City Lights

City Lights Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Virginia Cherrill plays the blind girl in the film. Who was considered to replace her during filming?

    Georgia Hale was to replace Cherrill, as Chaplin and the actress did not get along during filming. Hale did a screen test, and Chaplin didn't feel she could pull off the role as a blind girl convincingly, and they were already spending way over budget on the film. Thus, Cherrill was rehired, and demanded a raise to return, which she received. Notoriously, though their onscreen chemistry is undeniable, Cherrill and Chaplin did not get along in real life, and often butted heads during the filming process.

  2. 2

    Why do the man and woman giving a speech at the unveiling of the statue sound like they have kazoos for voices?

    Chaplin was specifically aiming to make fun of "talkies," the latest innovation in cinema. As a devout maker of silent films, Chaplin resisted the introduction of sound, and made fun of the innovation by incorporating sound into his own film in absurd and parodic ways. Giving these characters a kazoo-sounding voice was Chaplin's comedic response to his competition in the field.

  3. 3

    What is the underlying message of the final scene in the film?

    At the end of the film, the Flower Girl can finally see, but she has no idea that the Tramp is the man who helped her all those months ago. Because she thinks that her benefactor was a wealthy man, the disheveled Tramp, in his tattered trousers, is the last man she imagines to be her one true love. When she touches his hand, however, she immediately recognizes him, and is shocked to find that the man of her dreams is the clownish Tramp. She smiles at him, and the viewer sees that even in spite of these misaligned expectations, there is a deeply felt tenderness shared between the two of them. In short, the message of this final image is that reputation and appearances are less significant than loving kindness and the warmth of human touch.

  4. 4

    What comic concept motors most of the slapstick scenes in the film?

    The Tramp is a kindhearted and well-intentioned man, but he is exceedingly out of step with the world around him. Most of the comic situations he gets into are about his physical unwieldiness and clumsiness. For instance, when he looks at the sculpture in the shop window, he nearly falls down a manhole several times. Then, when he saves the Millionaire from drowning, he accidentally almost ends up drowning himself. The Tramp's clumsiness, the ways his good intentions get botched by his unpredictable body, is a comic motif in the film.

  5. 5

    Where does the film take place?

    The film takes place in some kind of city, but it is never specified which one, and there are never any physical indicators of which city it is. It is a kind of archetypal city, with elements of many well-known places. Playwright and screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood wrote of the city in the film, "it is a weird city, with confusing resemblances to London, Los Angeles, Naples, Paris, Tangiers and Council Bluffs. It is no city on earth and it is all cities."