Charlie Chaplin Filmography Continued
A Woman of Paris
Charles Chaplin's first, long awaited, independent production for United
Artists, the company he had formed in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary
Pickford and D.W. Griffith, begins with an only partially true caveat from
its creator: "To The Public - In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I
wish to announce that I do not appear in this picture. It is the first
serious drama written and directed by myself. Charles Chaplin." Chaplin
does appear, in a walk-on as a train station porter. It is indeed a serious
drama but it is much more than that. It is a film that set new standards
in silent dramatic acting and directing. It influenced other film makers so
deeply that many of its innovations seem outdated only because of their
constant imitation in films by others. It is a study in the psychology of
the vagaries of love.
Marie St. Clair, a simple girl living in a small French town, peers out of
her bedroom window, awaiting her lover, artist Jean Millet. Her suspicious
step-father locks her in her room. When Jean arrives to discuss their plans
to elope the next day, he climbs up to her bedroom window and helps her
down to the ground. Her step-father then locks her out entirely. Jean
brings her to his home but they are scorned by his father and angry words
are exchanged between father and son. Jean and Marie resolve to leave for
Paris that night. They go to the railroad station, where Jean leaves Marie
with money for tickets, while he returns home to pack. A final parting
with his parents brings on a fatal stroke to his father and when Marie
calls to find out why he's late, Jean tells her that he must stay. Taking
this as a rejection of her, Marie boards the train by herself. (The lights
from the arriving train moving across Marie's body are the only indication
given of the train itself.)
A year later in Paris, Marie is a kept woman and her keeper is Pierre
Revel, the richest bachelor in town and one of the slimiest. Their
relationship is subtly established when Revel, calling for Marie to take
her to dinner, goes to a dresser in her bedroom and removes one of his
handkerchiefs. Marie, it would seem, is more enamoured of Revel than he is
with her. The next morning finds Pierre in his "office", his bed with a
ticker tape machine close at hand. A magazine article announces his
engagement to an equally wealthy woman and Revel's secretary wonders how
Marie will take the news. We see her reaction when two of her friends
visit and bring the magazine. Marie tries to react cooly, but by her body
language she is clearly upset.
Later, when Revel comes to pick up Marie for dinner, she confronts him
about the engagement and is told that it will make no difference in their
relationship, that "we can go on just the same". Marie refuses to go out
with Pierre, who leaves saying he'll come back when she's in a better mood.
Soon Marie gets a phone call from her girlfriend, inviting her to a wild
party in the bohemian Latin Quarter. Getting the address wrong, Marie
accidentally arrives at the studio where Jean and his mother now live.
The two are glad to see each other but the passage of time has made them
formal and they conceal their real emotions. Observing their penurious
condition Marie hires Jean to paint her portrait.
Jean arrives at Marie's flat to discuss her wardrobe for the portrait
and in the course of retrieving a scarf from a dresser drawer, the maid
accidentally drops one of Pierre's collars from the dresser, making Marie's
relationship with Revel clear to the artist.
As the days pass and the portrait nears completion, Jean again falls in
love with Marie, whom he stills sees as the country girl he once knew,
evidenced by the portrait, showing her as she appeared back then. When he
professes his love, Marie is noncommittal, split between marriage and a
family and the luxury she now enjoys.
When she confronts Pierre with her desire for marriage and children he
chides her, pointing to her pearl necklace as evidence of her happiness.
Marie rips it off her neck and throws it out the window, to which Pierre
reacts nonchalantly. When a tramp on the street picks up the necklace,
Marie chases him down the street to retrieve it much to the amusement of
Pierre who watches from a window. Apparently the necklace does have
importance for Marie. Pierre confronts her about the artist and she admits
that she loves and will marry him. Pierre takes the news cooly and
dubiously, telling her that he'll see her for dinner the next evening.
In the artists garret, Jean and his mother argue about Marie. She is
adamant that he not marry her because of her reputation. Browbeaten,
he finally declares that he has reconsidered his proposal, and is overheard
by Marie who has just arrived, presumably to rekindle their love. She
confronts him and cooly confirms that the proposal was a mistake. But it is
clear that Jean still loves her and that his statement was made for his
mother's sake alone. He sets out to stalk Marie in hopes of re-establishing
That night Pierre dines at a fancy restaurant with Marie's friend Paulette,
whom he sends home in a taxi. When he arrives home he attempts to phone
Marie, who is calling him at the same instant. They make plans to dine the
The next day, as Marie receives a massage, her friend Fifi tells her of
Pierre's infidelity with Paulette. We don't see Marie's reactions, just the
disapproving glares of the masseuse as she continues her work. When
Paulette arrives and privately tells Fifi that she intends to see Revel
again that evening, Fifi relays the information to Marie. In Paulette's
presence, Marie telephones Pierre to make arrangements for dinner, causing
Paulette to leave in dismay, to the derisive laughter of Marie and Fifi.
Later we observe the desperate Jean loading a revolver, which it would seem
he intends to use on Revel. At the fancy restaurant where Pierre and Marie
dine that night, Jean confronts the couple, incensed by Pierre's possession
of the note he has written to Marie to ask for one last meeting. Ejected
from the restaurant for starting a disturbance, he stands alone in the
lobby, withdraws the gun and commits suicide, to the shock and horror of
The body is brought to the artist's garret and his distraught mother takes
up his revolver and goes to Marie's flat. Told that Marie has just left
for Jeans apartment she returns there, but finding Marie grieving over
Jean's body, puts down the gun and forgivingly approaches Marie.
Some time later Marie and the mother are living together in a country house
which they operate as an orphanage. Marie takes some of the children to buy
milk from a local farmer. On the same road is Revel, riding in his
limousine. His friend asks him what ever happened to Marie. He shrugs.
Marie, riding home on the back of a farmer's wagon, and Revel in his auto,
pass each other on the country road, unaware of each other's presence.
Edna Purviance - Marie St. Clair
Adolphe Menjou - Pierre Revel
Lydia Knott - Jean's Mother
Carl Miller - Jean Millet
Henry Bergman - Maitre d'Hotel
Charles French - Jean's Father
Nellie Bly Baker - Masseuse
Charles Chaplin - Station Porter
Clarence Geldert - Marie's Father
Karl Gutman - The Orchestra Conductor
Betty Morrissey - Fifi. Marie's Friend
Harry Northrup - Man About Town
Malvina Polo - Paulette, Marie's Friend
Monta Bell - Film Editor
Charles Chaplin - Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Music
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer
Rollie Totheroh - Cinematographer
Jack Wilson - Cinematographer
Chaplin Directing Woman of Paris with Rollie Totheroh,
Jack Wilson, Harry D'Arrast.
The Gold Rush
1925 - 87 min.
The Gold Rush, Charles Chaplin's second feature for United Artists,
was the film by which, he said at the time, he wanted to be remembered.
It is considered by most critics and directors to be one of the greatest
films ever made, an epic, but with the delicate character touches that so
characterize Chaplin's later work. Its setting and theme were suggested to
Chaplin by two sources - seeing a stereopticon slide of gold miners
climbing the Chilkoot Pass in 1898 Alaska, and reading of the Donner party,
who had to resort to cannibalism to survive their pioneering journey across
the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1846. It is truly amazing that Chaplin could
fashion one of his greatest comedies from these images of hardship and
It was released in two versions by Chaplin, as a silent in 1925 and again
in 1942 with a narration spoken by Chaplin and a wonderful music score
composed by him, but substantially changed in plot with regard to two of
the major characters. The synopsis below is of the original version.
In the frozen north of the 1890's a long line of prospectors struggle up
the forbidding mountains in pursuit of gold, and a lone prospector,
Charlie, rounds a snowy crag unaware that he is pursued by a large bear,
who ambles into his cave as Charlie trudges on.
Next we meet Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain) who has just found and staked his
claim on a mountain of gold.
Sliding on his rear down a snowy slope, Charlie stops to get his bearings
with the help of a paper compass, and soon encounters the grave marker of a
fellow prospector, lost in the snow.
The elements are the co-star of the film and a huge blizzard drives Charlie
into the cabin of fugitive murderer, Black Larsen (Tom Murray). Starving
he finds a partially uneaten meat bone and gnaws on it ravenously. Emerging
from hiding from a potentially dangerous intruder, Larsen tries to chase
Charlie from the cabin but is blown out the back door by the furious wind
as Charlie opens the front. They are soon joined by Big Jim and a fight
ensues when Larsen threatens the others with a shotgun. As Jim and Larsen
struggle, Charlie energetically tries to avoid the shotgun barrel which
always seems pointed in his direction. Big Jim wins the fight, and the
three settle into an uneasy peace.
After days of hunger it is decided that the three will cut cards to see who
goes for food. Black Larsen loses and bids farewell to the others. He
comes upon the camp of two lawmen and in a shootout, kills them both and
takes off with their supplies.
On Thanksgiving day Charlie prepares dinner for Big Jim and himself, a
feast of Charlie's right shoe. There follows one of the most brilliant and
celebrated scenes in film history as Charlie feasts on the sole and
consumes it as a gourmet would a sumptuous meal, twirling the laces like
spaghetti, sucking the boot nails like bones and offering a bent one to Jim
as if it were a wish bone, as Jim chews on the upper, clearly disgusted.
Meanwhile, Black Larsen has found Big Jim's gold claim and has set to work
filling a sled with gold.
Back at the cabin the pair are hungry again, but Jim refuses Charlie's
offer to cook the other boot. Instead, Jim's hunger crazed mind transforms
Charlie into a huge chicken, which he chases around the cabin until Charlie
seizes what he takes to be Jim's fur clad leg, but is actually the leg of a
large bear. When it runs out of the cabin, Charlie grabs the rifle and
shoots. Sending Big Jim out for the meat, Charlie busily sets the table.
The end of the storm causes a parting of the ways, Charlie to the mining
town and Jim back to his claim. He confronts Black Larsen there, who fells
Jim with a blow from a shovel. Larsen escapes with the stolen gold, but
the elements intervene and he is carried to his death as the cliff upon
which he stands breaks off, plunging him into the chasm.
Charlie arrives in town, selling his mining gear and proceeding to the
saloon where he firsts sees Georgia (Georgia Hale), a dance hall girl
tired of her life, and ladies man Jack Cameron who seeks her attention.
Georgia has just received some photos of herself and Jack snatches one from
her hands, tearing it and provoking her anger. The Little Fellow, always
the outsider, is smitten by Georgia when he mistakenly takes her greeting
of another Charlie, standing behind him, for his own, but is dejected as
she walks past his outstretched hand. He finds the torn photo on the floor
and surreptitiously picks it up. He overhears Georgia's complaint's about
her boredom and desire to meet someone "worthwhile". Her eyes scan the
room and pass over Charlie, standing close by.
Jack is there celebrating with the other dance hall girls but when he
demands Georgia dance with him, she spitefully chooses the most unlikely of
partners - Charlie. As they dance, Charlie loses his belt and the famous
baggy pants begin to fall. Luckily Charlie spots a nearby rope and ties it
around his waist, only to find that the other end is tied to a large dog,
who pulls the Tramp over when it takes off after a cat.
Jack again confronts Georgia but Charlie intervenes. Jack pulls Charlie's
derby down over his eyes and in the ensuing scuffle Jack is accidentally
knocked out by a falling clock. Charlie, thinking he felled Jack with a
single blow exits the saloon triumphantly.
Charlie's next task is to find a place to live. Passing by the cabin of
Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman), and smelling the food cooking within, he
feigns unconsciousness. Kindly Hank carries him inside, stiff as a board,
and gives him food and drink.
Meanwhile Big Jim wanders aimlessly in the snow, suffering from amnesia due
to the blow he had received from Black Larsen.
Hank leaves the cabin in Charlie's care while he goes to tend his mine.
Charlie, filling an oil lamp spills some of the fuel on his cloth wrapped
foot. Georgia and her girlfriends, playing near the cabin, engage in a
snowball fight. An errant snowball hits the cabin door and when Charlie
opens it to investigate, he's hit in the face with another. He's delighted
to see Georgia again, and she feigns equal delight.
Invited into the cabin, Georgia finds her torn picture and the rose she had
given Charlie under the pillow on his bed. She shows these jokingly to the
others, and the girls make a fuss over Charlie when he returns from
fetching firewood. One of them accidentally drops a lit match on Charlie's
inflammable wrapped foot and he unknowingly places the burning appendage
under her chair. When her seat begins to burn Charlie douses the fire and
puts his foot in a bucket of water. The girls depart, Georgia promising
that they'll come to dinner on New Years Eve.
In order to earn money for the dinner, Charlie shovels snow in town, piling
it from one store front onto the next until he realizes that the last one
is the jail house.
On New Year's Eve, in the now festively decorated cabin, Charlie busily
prepares dinner, while a celebration is going on in the nearby saloon.
After setting the table with party favors and basting the roast, he sits
down to rest and we next see him entertaining the girls, who are excitedly
displaying their presents. Charlie, asked to make a speech, instead
performs the brilliant "Dance of the Oceana Rolls", one of the most
enduring images in film history. He spears two dinner rolls with forks and
uses them as dancing feet.
In the darkened background his head and upper body seem to meld with the
image and he elegantly dances, kicks, shuffles and splits, to the delight of the girls.
When the performance ends the image crossfades to a dreaming Charlie, who is
alone in the cabin.
On the stroke of midnight Georgia and Jack are together in the saloon,
ringing in the New Year. Georgia fires a pistol and the report awakens
Charlie in the cabin. Realizing he's been stood up, he stands in his
doorway listening to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" coming from the
saloon. He makes his way to the saloon, observing from the window the
Georgia remembers her promise and suggests that they all go to the cabin
and have some fun at Charlie's expense. On their way out of the saloon Jack
asks Georgia if she loves him; she says yes and they kiss. When they show
up at the cabin, Georgia goes in first and seeing the party preparations,
realizes that the joke has gone too far. When the others come in she
chases them out, and when Jack forces another kiss, she slaps him angrily.
The next day, Big Jim wanders into town and going to the assayers office,
he unsuccessfully tries to stake his claim, but can't recall its location.
He says that if he could find the cabin he could locate his mountain of
Sitting at a balcony table in the saloon, Georgia writes a note to Jack
apologizing for her behaviour and professing her love. As Charlie wanders
into the dance hall, Jack, who is sitting with the other dance hall girls,
receives the note. Observed by Georgia, he disdainfully laughs and tells
the waiter who delivered it to take it to Charlie who is overjoyed when he
reads it and tries to locate Georgia. Just then he bumps into Big Jim who
raucously tells Charlie that if he can take him to the cabin, he'll make
Charlie a millionaire. An astonished Georgia watches as Charlie climbs to
the balcony and bids her farewell declaring his love.
Back at the cabin, this time well stocked with food and drink, the two
prospectors settle in for the night. During the night another storm blows
the cabin to the brink of a precipice, a rope attached to the cabin and
lodged in some rocks, the only thing which keeps it from plummeting over
the edge. When the men arise in the morning, Charlie believes that the
rocking of the cabin as he moves from end to end is due to his
overindulgence the night before. They soon discover their predicament and
in a hilarious scene, they attempt to escape from the teetering cabin.
Finally safe on the cliff as the cabin falls, Big Jim discovers that the
spot on which they're standing is his mountain of gold.
On board a liner returning to America, Big Jim and Charlie are now multi-
millionaires. Asked to pose for press photographers in his old mining
clothes Charlie repairs to his cabin to change. He gazes longingly at
Georgia's gilt framed photo; she was gone when he returned to the mining
On deck, Charlie poses for the press. Asked to step backward, he falls to
the deck below into a coil of ropes, beside which sits Georgia, returning
to the States in steerage. Having overheard crew members discussing a
stowaway for whom they're searching, Georgia assumes it's Charlie and she
attempts to hide him. When he's discovered, she offers to pay his fare to
prevent his arrest. The captain descends from above and identities Charlie
as Big Jim's partner, the multi millionaire, much to Georgia's shock and
amazement. Charlie tells his butler to prepare for a guest, and when a
reporter asks who the girl is, his whispered answer elicits the pressman's
Asked to pose together on the upper deck, they look at each other and kiss.
The reporter complains that they've ruined the picture (perhaps implying
Chaplin's anticipation of criticism for ruining the film with a happy
ending) but Charlie waves him away, and as he and Georgia continue their
kiss, the scene fades out.
The changes made to the film for the 1942 re-release - eliminating the
closing kiss, changing Georgia's note from a love note to Jack to an
apology to Charlie, and cutting the scene where Georgia confesses her love
for Jack, softens Georgia's character and lessens the importance of Jack's.
The new ending has Charlie and Georgia making their way up the steps to the
upper deck, and into a less certain future, as the scene fades.
Spoiling the picture
Charlie Chaplin - The Lone Prospector
Mack Swain - Big Jim McKay
Tom Murray - Black Larson
Georgia Hale - Georgia
Henry Bergman - Hank Curtis
Malcolm Waite - Jack Cameron
Stanley "Tiny" Sanford - Bartender
Kay Deslys - Georgia's Friend
Joan Lowell - Georgia's Friend
Betty Morrissey - Georgia's friend
Albert Austin - Prospector
Charles "Heinie" Conklin - Prospector
Allan Garcia - Prospector
John Rand - Prospector
Tom Wood - Prospector
Barbara Pierce - Manicurist
Ben R. Hart
Charles Chaplin - Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Film Editor, Music
Edward Sutherland - Associate Director
Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast - Assistant Director
Charles Riesner - Associate Director
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer
Jack Wilson - Cameraman
Charles D. Hall - Technical Director
1928 - 87 minutes
The Circus, Charlie Chaplin's last truly silent film, is perhaps his
most underrated feature and certainly one of the funniest. It was made
during a difficult period for Chaplin - his divorce from Lita Grey, his
mother's death and a near-nervous breakdown, and was beset by production
problems - ruined footage and a studio fire.
Under the big top of a travelling circus and side show, a bareback rider
jumps through a paper hoop. The show is on, lead by a stern Ring Master,
the step-father of the star equestrienne, Merna. Her act over, Merna
receives a berating and some rough treatment for missing a hoop. When the
clowns come off they receive similar remarks.
Out on the midway, a crowd is gathered in front of a fun house. Near the
back of the crowd we see hungry and broke Charlie from the rear. A
pickpocket is at work nearby, and noticing a nearby cop he deposits his
booty, a watch and wallet, into an unknowing Charlie's pocket. The cop
gives chase to the pickpocket as Charlie makes his way to a hot dog stand,
where he cajoles a toddler into sharing his hot dog. Along comes the
pickpocket who attempts to relieve Charlie of the goods but is caught by
another cop, who returns the valuables to Charlie, who promptly orders
lunch. As he eats, the pickpocket's original victim arrives and spots his
watch and wallet when Charlie pays for his food. Another cop is summoned
and Charlie takes to his heels. When the pickpocket shakes his cop the two
pursuees meet on the run and Charlie scurries into the fun house and ends
up in the hall of mirrors. The crook soon catches up to him and in an
ingenious scene Chaplin uses the mirrors to confuse him and momentarily
escape. At the entrance to the funhouse, the pickpocket grabs Charlie, but
observed by two cops, Charlie transforms into an automaton like the others
adorning the attraction, and repeatedly strikes the crook with his own
blackjack in clockwork style. The chase renews when the third cop emerges
from the funhouse and seeing the crook collapse, takes him into custody.
Charlie flees back into the hall of mirrors and there confounds the cop who
had followed him.
Pursued by the cop, Charlie flees into the big top and becomes the hit of
the show, as the chase takes center stage. He evades the cop, hiding in a
magician's cabinet and further delights the audience by messing up the
magic act. Chased out of the big top, and evading his own pursuer, Charlie
encounters the arrested thief and hands over the watch and wallet to the
unsuspecting cop, before sitting down to rest on a small cart. The
audience in the circus is displeased with the antics of the regular clowns
and demands to see more of "the funny man", who at that moment is asleep in
Meal time after the show finds Merna sitting outside her wagon, gazing at
the clowns eating. She has been forbidden food by her step father as
punishment for missing her hoop. A clown (Henry Bergman) tries to give
her part of his meal but is stopped by the mean Ring Master, who soon
discovers Charlie sleeping in the cart. He offers Charlie a tryout as a
clown the next day.
The next morning Charlie boils a can of water just outside Merna's wagon
and chases after a chicken, returning a moment later with an egg. Merna,
emerging from her trailer, see Charlie's bread laying there and hungrily
begins to eat it. Returning with fire wood, Charlie discovers her and
after a scolding, shares his bread with her. As they get acquainted, the
boss comes along and slaps Merna for eating and sends her back to the
trailer. He then leads a piqued Charlie off to his tryout, but Charlie
flips Merna the boiled egg before he follows.
Charlie gleefully watches the other clowns perform their routines, but is
inept himself, accidentally pasting the boss with soap during a barber shop
sketch. He's unceremoniously thrown out and meets Merna outside, where he
explains that he and the boss "couldn't come to terms". The show is
starting and Charlie watches through a hole in the tent. The stagehands go
on strike and Charlie is drafted by the head hand (Tiny Sandford). He
has to set up some juggling plates but he's chased by a circus mule onto
center stage, tumbling and delighting the crowd. He's told to help the
magician set up, and accidentally pushes a secret button on his table,
causing all manner of things to emerge from it. The audience goes wild
watching Charlie's struggles, and the Ring Master realizes that Charlie's a
hit only when he's not trying to be funny. He instructs Tiny to keep
Charlie on as a property man. He's kept busy doing chores, including
blowing a pill down the throat of a horse, who blows first. Reeling from
this, he's chased by the mule straight into a lion's cage, the door locking
behind him. A noisy dog adds to Charlie's obvious discomfort. Merna finds
him there and promptly faints, but Charlie revives her by sprinkling water
from the lion's trough. Charlie feigns courage. but as Merna lets him out,
the lion's roar scares him enough to send him up a pole, from which he
descends in a most balletic way.
Merna tells Charlie that he's the hit of the show; he says he knew it all
along. Overhearing the conversation, the Ring Master, angered over her
revealing the truth to Charlie, strikes Merna. Charlie threatens to walk if
Merna is hit again and then demands his true worth. The Ring Master offers
to double his first bid of $60 a week, but Charlie won't take less than
Before the next performance Charlie overhears Merna having her fortune told
and assumes himself to be the dark, handsome man about whom she's foretold.
He buys a ring from the fat clown, but going to find Merna, he observes her
meeting with Rex, a tightrope walker, just added as a new attraction. He
then overhears Merna excitedly telling the fortune teller that she has
fallen in love with the tightrope walker. The news causes Charlie to give a
lacklustre performance. As he watches Merna and Rex in conversation, his
jealous, alter-ego spirit rises from the seated Charlie and gives Rex a
sound thrashing, but it's just a daydream. Merna spots Charlie and
introduces the two men, then makes Charlie sit and watch Rex's act with
her, despite his dislike for high wire acts.
The next days bring a flowering of Rex's and Merna's romance, while Charlie
tries to compete by learning to walk the wire, albeit from only a few feet
above ground. As a clown however, he's a failure and the boss threatens to
fire him if he gets no laughs next show.
The show's about to start and Rex is missing. The Ring Master, having
observed Charlie's tight rope practice, and knowing he has Charlie insured,
demands he go on in Rex's place. In order to impress Merna, Charlie
accepts. In trying to find Rex's costume, Charlie unwittingly releases a
bunch of monkeys from a trunk, and dressing in Rex's breakaway tails,
forgets to don the leotard that goes underneath. He bribes a stagehand to
operate a wire from which Charlie is tethered by a harness. Unaware of
this, Merna begs Charlie not to risk going on, but Charlie's wire gets
caught in a power generator and his shocked reactions makes Merna think
he's rebuking her.
At first the high wire act goes well, Charlie amazing the crowd with his
acrobatics. But soon the harness slips off and Charlie is just trying to
make his way to the end of the wire. Now the monkeys make their way up to
the rope and create havoc, climbing all over Charlie, biting his nose and
tearing away his pants. He finally makes his way to the bicycle at the end
of the wire and does the "ride for life" - straight out of the tent and
into a nearby grocery. The Ring Master, annoyed at Charlie's survival,
beats Merna for knocking over a props table into which he had pushed her.
Coming into the tent Charlie knocks the boss down and lays into him. He's
removed by the burly head stagehand and fired by the boss.
That night, Charlie sits by a campfire out in the country. Merna finds him
there and tells him she's left the circus. She begs to be taken along with
him, but he realizes that would be no life for her. Leaving her there, he
goes to see Rex and suggests that he marry her, giving him the ring he'd
bought earlier. Rex obviously agrees because the next morning sees them
exiting a church with Charlie along throwing rice and celebrating.
The circus is leaving town. When the trio show up at the caravan, Rex
prevents another berating of his new wife, presenting the Ring Master with
the marriage license. Step-father relents and shakes Rex's hand as the
couple decides to stay with the circus. Charlie is also forgiven but
declines to ride in the newlywed's wagon, saying that he'll ride in a wagon
behind. Charlie has no such intention however, realizing that there's no
place for him there. In a moving and exquisite scene, he sits in the stark
morning sunlight, watching the wagons pull away. Picking up a torn piece of
paper from the bareback rider's hoop, he stands, crumples it up and back
kicks it away, before jauntily walking off to his next adventure.
Chaplin won a special Academy Award in 1928 for his "versatility and genius
in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus" and was also
nominated for best actor and best comedy director.
Charles Chaplin - The Tramp
Merna Kennedy - Equestrian
Harry Crocker - Rex, the Tightrope Walker
Allan Garcia - Circus Owner
Betty Morrissey - The Vanishing Lady
Henry Bergman - The Old Clown
George Davis - Magician
Steve Murphy - The Pickpocket
John Rand - Assistant Property Man
Tiny Sandford - The Head Property Man
Hugh Saxon - Pickpocket's Victim
Charles Chaplin - Director / Editor / Composer (Music Score) /
Cinematographer / Producer / Screenwriter
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer
Charles Hall - Production Designer
Harry Crocker - Asst. Director
1931 - 87 min.
Generally recognized as Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece, City Lights is
a non-dialogue comedy released over three years after the debut of talking
pictures. It is a sound film, containing Chaplin's delightful, first complete film score
and some sound effects, but Chaplin correctly eschewed talking for pantomime, of
which he was the master.
At the t-intersection of two city streets a crowd is gathered to watch the
unveiling of a new statue. On the rostrum are various dignitaries who make
speeches, the sounds of which are portrayed by the squawking of kazoos, a
dual comment on the sound of speech in the early talkies, and on the
pomposity of the speakers. When the cover is raised Charlie, the Little
Fellow, is revealed sleeping in the lap of the seated figure. The cries of
those below wake him and as he attempts to climb down his pants bottom is
speared by the sword of one of the other figures. He's left dangling there
as the national anthem plays, as he attempts to stand at attention with
unsure footing. Despite the protests of the dignitaries, Charlie takes his
time descending, resting by seating himself on the face of the second
statue and pausing to tie his shoelace, while resting on another.
That afternoon as Charlie strolls down the street, he's teased by a couple
of mischievous newsboys, then pauses to admire a nude statue in a store
window. As he steps forward and back, appreciating the statue like a true
art connoisseur, the sidewalk elevator lowers and rises, causing some near
misses. When Charlie finally does nearly fall in, he berates the workman
below, until the fully raised elevator reveals him to be a giant of a man.
Later, wandering down the street the Tramp sees a motorcycle cop approach,
and crosses the street amid traffic to avoid him. To reach the opposite
side he enters a parked limousine and exits at the curb. Sitting at the
base of an iron fence is a beautiful girl selling flowers (Virginia
Cherrill). She hears the car door slam and offers Charlie a flower.
Charlie, feeling a bit put upon, agrees to buy a flower, but as the girl
reaches out her hand he accidentally knocks the flower to the ground. He
picks it up and is puzzled as to why she continues to look for it. He then
realizes that she is blind. He gives her what is probably his only coin,
but before she can give him his change the car door slams again and she
assumes that her generous customer has driven off. Smitten with her,
Charlie silently sneaks away to a spot by the fence near a fountain, where
he can admire the girl. She brings a vase to the fountain which she rinses
and unknowingly tosses the water into the Tramp's face. He sneaks away, not
wishing to spoil her illusion of a rich benefactor.
That night Charlie rests on a bench near a canal. Nearby a well dressed,
drunken man (Harry Myers) is tying a rope to a large rock and the other
end around his neck, intending suicide by drowning. Charlie persuades him
that life is worth living, and after a hilarious scene in which they both
end up in the drink, they repair to the home of the man, a millionaire
The millionaire provides drinks and dry clothes and after Charlie stops
another attempt at suicide by the millionaire, who learns from his butler
that his wife has left him, the pair heads out to a restaurant/night club.
At the club the tipsy duo get into trouble with the other customers and
Charlie mistakenly eats a long party streamer thinking it's part of his
plate of spaghetti. In his tipsy state Charlie mistakes an apache dance duo
for a fighting couple and attempts to rescue the female member.
Early morning finds the pair leaving the club in the millionaire's fancy
limousine, which he gives to Charlie when the latter expresses his
admiration for it. Delivering the drunk millionaire to his butler, Charlie
is shut out. He sees Virginia pass by with her baskets of flowers, and when
the butler admits him to the house at his boss's demand, Charlie asks for
money to buy her flowers. He does so, over-tipping her generously and
driving her home in "his" new car. After a romantic farewell at her
doorstep, Charlie drives back to Harry's house, where the butler won't
admit him on the now-sober millionaire's orders. Standing outside the
house, Charlie sees a man pass by smoking a cigar. He jumps into the limo
and follows the man until he throws the butt away, then jumps out of the
limo to retrieve it, pushing an astonished bum out of the way. Returning
to the millionaire's home with the limo, his rich friend, exiting the
house, does not recognize Charlie and drives away.
Later in the afternoon, Charlie passes by a bar and is greeted joyously by
the millionaire who is drunk again. He offers to throw a party in his
house for Charlie and the two drive home together. The party is a wild
affair, during which Charlie accidentally swallows a toy whistle. His
trilling hiccups interrupt a performance by a singer, and summon a bunch of
The next morning the hungover but sober millionaire is quite distressed to
find his bedmate is the unrecognized Charlie, and has him ejected from the
house. The millionaire begins packing to go to Europe and Charlie is again
on his own.
Strolling by Virginia's customary vending spot, Charlie finds she's not
there and goes to her tenement, where he observes through the window that
the girl is ill. In an attempt to keep up his illusion as her rich
benefactor, he takes a job as a street cleaner. Pushing his ashcan, he
changes direction when a group of horses cross his path, and is less than
thrilled when a circus elephant approaches.
On his lunch hour he goes to visit the recovering flower girl, bringing her
groceries and news of a new surgical procedure which could restore her
sight. He's taken back a moment when Virginia expresses her wish to finally
see him. Charlie accidentally finds a letter demanding payment for back
rent which the girls grandmother has hidden from her. Promising to pay the
rent, he departs.
Returning late from lunch, Charlie is fired, but gets a break in an offer
to box in a rigged match in which the participants would secretly split the
purse. Unfortunately his opponent receives a telegram saying that the cops
are on his trail and he "takes it on the lam". His replacement is a tough
fighter (Hank Mann) who refuses the same deal, wanting the match to be
"winner take all". In the brilliant comedy boxing match, the ultimate
development of the earlier scenes in "The Knockout" and "The Champion",
Charlie holds his own by dancing around the ring keeping the referee
between him and his opponent. For a while Charlie seems to have a chance of
winning, but is finally knocked out.
Back on the street fortune smiles on Charlie again when he runs into the
newly returned and freshly tipsy millionaire, who again greets him joyously
and brings him home. By the time they arrive the millionaire has already
agreed to help the girl and gives Charlie $1000, but two robbers who have
been hiding behind a curtain hit the millionaire over the head and steal
his wallet and remaining cash. Fighting them off, Charlie phones the police
and his cries for help bring the butler, who assumes that Charlie is the
perpetrator, as do the arriving police after they search him and find the
$1000. When the millionaire regains consciousness he again doesn't remember
Charlie. Desperate Charlie snatches back the cash from the cop and makes
He goes directly to Virginia's and gives her the money for her rent and the
operation, sadly bidding her goodbye. She guesses that he's going away,
which he admits. Soon, back on the street, Charlie is arrested, but
philosophically accepts his imprisonment - as he's being led through the
prison gate he flips his cigarette butt over his shoulder and back-kicks it
Months pass and a much shabbier Charlie is out of prison, and the recovered
flower girl now has her own florist shop. She lives in hope of seeing her
rich benefactor again, hoping each affluent looking, handsome customer will
he him. As Charlie passes her shop, he picks up a cast-off flower from the
curb. The same pair of newsboys tease him for his raggedness, shooting him
with their pea-shooters and pulling a loose cloth from the seat of his
pants, before he chases them away. All this is observed by a laughing
Virginia from her shop window. When Charlie finally catches sight of her,
he stands transfixed, smiling, his flower falling apart in his hands.
Amused by her new conquest, she offers him a fresh rose and a coin, but as
she exits the shop, he begins to walk away, afraid to reveal his identity.
She insists that he take the flower and grabs his hand to press the coin
into it. Now occurs one of the most beautiful and magical moments in all
film, as Virginia realizes, from the touch of his hand, who he really is.
He asks if she can see now; she answers that yes, she can see, and as they
gaze at each other, she in shock, gratitude and wonder, he in loving hope,
the scene fades out.
Film critic James Agee said of this last scene, "It is enough to shrivel
the heart to see, and it is the greatest piece of acting and the highest
moment in movies".
Charles Chaplin - The Tramp
Virginia Cherrill - The Blind Girl
Harry Myers - The Millionaire
Allan Garcia - The Millionaire's Butler
Hank Mann - The Boxer
Florence Lee - Blind Girl's Grandmother
Albert Austin - Street-cleaner, Burglar
Jean Harlow - Guest in Nightclub (in stills but not in final print)
James Donnelly - Foreman
Eddie Baker - Referee
Henry Bergman - Mayor/Basement Dweller
Robert Parrish - Newsboy
John Rand - Tramp
Stanhope Wheatcroft - Man in Cafe
Charles Chaplin - Director / Editor / Composer /Producer / Screenwriter
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh - Cinematographer
Alfred Newman - Composer (Music Score)
Charles Hall - Art Director
Albert Austin - Asst. Director / Screenwriter
Henry Bergman - Asst. Director / Screenwriter
Harry Crocker - Asst. Director
Modern Times through A Countess from Hong Kong coming soon.
(c)1997-2008 Phil Posner