AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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City Lights
Director: Charles Chaplin (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Mar 1931
Duration (in mins):  87
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Cast: Charlie Chaplin  (A tramp)
  Virginia Cherrill  (A blind girl)
  Florence Lee  (Her grandmother)

Summary: At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into the city, where he meets a beautiful, blind flower girl, and buys a flower with his last coin. That night, he stops a drunken man from drowning himself. Gratefully, the man invites him to his mansion, which is presided over by a snobby butler named James and they begin to drink. The millionaire and the tramp continue their revels at a nightclub. Early the next morning, when they return home, the millionaire drunkenly offers the tramp money and the use of his Rolls Royce. The tramp uses his windfalls to help the flower girl. Because she cannot see his shabby clothes, the girl thinks her benefactor is a wealthy young man. Determined to help her, the tramp returns to the mansion, but the millionaire has sobered up and does not recognize him, so the tramp takes a job cleaning streets and gives the girl and her grandmother what money he can. By accident the tramp finds out they are behind in their rent and that there is a doctor in Vienna who can cure blindness by an expensive operation. Needing money in a hurry to help his friends, the tramp agrees to participate in a crooked boxing match for a cut of the winning purse, but his crooked partner is replaced by a legitmate fighter, who knocks him cold. Out on the streets, the tramp runs into the millionaire, who is back from Europe. Drunk again, he gladly gives the tramp $1,000 for the operation, but two crooks see the transaction and rob them. The tramp calls the police, but by the time they arrive, the crooks have vanished and the police arrest the tramp. He runs away and manages to give the money to the girl before he is taken off to jail. The girl gets her operation and opens up a successful flower shop, imagining her benefactor in every rich young man who comes into the shop. When the tramp gets out of jail, he wanders into the shop by accident. Naturally, she does not recognize him, and laughingly offers him a flower and a coin. He refuses the money, but when she presses it into his hand, she recognizes him by the feel of his skin and is moved. 

Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.
Production Company: Charles Chaplin Productions
Director: Charles Chaplin (Dir)
  Harry Crocker (Asst dir)
  Henry Bergman (Asst dir)
  Albert Austin (Asst dir)
Writer: Charles Chaplin (Scr)

Subject Major: Blindness
  Flower vendors
Subject Minor: Benefactors
  Eye surgery
  False arrests
  Street cleaners

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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