper - Watching a Procession of Mules

Knitting Scene - The Blind Flower Girl Unraveling the Tramp's Undergarment

The Tramp's Stand-in Opponent Eddie Mason for a Fixed Fight

The Tramp Accused of Robbing the Millionaire of $1,000 Dollars

Providing the Blind Girl With Money for Rent and An Eye Operation

Peering in at the Flower Girl (with Restored Vision) in Her Corner Shop

The Flower Girl's Gift of a Coin and a Fresh White Rose for the Tramp


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