Movie Club Weekly – American Film Institute


September 26, 2020

CITY LIGHTS

(1931)

 

CITY LIGHTS ranks #1 on the American Film Institute’s 10 Top 10 list of the art form’s greatest romantic comedies, and has appeared six times on AFI’s lists of the greatest American films – including #11 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition. AFI also named the film’s star and director, Charlie Chaplin, #10 among cinema’s greatest screen legends of all time!

Did you know?

FROM THE AFI ARCHIVE

The film was the hardest production of Charlie Chaplin’s career. It took two years to complete, and Chaplin spent $1.5 million of his own money – the equivalent of nearly $25 million today!

Charlie Chaplin was not in favor of the burgeoning sound technology in film, and he believed it limited actors’ gestural expressions and comedic impact. CITY LIGHTS began as a completely silent production in 1928, but sound was so popular by its conclusion in 1931 that Chaplin was forced to add a musical soundtrack.

CITY LIGHTS marked the first time Charlie Chaplin included sound sequences, but it took another decade for him to make his first “talkie” with dialogue in 1941. It was titled THE GREAT DICTATOR.

Virginia Cherrill was an unknown actress when she was cast as “A Blind Girl” in CITY LIGHTS, but she starred in three other 1931 releases. Four years later, Cherrill became Cary Grant’s first of five wives, but their marriage only lasted seven months.

Charlie Chaplin was a founding member of United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D. W. Griffith. The studio was formed to give artists more control over their films. However, Chaplin was dissatisfied with UA’s handling of CITY LIGHTS and distributed the picture himself.

The premiere of CITY LIGHTS at the Los Angeles Theater marked the first time a movie debuted in downtown LA instead of in Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin attended the gala with Albert Einstein!

CITY LIGHTS grossed $400,000 in its first 12-week run at one theater in New York City, making it one of the top moneymaking films of 1931.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits. Engage with your family, friends and others like you who love the movies. Check out the AFI Movie Club Discussion Questions for this movie and post your responses in the comment section!

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