2022 Blind Spot Series: City Lights


What I knew going in: I've seen other of Chaplin's films featuring "The Tramp"

When the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets a blind woman selling flowers (Virginia Cherrill) he begins to look for ways to earn money to help her with a medical procedure to get her sight back. 

I wanted to add a Chaplin film to my Blind Spot list and I chose this one since it appears to be one of the most well-liked of his work. Thankfully, this was available on HBO Max for me to check out. This didn't quite change my feelings about Chaplin films in general, and that's that they should never been more than an hour long AT MOST.

Silent slap stick is definitely an acquired taste, and it's one that I appreciate more than I actually enjoy. There were a few parts in this film where I did genuinely laugh. Mostly during the infamous boxing match. I will give this film a ton of credit for being quite ballsy for a 30's film. Attempted suicide is a big part of the story, and from what I've seen of films in this era, that's fairly different.

Chaplin is obviously great. He's a star performer and Cherrill was lovely as well. I wish she was in it a bit more. They help with the fact that the film dragged for me at parts.

So is this for you? If you're into Chaplin and you somehow haven't seen this, then of course. But if you're new to him, I suggest his 20 minute shorts. They work better.

Grade: C+


  1. I thought this was....fine. It has some lovely bits and fine moments of pathos however the one time I watched it was enough, but then I'm not a huge Chaplin fan. I don't dislike him and I recognize his profound gifts and innovation but his brand of comedy has never been one of my favored ones. Of his films the ones I've liked the most-Modern Times, Limelight, The Great Dictator-all came later in his career.

    Virginia Cherrill plays her role well (a small aside-she was Cary Grant's first wife, though for only about a year) but the film's focus is Chaplin.

    Topics such as attempted suicide, prostitution, homosexuality, miscegenation and the like were all addressed far more openly in pre-code films like this. Once the Production Code came into full effect somewhere around the beginning of 1934 they really lowered the boom and those sort of things were strictly forbidden to be portrayed or for the most part alluded to until the 60's. It forced the writers to find creative ways to reference certain things but some were just off the table completely.

    I agree for the uninitiated his shorts are the best starting place.

    1. I forgot this was pre-code, I had come across a list of pre-code films on Letterboxd that I was going to try to watch some off of, then it just completely slipped my mind.

    2. There are a lot of good pre-codes out there (and many bad!!). Here are some recommendations.

      Call Her Savage-I did a post on this over on Dell's blog for Girl Week a couple of years ago.


      The Story of Temple Drake-This was one of the key films that brought on the enforcement of the Production Code and was considered so salacious that it was locked away (for a time it was thought to be completely lost) and wasn't readily available to view until the 2010's.

      The other two both star early Barbara Stanwyck-The Bitter Tea of General Yen and especially Baby Face. The second is another that led to the Code being brought to the fore, in fact the original ending was considered so brutal and cynical that the censors forced Warners to replace it with a "happier" one.

    3. I'll add them to my list! Thank you!

  2. I really love this film a lot as it showcases why Chaplin is so revered as a filmmaker. I love his shorts but his feature work is just as incredible as he proved what he can do in the world of silent cinema as he didn't start doing talkies until 1940 is when he really got to show his idea in being a storyteller. I know people prefer Buster Keaton over Charles Chaplin but you can't go wrong with either. Limelight I think is one of his best films and the scene late in the film with Keaton and Chaplin together is something comedy fans need to see.

  3. I like this film better than you did and enjoyed the boxing scene but also the scenes he has with the rich guy who is his friend when the rich guy is drunk but the opposite when he is sober. I do like slapstick and I enjoy his films but I love Buster Keaton more.

    1. I haven't seen a ton of Buster Keaton. I'll have to look out for more of him!


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