Fellow Film Club Members & Movie Buffs:
The Producer’s theme for this month is: City Streets & the Human Gesture.
Well, gosh it is April in Paris, & in Tacoma. We dodged the bad Winter most folks in the country experienced, & Spring is evident all about us. Our first film for this month, CITY LIGHTS (1931), was supposed to be set in Paris, before it was changed to Big City, U.S.A. The inimitable Charles Chaplin spent three years making the film, starting in 1928, just before the Wall Street crash. An accomplished musician, he wrote the music for the film as well.
Chaplin began his stage career in England at 8 years old. His understudy, friend, & roommate was Stan Laurel. Traveling to America with a troupe in 1910, he stayed on, getting his first movie contract in 1913 at Keystone Picture Studio. He worked at three different studios over the next four years, writing & directing 65 films. He started his own studio in 1917. In 1919, he joined Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Mary Pickford, & D.W. Griffith, forming United Artists.
His personal life was chaotic, the fodder for newspapers. He, also was outspoken & liberal on political issues & religion. He was married 4 times, & had 11 children. He spoke out against some British policies during WWI & was marked as muckraker. In the late 30’s, J. Edgar Hoover decided Chaplin’s films were injected with “liberal communist propaganda”. Hoover called THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940), “the apex of bad taste & satire”, even though it made 5 million dollars (a fortune at that time), & was nominated for 5 Oscars. It was reported that Adolf Hitler watched that film twice. “I wonder what the hell he thought of it?” quipped Chaplin.
During WWII, Chaplin openly supported the Soviet Union against the Nazis. When America turned their back on Stalin in 1946, Chaplin spoke out his views; Hoover kept building his hit list folder. In 1952, when at the invitation of Winston Churchill, Chaplin traveled to London for the world premiere of LIMELIGHT, he was denied re-entry into the United States. Chaplin spent the rest of his life living in Switzerland.
Reflecting the government’s views, Chaplin’s handprints, footprints & signature were removed from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The cement plate was lost, & never recovered. Chaplin did not receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame until 1972, five years before his death, when he was brought to Hollywood to receive an “Honorary Oscar” for his “Incalculable effect in making motion pictures the art form of the century.”
While living in Switzerland, he only made 2 more films, A KING OF NEW YORK (1957), & A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (1967).
Charlie Chaplin once said, “I have no further use for America. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ were President.”
CITY LIGHTS (1931)
Written & Directed by Charles Chaplin @ 87 minutes.
Synopsis: A tramp falls in love with a beautiful flower girl who was blind, & needed an operation. The tramp’s relationship to an eccentric wealthy man allows him to be the girl’s benefactor & suitor.
Tagline: A Comedy Romance in Pantomime.
Despite enormous pressure from the studio, Chaplin made one of the last Silent Movies, following it with MODERN TIMES (1936), also silent.
Orson Welles, Woody Allen, & Chaplin all considered this as their favorite film.
This film marked the last appearance for his character of the “Little Tramp”. For this film, & all others featuring the Tramp, Chaplin demonstrated a positive outlook on life, so despite living in a chaotic world, the goodness of the human spirit always prevailed.
Trivia: I noticed Chaplin had 3 Assistant Directors on this film, to keep the cameras rolling. It took 180 days ( 6 months) to shoot, with several long delays in the middle of the three years it took to be made. Its budget of 1.5 million dollars was due in part to keeping the crew on salary for most of that time. The first scene where the Tramp buys the flower from the blind girl was re-shot 342 times. He was good friends with Winston Churchill, who visited on the set. Virginia Cherrill, who played the flower girl, was a bit of a prima donna. Chaplin fired her for being “late & difficult to work with” late into the filming. When he found out he could not afford to reshoot most of the movie, he had to hire her back at double her salary.
Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 98% Critic’s Approval & 96% Audience Approval. IMDb rated it at 8.6 stars out of 10.
Dave Kehr of the CHICAGO READER wrote: “A beautiful example of Chaplin’s ability to turn narrative fragments into emotional wholes. The two halves of the film are sentiment & slapstick–they were not blended but woven into a pattern as eccentric as it is sublime.”
So be sure to mark your calendars for this Friday, April 3, 2015, & join the Tacoma Film Club for our screening of one of Charlie Chaplin’s finest films, CITY LIGHTS (1931). It will be shown at the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL), the church building we rent for our screenings, events, parties, & meetings. It is located at 206 N. J Street, on the corner of Division & J Streets, across from the Group Health hospital.
Arrive early, around 6:20 p.m., & join many of us downstairs in the kitchen area for fun, fellowship, & snacks. It is permitted to bring snacks & beverages, including wine & beer, to share with others. Please to clean up after yourselves before coming upstairs to enjoy the movie. There is no food or drink allowed in the sanctuary during the screening.
There will be a Donation Box upstairs by the entrance to the sanctuary. All donated funds will go to help pay the rent for the space, and other TFC expenses–such as membership & business cards & flyers. Our biggest expense is for an annual screening license, allowing us to show films to the public.
Diane Jensen will have the 2015 TFC membership cards available. The cost for the year is still only $20.00, unchanged for all the tenure of the Club (12 years & counting). This year the card is graced with Lauren Bacall. CITY LIGHTS will screen at 7:15 p.m., & it runs for 87 minutes, so the curtain should be down before 9:30 p.m.
See you at the movies!