Charles Chaplin’s “City Lights” (1931), the last of the director/comedian’s silent films, screens March 21 as part of the CSO at the Movies series. But if you’d like a sneak peek, the Criterion Collection recently released a Blu-ray transfer of the film. (And the Gene Siskel Film Center screened it in December.)
Of the movie, film critic Roger Ebert once wrote: “If only one of Charles Chaplin’s films could be preserved, ‘City Lights’ would come the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp — the character said, at one time, to be the most famous image on earth.”
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has a long history with “City Lights,” which features a score that Chaplin wrote himself. The CSO presented the film in 2001 and then scheduled it again in 2004 to launch the first season of the CSO at the Movies series. Billed as a “comedy romance in pantomime,” “City Lights” is a movie “about a man [Chaplin] who never speaks, courting a woman [Virginia Cherrill] who can’t see, so their love is expressed in gestures of kindness, and restricted by sensory barriers,” writes critic Scott Tobias in a review of the Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray transfer of the film. “There’s a purity to it that’s unlike any screen romance, and its poignance suffuses the entire film.”
RELATED: From the New Yorker — When Chaplin took 342 takes of a scene in “City Lights.”
PHOTO: The Little Tramp (Charles Chaplin) greets the blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) in “City Lights.” The first wife of screen icon Cary Grant, Cherrill also was a native of Carthage, a town in west-central Illinois.