After the mainstream success of Talkies in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, Silent Films quickly went out of style. In fact, several movies that were in production as silent films were re-shot with sound. There were some, however, who believed that sound in films was just a passing phase and preferred sticking with the old way of making films. One such person was the legendary Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin refused to make his movies Talkies. So when his 1933 movie, City Lights, was released, it was one of the very few Silent Films still being made. While the films features some sound, such as a slide whistle a scene mocking Talkies, the film is very much a Silent Film.
This film is slightly different from most of Chaplin’s previous films. While a vast majority of his earlier work was straight comedy, City Lights is a romantic comedy. The Tramp character meets a blind girl (played by Virginia Cherrill) who sells flowers and is immediately taken with her. She mistakes him as a rich person due to one walking past her and into a car and driving away. She calls out to him to hand him his change, unaware that he is standing right there. The Tramp (I’ll just call him Charlie for the rest of this) slowly walks away so that she can keep the change.
Charlie’s goodness has always been evident in his films, but City Lights is a good example of him going out of his way to help someone who is in need. He gets a job just so he can help her out. He even does a boxing match just to help her pay her late rent. He befriends a drunk millionaire after saving his life from suicide. In the end, he pays to have her have an operation that lets her see again. The final scene is one of the best sad-yet-sweet endings ever.