Limelight (1952)

Although Charles Chaplin would direct two films after this 1952 tale of a retired clown helping a young ballerina find her art, this touching tale reads as his farewell to filmmaking. For one thing, it was his last film made in the US. On his return from the London premiere, he was denied re-entry because of suspected Communist ties. In addition, his portrait of a once-great clown, Calvero, who has lost his audience seems to reference his own loss of popularity since the failure of his previous film, Monsieur Verdoux (1947). Chaplin would also tell interviewers that the poverty in which Calvero and the dancer live reflected his own impoverished youth. Although he cast newcomer Claire Bloom as the ballerina, helping to launch her career, he filled many of the other  roles with family and friends. His son Sydney Chaplin made his film debut as the composer in love with Bloom and tennis buddy Norman Lloyd co-starred as a choreographer. His most inspired casting, however, was former rival Buster Keaton, whom he cast because the one-time silent star was having financial difficulties at the time. They worked out of a deep respect for each other and created some magical moments in their dressing room scene and onstage clowning.

(d. Charles Chaplin, 137m, 35mm)


In attendance: Norman Lloyd