City Lights is a 1931 American silent film, a romantic comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who is the star. It also has the leads Virginia Cherrill and Harry Myers. Although "talking" pictures were on the rise since 1928, City Lights was immediately popular. Today it is thought of as one of the highest accomplishments of Chaplin's prolific career. Although classified as a comedy, City Lights has an ending widely regarded as one of the most moving in cinema history.
The plot centers around Chaplin's Tramp. Broke and homeless he runs into a drunken millionaire and talks him out of committing suicide. When the millionaire is drunk, he is the best of friends with the Tramp, but when he's sober, he does not remember him. The millionaire takes to the Tramp as his "best friend for life," giving him nice clothes, taking him to parties, and giving him his Rolls Royce. Meeting a poor blind girl who sells flowers on the street, the Tramp falls in love with her and allows her to believe he is a millionaire.
To earn money while the millionaire is traveling in Europe, the Tramp gets a job as a street sweeper but loses it. Learning that the rent is overdue, and the girl and her grandmother risk eviction, the Tramp must raise $22 overnight. He enters a boxing contest but fails to win. A casual gift of $1000 from the returned millionaire pays for the rent and an operation to restore the girl's sight. But, when the millionaire is sober, he accuses the Tramp of stealing the money. The Tramp is arrested and imprisoned.
Several months later, the Tramp has been freed. Searching for the girl, he returns to the original street corner, but she is not there. He finds that, with her sight restored, the girl has opened up a flower shop with her grandmother. Each time a rich man comes into the shop, the girl wonders if he is her mysterious benefactor. When the Tramp sees her through the window, he stares in joy, and she jokes to a colleague that she has "made a conquest." Seeing his flower fall apart in his hand, the girl offers him one of hers and a coin. The Tramp begins to leave, then reaches for the flower. The girl takes hold of his hand to place the coin in it and, feeling him, she realizes who he is. "You?" she says, and he nods, saying, "You can see now?" She whispers, "Yes, I can see now." While she hesitates, the film closes on Chaplin's smile.
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