Ross Bonaime, Staff Writer

Charlie Chaplin was easily one of the most influential filmmakers in film’s infancy. He became one of the first successful combinations of writer, director and actor, and still remains one of the most recognizable stars of all time, with his brand of heartfelt and hilarious silent comedy.

And then sound arrived in films. To counteract this rising trend, Chaplin released quite possibly his greatest silent film, City Lights.

Chaplin played his classic character, the tramp, who falls in love with a blind flower girl who mistakes him for a rich man. In order to help the girl receive an operation that could restore her sight, he does anything and takes any job he can find to raise the money for it.

City Lights is beautiful in its simplicity, yet Chaplin, always the perfectionist, makes it a wonder in multiple viewings.

Chaplin shot the film over three years, the longest of any of his films, because of his attempts to make everything perfect. A scene in which the tramp buys a flower from the blind girl was shot 342 times for Chaplin to get it just right.

This dedication to perfection shows why City Lights is one of the greatest comedies and romances of all time.

In this period of convoluted romantic films like Valentine’s Day, City Lights is a warm reminder of the elegance in simplicity. Chaplin’s sheer insistence to help the blind girl and his focus on actions rather than words to convey his feelings show the beauty in his dedication to this girl who has stolen his heart.

The tramp is one of the most likable and sympathetic characters in film history. While he always scrapes by to survive, he still manages to find times to help others, no matter how wealthy they are.

In City Lights, the tramp finds time to help a millionaire who has suicidal tendencies. When the man offers the tramp money, rather than thinking of himself, he immediately rejoices in the help he can give this blind girl who is even in more need than him.

Next year, City Lights will be eighty years old. While the 1930s gave us the great comedic minds of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, amongst others, it is Chaplin who stays even more relevant than the others.

Even eighty years later, it is hard to imagine a romantic tale more perfectly told; the brilliant final shot is simply the perfect example of love and unabashed joy that is still touching.

Chaplin truly pioneered film, yet while everyone else moved on to talking films, Chaplin stayed in the silent realm to create his masterpiece, still showing value in a style that was being left in the dust. As this near-perfect film becomes eight decades old, it shows how Chaplin is one of the greatest filmmakers ever and why City Lights is an ageless gem from The Vault.