I first saw City Lights 40 years ago at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. There was an active Film Society at UW-Madison that showed movies almost every night of the week. And, only charged a $1.00 admission. Whenever I had a chance, I’d watch these classic films (no Turner Class Movies back then!). I’ve seen many of Charlie Chaplin’s films and City Lights is my favorite. Chaplin is perfect as the little Tramp. Yes, the mawkish plot with the blind girl is a bit much, but there’s enough humor with the eccentric millionaire and the drama of the boxing match to carry the film. City Lights was released in 1931. This Criterion edition of the film includes commentary on Chaplin and his work as well as a excerpt of Chaplin’s short film, The Champion from 1915. Also included are the trailers for City Lights. If you haven’t seen this classic lately, the Criterion version is the one to watch. What’s your favorite Charlie Chaplin film? GRADE: A

28 thoughts on “CITY LIGHTS

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Must admit I prefer Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton. My favorite Chaplin film is Modern Times although City Lights is one of his best.

  2. wolfi

    The special Chaplin kind of humour always appealed to me and (some of …) my friends. Most US and British humour came much later to us, there was no market.

    Both these films are fantastic – and for me as a German of course The Great Dictator is especially significant, considering that he wrote it befor the Nazi atrocities were well kown …

    But back to the lighter side:

    george, I can beat you easily – I saw that film almost 55 years ago as astudent – we had an “art cinema” that showed all these films during the afternoon for a ridiculous price, around 1 Mark. Cheaper than a beer …

    In the evening we would sometimes try to smuggle a beer in – then the guy at the projector (projectionist?) would stop thefil and declare loudly that he would only continue after the guy(s) with the beer had left …

    Those were the days.

  3. Deb

    Not a big Chaplin fan–he’s a little too sentimental for me (sorta reminds me of Dickens in that regard–and probably came from that same sliding-scale English economic background). I much prefer Laurel & Hardy and, especially, Buster Keaton.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, the Criterion Collection versions of these movies are terrific. With your vote for MODERN TIMES, along with Steve and Dan’s vote, I’m going to have to pick up a copy today.

    2. wolfi

      Is Gold Rush the one where starving Charlie tries to eat his shoe?

      And I also remembe the scene with the house precariously balancing …

  4. Patti Abbott

    I don’t think I have ever watched a silent film through. The words are everything to me, I guess. And the words they put on the titles are too dull.

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        Your remarks about Madison reminded me: around that time we were going to a film series (not quite $1, but pretty cheap) at the New School in Greenwich Village, run by the very knowledgeable William K. Everson. He showed classics and odd little films like the Australian series comedy THE RUDD FAMILY GOES TO TOWN (Jackie particularly enjoyed that one), usually two a week (three if they were very short!). We saw the first Doctor Kildare film, with Joel McCrea as Kildare, and Lloyd Nolan (INTERNES CAN’T TAKE MONEY), Clark Gable and a young Helen Hayes in the crappy THE WHITE SISTER, etc.

        As Bill would say, I miss the old days.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, I miss the Old Days, too! The Film Society at UW-Madison showed a lot of foreign films and I fell in love with Catherine Deneuve when I saw her in Belle de Jour. I really hadn’t been a big movie enthusiast until I watched all these great films in Madison.

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    Oh, I lost my thread of thought. We did see a few silents in the series too.

    Everson always handed out copious notes about the films and how they were made on 8 x 14 inch mimeographed sheets. I wish I’d kept mine. He was a mine of information.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, the guy who ran the film series at UW-Madison would make brief remarks about the film before it began (no handouts, though). When the film was an “R” movie the crowd would get impatient and shout at him to “Shut Up!” and run the movie.

  6. Bill Crider

    As Jeff says, I miss the old days. At The University of Texas at Austin, all the films were free. I went several nights a week for my first couple of years there.

    1. george Post author

      Bill, FREE is always good! Universities have generated a lot of love for films. Now, in the era of NETFLIX, I’m sure it’s all changed.

  7. Jeff Meyerson

    The Rudd Family Goes to Town.

    This was Peter Finch’s first feature film. I would much rather watch this kind of 1930s and (especially) 1940s fast-moving B movie than so much of the crap being churned out at a record pace these days.

    And keep off my lawn!

  8. maggie mason

    I’m with Patti, really don’t like silent movies. I’m also not a fan of Chaplin, though I did see one I sorta liked, don’t remember the title. I am also not a fan of buster keaton and laurel and hardy.

    It’s funny that although I don’t like silents, I do have close captioning on my tv at all times. I started it when watching Mr. Selfridge, and it was too complicated to be changing back and forth before getting contour with voice control. I find it helps with many accents and people who don’t speak clearly.

    1. George Kelley

      Maggie, I have CLOSED CAPTIONS turned on all the time, too. Too many actors can’t enunciate clearly. They mumble. This is most evident on BLINDSPOT where everyone mumbles. Maddening if you’re trying to figure out their twisted plots!

  9. Jeff Meyerson

    The one Jackie used captions on is HAPPY VALLEY on Netflix, but there are several other shows that could definitely benefit from it!

    Yes, I blame Dylan McDermott. First he popularized the ‘stubble’ look, and then the mumbling. It’s really annoying. Of course, on BLINDSPOT the lead is really Australian. He mumbles and has the stubble!

      1. george Post author

        Steve, a number of actors–men and women–mumble or whisper or mangle their words so CLOSE CAPTIONS are always ON with my SONY HDTV. And, many times, the captions and the conversation on screen are DIFFERENT!

  10. wolfi

    A bit OT re R-rated films:

    As a student (in the 1960s) I was a member of the German Humanist Union and we did a lot of political stuff – fighting against the laws against homosexuality and limiting sexual expression generally which the conservative German government had kept from the Nazis.

    To finance this we invited all kinds of people – once we had someone from the “Freiwillige Filmselbstkontrolle” i e the people who were responsible for those film classifications (like PG, R etc) and also for cutting some scenes which were deemed not fit for consumption (in those days).

    This person gave a short talk and the he showed the students thos scenes that had been cut – first the ones that were too brutal. I remember one where the bad guys cut off someone’s tongue and then force him to swallow it down …
    Two or three students fainted and it was very quiet – and the the cut “sex scenes” came on …
    You could hear those sighs of elation or whatever.
    Today these scenes would be considered harmless – you have more nudity and action in Game of Thrones …
    Ah, the good old days!


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