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City Lights (1931) - Plot Summary Poster

(1931)

Plot

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Summaries

  • With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.

  • 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.

  • Charmingly simple story of The Little Tramp who meets a lovely blind girl selling flowers on the sidewalk who mistakes him for a wealthy duke. When he learns that an operation may restore her sight, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have the surgery. In a series of comedy adventures that only Chaplin could pull off, he eventually succeeds, even though his efforts land him in jail. While he is there, the girl has the operation and afterwards yearns to meet her benefactor. The tear-inducing closing scene, in which she discovers that he is not a wealthy duke but only The Little Tramp, is one of the highest moments in movies.

  • A little tramp living in the big city has a profound effect on two people he meets. The first is a wealthy man, who the tramp saves from killing himself during the wealthy man's drunken stupor. However, the relationship between the wealthy man and the tramp continually changes depending on the drunken or sober state of the wealthy man. The second is a poor blind flower girl, who lives with her destitute grandmother. The kindness of the tramp toward her makes her fall in love with him, as he is with her. By circumstance, she believes that he is a wealthy man. When he learns that an expensive operation can restore her eyesight, the tramp does whatever he can to earn the money to pay for the operation, even if the result is that she will find out that he is not the wealthy man she believes and which by association may make her change her blind opinion of him.

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  • The Little Tramp meets and falls in love with a young blind girl who sells flowers on the street corner. He also befriends an eccentric millionaire who drinks too much and only recognizes him when he is drunk. The Little Tramp gives the girl a ride home in the millionaire's car and she thinks he is rich. After a boisterous party at the millionaire's house, the rich man wakes up and has no idea who the Little Tramp is or why he is there and so throws him out on his ear. When the blind girl and her grandmother fall behind in the rent and face eviction, he tries working and even enters a boxing competition to raise the money they need, but nothing works out. He gets the money from the millionaire but is accused of theft and ends up in jail, but not before getting her enough money to not only pay the rent but to also seek treatment for her blindness. When he's released from jail, they meet again.

  • This classic story of love, tragedy and hope centers around a homeless tramp whom meets and instantly falls in love with a beautiful, albeit blind, flower seller. The tramp, desperate to win her love over, convinces the woman that he is a millionaire and can pay for her to get her sight back. We then follow the ebbs and flows of The Little Tramp's adventures in his pursuit to make good on his promise to The Flower Girl.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The officials of a city unveil a new statue, only to find The Tramp sleeping on it. They shoo him away and he wanders the streets, destitute and homeless, and is soon tormented by two newsboys. He happens upon a beautiful Flower Girl (Virginia Cherrill), not realizing at first that she is blind, and buys a flower. Just when she is about to give him his change, a man gets into a nearby luxury car and is driven away, making her think that the Tramp has departed. The Tramp tiptoes away. That evening, the Tramp runs into a drunken Millionaire (Harry Myers) who is attempting suicide on the waterfront. (It is later mentioned that his wife has sent for her bags.) The Tramp eventually convinces The Millionaire he should live. He takes the Tramp back to his mansion and gives him a change of clothes. They go out for a night on the town, where the Tramp inadvertently causes much havoc. Early the next morning, they return to the mansion and encounter the Flower Girl en route to her vending spot. The Tramp asks The Millionaire for some money, which he uses to buy all the girl's flowers and then drives her home in the Millionaire's Rolls-Royce.

    After he leaves, the Flower Girl tells her Grandmother (Florence Lee) about her wealthy acquaintance. When the Tramp returns to the mansion, the Millionaire has sobered and does not remember him, so has the butler order him out. Later that day, the Millionaire meets the Tramp again while intoxicated, and invites him home for a lavish party. The next morning, having sobered again and planning to leave for a cruise, the Millionaire again has the Tramp tossed out.

    Returning to the Flower Girl's apartment, the Tramp spies her being attended by a doctor. Deciding to take a job to earn money for her, he becomes a street sweeper. Meanwhile, the Grandmother receives a notice that she and the girl will be evicted if they cannot pay their back rent by the next day, but hides it. The Tramp visits the girl on his lunch break, and sees a newspaper story about a Viennese doctor who has devised an operation that cures blindness. He then finds the eviction notice and reads it aloud at the girl's request. He reassures her that he will pay the rent. But he returns to work late and is fired.

    As he is walking away, a boxer persuades him to stage a fake fight, promising to split the $50 prize money. Just before the bout, however, the man receives a telegram warning him that the police are after him. He flees, leaving the Tramp a no-nonsense replacement opponent. Despite a valiant effort, the Tramp is knocked out.

    Some time later, he meets the drunken Millionaire who has just returned from Europe. The Millionaire takes him to the mansion and after he hears the girl's plight, gives the Tramp $1,000. Unbeknownst to the Millionaire and the Tramp, two burglars were hiding in the house when they entered. Upon hearing about the cash, they knock out the millionaire and take the rest of his money. The Tramp telephones for the police, but the robbers flee before they arrive, and the butler assumes he stole the money. The Millionaire cannot remember the Tramp or giving him the $1,000. The Tramp narrowly escapes and gives the money to the girl saying he will be going away for a while. Later, he is arrested in front of the newsboys who taunted him earlier, and jailed.

    Months later, the Tramp is released. Searching for the girl, he returns to her customary street corner but does not find her. With her sight restored, the girl has opened up a flourishing flower shop with her Grandmother. When a rich customer comes into the shop, the girl briefly wonders if he is her mysterious benefactor. But when he leaves with no acknowledgement, she realizes again she is wrong. While retrieving a flower from the gutter outside the shop, the Tramp is again tormented by the two newsboys. As he turns to leave, he finds himself staring at the girl through the window. His despair turns to elation and he forgets about the flower. Seeing that he has crushed the flower he retrieved, the girl kindly offers him a fresh one and a coin. The Tramp begins to leave, then reaches for the flower. When the girl takes hold of his hand to place the coin in it, she recognizes the touch of his hand and realizes he is no stranger. "You?" she says, and he nods, asking, "You can see now?" She replies, sobbing, "Yes, I can see now." The Tramp smiles shyly at the girl as the film ends.

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