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#171. Flower Girl

Poverty can be a difficult situation to pull yourself out of. Even if the situation was out of your control, if you find yourself with no money, how would you go on living? In this highly consumerist society, money can be an essential in order to survive. But sometimes it takes money to make money, so where would that initial money come from? Furthermore, what if you’re disabled? What if you are coming from a less-than-ideal home life? Oftentimes, panhandlers will ask for handouts from strangers in order to get by. However, those who offer a product or service will tend to fare better at obtaining money. One of the basic tropes of poverty is that of the flower girl. A young woman who has collected flowers and sells them to those passing by on the street can make a meager living, even if it’s not ideal. This week’s two films feature flower girls in key roles.

PygmalionPygmalion
Year: 1938
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

The signs of a poor family are not always as obvious as someone standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign in their hands. Sometimes poverty induces other conditions, becoming an action that produces unintended consequences. Some of these conditions include dirty and ratty clothing, questionable hygiene, and an uneducated manner. Without money, clothes cannot be cleaned or repaired, bodies cannot be washed, and minds cannot be developed. As such, many will often immediately judge those people with these conditions, thinking that they purposely put themselves in their lowly situation. In order to help these people, money could be used. However, the better solution is to dig down deep and fix the underlying conditions that perpetuate the stereotype. Even changing someone’s voice can make a world of difference.

Selling flowers on a London street corner, Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) is trying to make some money to bring home to her morally reprehensible father. Unaware of anything about Eliza other than her terrible cockney accent, Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) has decided to take her in so that he can teach her to speak properly, thus proving that she could pass as a member of the upper class. And even though she does finally get rid of the cockney accent, a trip to the racetrack shows Professor Higgins that he still has some work to do in order to change Eliza into an upstanding member of high society. When he takes her to a ball to show off his work, she finally passes the test, but now feels alienated. The lifestyle of the rich is uncomfortable to her, and the life of a lowly flower girl is now below someone who speaks so well.

City LightsCity Lights
Year: 1931
Rating: G
Length: 87 minutes / 1.45 hours

Many of Charlie Chaplin’s best films center around his film persona of “The Little Tramp”. In using slapstick and other comedic situations, the down-and-out character survives each day by taking on odd jobs, stealing food, and finding anywhere he can to sleep. Even though these films are funny, there are still elements of truth to the challenges of poverty. Occasionally, the Tramp will pick up other characters that share in his plight. From a dog in A Dog’s Life (1918), to a child in The Kid (1921), the man who is just trying to get by on his own soon has to take care of someone other than himself, adding heart to the film as he struggles against the established society that perpetuates his poverty. In City Lights, Chaplin’s Little Tramp befriends a flower girl who has a serious medical condition: she’s blind.

Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp doesn’t initially know that the blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) is blind when he buys a flower from her, but soon realizes her plight after he saves a millionaire (Harry Myers) from suicide. This is because, after a night of celebrating a new outlook on life, the millionaire allows the Tramp to buy all the girl’s flowers and drive her home. It is here that he finds the girl living with her grandmother (Florence Lee) in a small apartment that they are about to be evicted from. After a falling out with the millionaire, the Tramp takes it upon himself to raise the money for the girl to not only stay in her apartment, but to get a surgery that could allow her to see again. Despite his failures at the many odd jobs he acquires, the Tramp once again runs across the millionaire, who gives him $1,000 to help the girl. Unfortunately, certain events get the Tramp arrested. Once he gets out of jail, he sees the flower girl has escaped her life of poverty.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic flower girls

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3 responses to “#171. Flower Girl

  1. Pingback: #059. Charlie Chaplin | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #060. Silent Comedy | Cinema Connections

  3. Pingback: End of Act Four | Cinema Connections

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