Name Occurs Before Title
Print Viewed By AFI
7 Mar 1931
Los Angeles premiere: 30 Jan 1931; New York premiere: 6 Feb 1931
began 27 Dec 1928
Duration (in mins):
Duration (in reels):
Print this page
Display Movie Summary
(A blind girl)
(An eccentric millionaire)
(His butler [James])
At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into the city, where he meets a beautiful, blind flower girl, and buys a flower with his last coin. That night, he stops a drunken man from drowning himself. Gratefully, the man invites him to his mansion, which is presided over by a snobby butler named James and they begin to drink. The millionaire and the tramp continue their revels at a nightclub. Early the next morning, when they return home, the millionaire drunkenly offers the tramp money and the use of his Rolls Royce. The tramp uses his windfalls to help the flower girl. Because she cannot see his shabby clothes, the girl thinks her benefactor is a wealthy young man. Determined to help her, the tramp returns to the mansion, but the millionaire has sobered up and does not recognize him, so the tramp takes a job cleaning streets and gives the girl and her grandmother what money he can. By accident the tramp finds out they are behind in their rent and that there is a doctor in Vienna who can cure blindness by an expensive operation. Needing money in a hurry to help his friends, the tramp agrees to participate in a crooked boxing match for a cut of the winning purse, but his crooked partner is replaced by a legitmate fighter, who knocks him cold. Out on the streets, the tramp runs into the millionaire, who is back from Europe. Drunk again, he gladly gives the tramp $1,000 for the operation, but two crooks see the transaction and rob them. The tramp calls the police, but by the time they arrive, the crooks have vanished and the police arrest the tramp. He runs away and manages to give the money to the girl before he is taken off to jail. The girl gets her operation and opens up a successful flower shop, imagining her benefactor in every rich young man who comes into the shop. When the tramp gets out of jail, he wanders into the shop by accident. Naturally, she does not recognize him, and laughingly offers him a flower and a coin. He refuses the money, but when she presses it into his hand, she recognizes him by the feel of his skin and is moved.
Charles Chaplin Productions
United Artists Corp.
Charles D. Hall
"Beautiful Wonderful Eyes," "Tomorrow the Sun Will Shine," "Happy Romance," "Promenade" and "Orientale" by Charles Chaplin.
Si with mus soundtrack by Western Electric Sound System
Onscreen credits refer to the film as a "comedy romance in pantomine." The premiere of
opened the Los Angeles Theater. It was the first time a gala premiere was held in downtown Los Angeles rather than in Hollywood. Charles Chaplin attended, accompanied by Georgia Hale and Albert Einstein and his wife. According to his autobiography, Chaplin felt that the cinema was essentially a pantomimic art and that sound limited the actor's gestural expressions. When he began preparations for the film in 1928, he intended to release it as a completely silent film, but by 1931, talking pictures were so popular that he added a musical soundtrack. In an early scene, Chaplin makes fun of the tinny sound of early talking films by mimicking speaking voices with saxophones. According to modern sources, Chaplin felt that musical accompaniment should act as a counterpoint to the comedy of the film and used special sound effects in only a few scenes: the scene where he swallows a whistle; the voices of the officials at the beginning of the film; pistol shots; and the bells in the boxing ring. Modern sources credit Ted Reed with sound and recording.
According to publicity material in the copyright files, Chaplin spent $1,500,000 of his own money in making the film. 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. According to his autobiography, Chaplin was angered over United Artists' lack of pre-release publicity and decided to exhibit the picture himself. He spent his own money to rent the George M. Cohan Theater and took out half-page advertisments to publicize the fact. In its twelve-week run at the Cohan, the film made a net profit of over $400,000. It became one of the top moneymaking films of 1931 and was named to the
's list of the ten best films of the year.
The National Board of Review
named it the best film of 1931. In 1991,
was selected for inclusion on the National Film Registry, and in 2007, the picture was ranked 11th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 76th position it held on AFI's 1997 list.
When the film was re-released in 1950, it was banned in Memphis, TN by censor Lloyd T. Benford because of Chaplin's "immoral" character. This judgment resulted from several personal incidents that plagued Chaplin's career. Actress Joan Barry accused him in 1943 of fathering her child. Chaplin was initially acquitted on these charges when blood tests proved conclusively that he could not be the child's father, but the decision was overturned during a retrial in 1944. Also in 1944, Chaplin was indicted by a Federal grand jury on charges of violating the Mann Act, a law that makes it illegal to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Allan Garcia, who plays James in the film, was also the casting director. Henry Clive was originally cast as the millionaire, but when he refused to fall into the water in a necessary scene, Chaplin fired him and hired Harry Myers. Modern sources note that at one point, Chaplin, displeased with Cherrill, thought of replacing her with Georgia Hale. Marian Marsh also tested for the part before Cherrill was asked to return. The exterior of the millionaire's house was shot at Town House on Wilshire Boulevard. Chaplin's former colleague from silent days, Albert Austin who is credited as assistant director, appears in the scene in which Chaplin mistakes a cheese sandwich for a bar of soap.
15 Feb 31
Motion Picture Herald
14 Feb 31
Motion Picture Herald
16 Mar 31
p. 22, 43
New York Times
7 Feb 31
11 Feb 31
Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
© 2013 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.