Rare Footage of Charlie Chaplin Directing Take After Take for City Lights

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 18 2013 10:54 AM

Watch Rare Footage of Charlie Chaplin Directing City Lights

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The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets The Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill) in City Lights

United Artists

In one of the most iconic scenes in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, Chaplin’s Tramp meets the blind flower girl played by Virginia Cherrill. That scene, it turns out, took hundreds of takes to get just right.

Rare footage of Chaplin directing the scene, captured on set by Chaplin’s close friend Ralph Barton, is included on the new Criterion Collection edition of the film. Historian Hooman Mehran narrates the footage, which finds Chaplin working painstakingly with the untrained Cherrill to get the exact performance he envisioned. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the known perfectionist at work, and something any cinephile or Chaplin enthusiast will appreciate.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.