In 1949 critic James Agee wrote in Life magazine that the indescribable look on Charlie Chaplin’s face at the end of City Lights was the greatest piece of acting on celluloid ever recorded. The film is one of Chaplin’s masterpieces, mixing comedy and sentimentality brilliantly.
City Lights was released three years after the talkie revolution took Hollywood by storm. Chaplin added a music soundtrack and some sound effects, but decided not to add dialogue, trusting that his huge successes through facial and body language would continue. The opening scene of City Lights takes an immediate dig at the talkies: A mayor makes a political speech but all that comes out of his mouth are unintelligible squawks.
In February 1931, Sid Silverman – reviewing the film’s release for Variety – predicted that Chaplin would continue to make silent movies and continue to be hugely successful. It is a testament to Chaplin’s genius that almost a century later we can still be awed and still be brought to tears of joy and sorrow by his incredible films.
As always, we recommend you don’t ruin any surprises by reading spoilers or watching this trailer:
Title: City Lights
Direction: Charles Chaplin
Screenplay: Charles Chaplin
Cinematography: Rollie Totheroh, Gordon Pollock, Mark Marklatt
Editing: Charles Chaplin
Score: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers, Al Ernest Garcia, Hank Mann, Robert Parrish, Henry Bergman, Albert Austin, Jean Harlow (uncredited extra)