‘Perfectionist’ Charlie Chaplin demanded 342 takes for one movie scene

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Story highlights

New behind-the-scenes footage reveals Chaplin's demanding directing style

Comedic legend made "City Lights" co-star do scene 342 times

Marlon Brando struggled to accept Chaplin's method on set

Rare black-and-white footage survived Chaplin's orders to destroy all outtakes

CNN  — 

Repeat after me: “Flower sir?” Now say it again – 341 times.

Virginia Cherrill must have been on the verge of tears after director and actor Charlie Chaplin made her perform one scene – in which she says just two words in a silent film – an excruciating 342 times.

To be fair to Cherrill, she was not a professional actress, but a 20-year-old socialite Chaplin had spotted in the crowd at a boxing match.

The comedic legend, who defined the silent era with his trademark bowler hat, shuffling gait, and toothbrush mustache, hadn’t even spoken to Cherrill when he hired her as the love interest in one of his most successful movies of all time – 1931’s “City Lights.”

United Artists

“Chaplin was a perfectionist, the king of the re-take,” said Hooman Mehran, historian and author of “Chaplin’s Limelight and the Music Hall Tradition.”

“This was just a three minute sequence in the finished film,” he added. “But he took her to task – even though it was a silent film.”