City Lights

Integration of Sound and Image in Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) College

In 1927, The Jazz Singer, the first feature length film which synchronised singing and dialogue with pre-recorded music score and sound, was released. Within the span of less than three years, sound technology had become established in the film industry. Enter 1931, and Charlie Chaplin, one of the silent greats, had just completed City Lights, defiant in its silence in the era of sound. Yet, it would be reductive to say that Chaplin completely spurned sound technology without considering how it would add to his style (Flom, 61). The reality was that City Lights represented the beginning of Chaplin’s gradual integration into sound, and appropriation of sound into his distinctive Chaplinesque style (Flom, 63).

Critics like Eric L. Flom and Donna Kornhaber have made arguments for Chaplin’s distinctive filmmaking style, and his creative integration of sound with his pantomime style. This essay will reiterate and build on the prevailing discourse on the use of sound in City Lights (1931), through a deeper textual and theoretical analysis of the film, informed by Fran Apprich’s paper “Born into Sound”. The essay will utilise Apprich’s image-sound approach to City Lights, to explicate on how Chaplin deftly plays with silence and...

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