Limelight (1952 film)

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Limelight
Limelight4232.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring
Music by Charlie Chaplin
Cinematography Karl Struss
Edited by Joe Inge
Distributed by United Artists
Image Entertainment
Release date(s)
  • 1952 (1952)
Running time 137 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $900,000[1]
Box office $1,000,000 (domestic)
$7,000,000 (outside USA)[1]

Limelight is a 1952 comedy-drama film written, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, co-starring Claire Bloom, with an appearance by Buster Keaton. In dance scenes, Bloom is doubled by Melissa Hayden. The film score is composed by Chaplin and arranged by Ray Rasch. The film was released amidst public controversy, and passed over by many theaters, as at this time Chaplin was refused re-entry to the United States on alleged grounds that he was a communist sympathizer. It was re-released in the United States in 1972, however, and honored at the Academy Awards.

Plot[edit]

The movie is set in London in 1914, on the eve of World War I (and the year Chaplin made his first film). Calvero (Charles Chaplin), once a famous stage clown but now a washed-up drunk, saves a young dancer, Thereza Ambrose, alias Terry (Claire Bloom), from suicide. Nursing her back to health, Calvero helps Terry regain her self-esteem and resume her dancing career. In doing so he regains his own self-confidence, but his attempts to make a comeback are less successful. Terry says she wants to marry Calvero despite their age difference, although she has befriended Neville, a young composer Calvero believes would be better suited to her. In order to give them a chance Calvero leaves home and becomes a street entertainer. Terry, now starring in her own show, eventually finds Calvero and persuades him to return to the stage for a benefit concert. Reunited with an old partner (Keaton), Calvero gives a triumphant comeback performance but immediately suffers a heart attack and dies in the wings while just a few feet away from him Terry, the second act on the bill, dances on stage. This represents the end of a generation and the coming of another, the fading of age and the emergence of youth under the Limelight, as said during the initial credits.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Charlie Chaplin and Claire Bloom in Limelight

Although the film is set in London, it was entirely filmed in Hollywood, mostly at the Chaplin Studios. The street where Calvero lives was a redressed set at Paramount Studios, the music hall scenes were filmed at RKO, and some exterior scenes use back-projected footage of London. Chaplin prominently featured members of his family in the film, including five of his children and his half-brother Wheeler Dryden. Chaplin chose stage actress Claire Bloom for the role of Terry, her first major role in films. Chaplin told his older sons he expected Limelight to be his last film. By all accounts he was very happy and energized during production, a fact often attributed to the joy of recreating his early career in the Music Hall. Most people who have studied the life of Chaplin would assume that his character in the film was based on his father Charles Chaplin, Sr. who had also lost his audience and had turned to alcohol which led to his death in 1901. In both his 1964 autobiography, and his 1974 book My Life in Pictures, however, Chaplin insists that Calvero is based on the life of stage actor Frank Tierney. Then, in contrast, Limelight was made during a time where Chaplin himself was starting to lose his audience. In many ways, the movie remains highly autobiographical.

The pairing of Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the final musical number is historic for being the only time the two performed together on film. Chaplin at first had not written the part for Keaton because he believed that the role was too small. It was not until he learned that Keaton was going through hard times (before Limelight, Keaton had gone through a disastrous marriage, lost most of his fortune in the divorce in the process, and had appeared infrequently in films over the previous years) that Chaplin insisted that Keaton should be cast in the film. A rumor has persisted, fueled by the intense rivalry among fans of the two comics, that Keaton gave such a superior performance that Chaplin jealously cut his scenes so he would not be upstaged by his rival. A close associate of Chaplin claimed that Chaplin not only did not feel threatened by Keaton's performance, but also heavily edited his own footage of the duet while enhancing Keaton's. According to Keaton's biographer Rudi Blesh, Chaplin eased his notoriously rigid directorial style to give Keaton free rein to invent his own comic business during this sequence. Keaton's widow Eleanor claimed that Buster was thrilled with his appearance in the film, and believed his business partner Raymond Rohauer started and fed the rumors. Chaplin's son Sydney, who also appeared in the film, said that even if some of Keaton's best scenes were cut (which he did not believe), the storyline would not logically allow a supporting actor to suddenly appear and upstage the climactic comeback of Chaplin's character.

Reception[edit]

While touring Britain to promote the film Chaplin learned that he had been refused a re-entry visa to the United States because of his alleged communist sympathies, and many American theaters refused to play Limelight. Outside of cinemas in several East Coast cities, the film was not seen by the American moviegoing public. It was not until 1972 that the film was finally seen in wide American release. Limelight currently holds an excellent 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was massively popular in Japan.[2] It was enormously successful in Europe and around the world. However in the US it was a relative disappointment, only taking in $1 million.[1]

The music[edit]

Sheet music cover of "The Terry Theme", by Charlie Chaplin, and published by Bourne, Inc.

The theme to this film, titled "Terry's Theme" (written by Charles Chaplin), became a popular, often-covered song as "Eternally", with words by Geoff Parsons and John Turner. In 1972, twenty years after the film's first release, Chaplin and his musical collaborators Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell were awarded an Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score[3] though in the case of Larry Russell it may be miscredited — JazzWax journalist Marc Myers claims Russell Garcia should have been awarded the 1972 Oscar.[4] Regardless, it was the only competitive Academy Award Chaplin ever received. (He had previously received two Honorary Oscars.)

Theatrical adaptation[edit]

In 2012, it had its first worldwide stage adaptation by director, writer and actor Ariel Varela, in Peru.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 56-58
  2. ^ ""Limelight" Set Jap Box Office Record.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 21 April 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  3. ^ http://www.charliechaplin.com/biography/articles/7-Limelight charliechaplin.com: Limelight
  4. ^ Myers, Marc (2008-09-19), "The Case of the Misplaced Oscar", Jazz Wax 

External links[edit]