Charlie Chaplin’s film City Lights is a comedy of a homeless man and the struggles he encounters. The homeless man gets himself into quite a few predicaments on his mission to help his love, a blind flower girl. This film was in production longer than any other Chaplin film and caused more problems then any other film. Problems and all people still felt City Lights turned out to be a quality Chaplin film. In this film Chaplin played his usual little tramp character as the homeless man. The little tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl and promises to take care of her when he can hardly take care of himself.
The film is a story of the tramps struggles to get money to restore the girls eyesight. He is repeatedly used and abused by the rich “friend” he saved and then bumps into daily. This friend proves to be the means by which the little tramp is able to hold up his promise to his blind flower girl. City Lights followed a lot of Chaplin’s previous films with optimism as a theme and a lot of characters in common. The blind flower girl is portrayed as the beautiful fragile and dependent girl that we have seen in so many Chaplin productions like Gold Rush and The Great Dictator.
Also the film has a happy ending and every bad thing is followed up by something good happening. Every time a plan to get money doesn’t work out the little tramp runs into his rich “friend” again, who helps him get a little bit closer to his flower girls each time; like buying her flowers, groceries and new eyesight. One of the first problems Chaplin encountered with this film is that he was producing a silent film after talkies had become the standard in Hollywood. It is said that had he been anyone else, he would have succumb to the pressures.
Since he had complete artistic and financial control over his films he filmed it how he wanted it. Towards the end Chaplin was having so many problems with his costar Virginia Cherrill that he fired her and brought in Georgia Hale to shoot the final scene. Chaplin had already spent over three years shooting the film (longest time ever) and it would have been too expensive to re-shoot the whole film. Cherrill, knowing this, agreed to be hired back on at twice her original salary; Chaplin had no choice but to accept.
One of the final problems Chaplin dealt with during the filming of City Lights was the scene where he first met his flower girl. Chaplin had a hard time getting across the message that the flower girl perceived the little tramp to be a wealthy man. Unsatisfied with every take, chaplin re-shot the scene over three hundred times trying to get the delivery perfect. Even with all the problems City Lights went over just as well as any other of Chaplin’s silent films. This was proven in 2007 when the American Film Institute rated City Lights as the eleventh greatest movie of all time.