Shooting City Lights

Charlie Chaplin has such an easygoing, lovable on-screen persona, and his films such a graceful, effortless charm, that it’s easy to forget that the actor-director was a maniacal perfectionist. The following footage of Chaplin directing a crucial scene from his masterpiece City Lights was caught on 16 mm by the filmmaker’s good friend the artist Ralph Barton. As the narrator, Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran, explains, this particularly fussed-over scene is a good example of the relentless precision with which Chaplin directed actors and composed shots (wait until you hear how many takes it took to get it right). See a lot more of this and other behind-the-scenes footage on our new special edition of City Lights.

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