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Rare Footage of Charlie Chaplin Directing ‘City Lights’ to Perfection

United Artists


Rare Footage of Charlie Chaplin Directing ‘City Lights’ to Perfection

More than 300 takes for a 3 minute scene.

Since his rise to fame during the silent era, Charlie Chaplin is now considered one of the most important filmmakers in movie history. Charlie Chaplin is most well known for his on screen persona “The Tramp” and his slapstick comedy but underneath the lighthearted persona,  he was also a prolific director, writer, and a serious perfectionist. Chaplin was notorious for being the “king of the re-take,” sometimes at the expense of his cast and crew’s energy on set. Chaplin would spend months on a film and perhaps one of the prime instances of his perfectionism was shown in the making of his widely acclaimed film “City Lights.”

City Lights” is a silent romantic comedy film about the Tramp falling in love with a blind girl played by Virginia Cherrill. The filming for the movie kicked off with the first scene at the flower stand where the Tramp and the Blind Flower Girl meet for the first time.

Chaplin had many complaints about the scene but one consists of him claiming that she said her two word line: “Flower, sir?” wrong. Although sound films were on the rise during the time, “City Lights” was a silent film. However, Chaplin insisted that Cherrill was delivering her line with the wrong inflections, resulting in 342 takes over the course of two weeks for a scene that ended up being three minutes.

In the rare behind the scenes footage by the Criterion Collection, you can see Charlie Chaplin as he directs his personal favorite film “City Lights.”

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