Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee
Plot: A tramp falls in love with a beautiful blind girl. Her family is in financial trouble. The tramp's on-and-off friendship with a wealthy man allows him to be the girl's benefactor and suitor.
For a subplot, Charles Chaplin first considered a character even lower on the social scale, a black newsboy. The millionaire plot was based on an old idea Chaplin had for a short, where two millionaires pick up the Little Tramp from the city dump and show him a good time in expensive clubs, and then drop him back off at the dump, so when he woke up the Tramp would not know if it was real or a dream. This was rewritten into a millionaire who is a friend of the Tramp when drunk, but does not recognize him when sober.
Charles Chaplin's personal favorite of all his films.
Charles Chaplin re-shot the scene in which the Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower-girl 342 times, as he could not find a satisfactory way of showing that the blind flower-girl thought that the mute tramp was wealthy.
Orson Welles said that this was his favorite movie of all time.
When the film opened on 31 January 1931, Albert Einstein joined Charles Chaplin at the theater. When the film opened in England, George Bernard Shaw joined him.
Charles Chaplin's first film made during the sound era. He faced extreme pressure to make the film as a talkie, but such was his popularity and power in Hollywood that he was able to complete and release the film as a silent (albeit with recorded music) at a time when the rest of the American motion picture industry had converted to sound.
Charles Chaplin invited Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa to join him at the Los Angeles premier on January 30, 1931. When the house lights came up, Chaplin was surprised to see Einstein's eyes tearing at the final scene. Chaplin said in his autobiography that he had not known Einstein to be so "sentimental."
At one point, Virginia Cherrill came back to the set late from an appointment, keeping Charles Chaplin waiting. Chaplin, whose relationship with Cherrill was not friendly, fired her on the spot. He intended to reshoot the film with Georgia Hale, his heroine from The Gold Rush (1925), playing the flower girl; he even reshot the final scene between the tramp and the flower girl with Hale in the role. However, Chaplin had already spent far too much time and money on the project to start over. Knowing this, Cherrill offered to come back to work - at double her original salary. Chaplin reluctantly agreed and the film was completed.
Virginia Cherrill was very near-sighted. Chaplin felt that her unfocused gaze suggested blindness.
The film was inordinately expensive - in excess of $1.5 million - mainly because Charles Chaplin kept his cast and crew on stand-by for 22 months, even though he only actually shot for 179 days.
The plot gradually grew from an initial concept Charles Chaplin had considered after the success of The Circus (1928), where a circus clown goes blind and has to conceal his handicap from his young daughter by pretending that his inability to see are pratfalls.
One of Charles Chaplin's most financially successful and critically acclaimed films despite being released well into the sound era.
The boxing scene required 100 extras and Charles Chaplin took four days to rehearse and six to shoot the scene. Chaplin was initially nervous over the attendance for this scene so he invited his friends to be extras. Over 100 extras were present. Chaplin's performance in the scene was so humorous that more people arrived daily to be an extra.
A river was built at Chaplin's studio, which covered an area of five acres and cost $15,000 to construct. Two streets representing a downtown business section were also constructed at a cost of $100,000.
Psychologist Stephen Weissman has hypothesized that the film is highly autobiographical, with the blind girl representing Charles Chaplin's mother, while the drunken millionaire represents Chaplin's father. Weissman also compared many of the film's sets with locations from Chaplin's real childhood, such as the statue in the opening scene resembling St. Mark's Church on Kennington Park Road and Chaplin referring to the waterfront set as the Thames Embankment.
When the film was re-released in 1950, it was banned in Memphis, TN by censor Lloyd T. Benford because of Charles Chaplin's "immoral" character. This judgement resulted from several personal incidents that plagued Chaplin's career.
The first scenes Charles Chaplin thought up were of the ending, where the newly cured blind girl sees the Little Tramp for the first time. A highly detailed description of the scene was written, as Chaplin considered it to be the centre of the entire film.