The year is 1928, and Charlie Chaplin's The Circus has just released to positive reviews. However, things do not look so positive for the future of the medium which Chaplin championed, the silent film. The first talking picture (called a "talkie") was released in 1927 called the Jazz Singer, making the silent film neither financially viable nor wanted. Chaplin's response to this was City Lights, a film that is often called his crowning achievement, but also a film that was also a struggle to make, taking over three years from the writing of the script, to filming, to editing, and finally to release, making it the film that took Chaplin and his team the longest to make.
City Lights (1931) tells the story of an unfortunate yet resilient tramp and his fall into love with a blind flower girl on the streets of a city. Hoping to help the girl as she struggles to survive, the tramp goes through a series of trials and tribulations that ultimately lead to the trump meeting a drunken millionaire and getting imprisoned. And after a series of comical mishaps and other funny events, the tramp again finds himself on top.
Upon release, City Lights was met with positive, but not universally positive, reviews. Says the Los Angeles Examiner: "not since I reviewed the first Chaplin comedies way back in the two-reel days has Charlie given us such an orgy of laughs." In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked City Lights 11th on its list of the best American films ever made. In 1991 it was inducted into the United States National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance. Chaplin's last silent film, City Lights will be remembered as a true masterpiece.