Posts Tagged ‘mime’

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City Lights-1931

Many film scholars while discussing Chaplin films, make it a point of Chaplin being still stuck into silent mode (as though he was caught off guard) while movies were celebrating the freedom of sound all around. Of course talkies brought some silent stars to greater fame while ruined career for a few,- John Gilbert being one, Charley Chaplin may not have had anything to fear from sound. By 1931, the Marx Brothers had already unleashed two talkies in their inimitable style but Chaplin had nothing to fear from that quarter since their styles vastly differed. His tramp image had too solid a base to weather the advent of talkies for sometime. In fact he resisted for three years when he made the film. However he gave the film a full musical score (composed by himself, perhaps not in the same class as the theme for Limelight) and sound effects, but he stopped short of speech. But for all that City Lights is a masterpiece and its strength shines through in spite of it.
I think the genius of Chaplin lay in more than abundant measure, in areas where he could convey better in mime than sound; in pathos, drollery or pure cussedness, sound could not have been a proper substitute. In order to illustrate my point think of that famous scene in The Gold Rush where he tackles a boiled shoe? Not a word is necessary and gestures speak volumes and actions in their physical detailing, how he spears shoelaces for example, make words redundant. Take the last scene of City Lights where the blind girl sees for the first time his ‘benefactor’ the close up shot of the tramp registers everything that needed to be said in the expression.
‘If only one of Charles Chaplin’s films could be preserved, “City Lights” (1931) would come the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp-( Roger Ebert /  December 21, 1997)
Charles Chaplin as the Little Tramp, makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who gets an impression somehow that he is a millionaire. There is a subplot in which the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. When drunk, the millionaire expansively treats the tramp as a friend and equal; but sober, he doesn’t even recognize him. These two story lines come together when the tramp attempts to raise enough money for the blind girl to have an eye operation. In the end it is a casual gift of a thousand dollars from his drunken millionaire friend that eventually will pay for the operation. Unfortunately like many of the tramp’s efforts things go wrong: he is mistakenly accused of stealing by the millionaire who, as I said earlier, is entirely another persona when sobers up.
He had tried raising funds by honest methods (street sweeping and a hilarious sequence in the ring) and before he is caught by the law, however manages to pass on the funds to the girl for the operation. And the poignant final scene splices pathos, slapstick and what have you, shows the blind girl who can see now for the first time. It is magnificent, and an inspired finale to some eighty minutes of fine film-making. Rightly this film deserves the praise of being the best picture of 1931 to have rolled out of Hollywood studios.
Similar Movies
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Vagabond  (1916, Charles Chaplin)
The Tramp  (1915, Charles Chaplin)
À Nous la Liberté  (1931, René Clair)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
For Heaven’s Sake  (1926, Sam Taylor)
Mon Oncle  (1958, Jacques Tati)
Allou To Oniro Ki Allou To Thavma  (1957, Dimitris Loukakos, Petros Yiannakos)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
The Great Dictator  (1940, Charles Chaplin)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
A Woman of Paris  (1923, Charles Chaplin)
A King in New York  (1957, Charles Chaplin)
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Gold Rush  (1925, Charles Chaplin)
Other Related Movies
is related to:      Unknown Chaplin: Hidden Treasures  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
Unknown Chaplin: The Great Director  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
30 Years of Fun  (1963, Robert Youngson)
Chaplin  (1992, Richard Attenborough)

Cast & Credits
A Tramp: Charles Chaplin
Blind Girl: Virginia Cherrill
Her Grandmother: Florence Lee
Millionaire: Harry Myers
Millionaire’s Butler: Allan Garcia
Prizefighter: Hank Mann

A film directed, produced, written and edited by Charles Chaplin. Photographed by Mark Marklatt, Gordon Pollock and Roland Totheroh. Music by Charles Chaplin, arranged and conducted by Alfred Newman. (Some modern video versions have the Chaplin score re-recorded by Carl Davis.) Running time: 87 minutes.

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