The Tramp, wearing tails, drives around in a Rolls Royce. He spots a man smoking a cigar and patiently follows in the car until he drops the butt. The character jumps out of the Rolls, fights off an old, ragged bum who had himself bent over to pick up the cigar butt, grabs it, sticks it into his mouth, leaps back into his Rolls and drives away smoking; the assaulted bum looks on in stunned silence. This little comic bit, one of the countless memorable scenes in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) is more than just a funny sight gag; it is a glimpse into a way of life and into the underlying metaphor of many of the filmmaker’s works. The sequence underscores much of what the great artist’s career was built on: the contrast of wealth and poverty, surface riches and actual need, appearance and essence. What the Tramp needed was never financial success—he was destined, from the time of Chaplin’s Essanay shorts, to fail at attaining material rewards. What the character wanted was of a more spiritual nature: love and acceptance into “proper” society. Most of the time, he was doomed to fail at attaining that as well.
Read my analysis of Chaplin's The Circus here.