Friday, October 15, 2010

"Limelight" with Charles Chaplin and Claire Bloom

This film is Charlie Chaplins "swan song." He plays Calvero,a has been vaudevillian who comes home inebriated one day to find Terry, a fellow lodger played by Claire Bloom, has attempted to commit suicide. The landlady wants her out, Calvero wants her to stay. He takes her in to his room and nurses her back to health and a career on stage as a dancer. But, predictably, Terry's career rises as Calvero's falls.

As Terry falls in love with him Calvero reasons with her that their ages must keep them apart. The past is gone now and the present and future must hold forth. But he still wants that old feeling of being on top, even just one more time. Terry becomes the vehicle for this success. Along the way you will see him imitating a rock, a tree, a flower, etc. The "Phyllis and Henry Circus of Fleas" is a wonderful number, performed with vocals by Mr. Chaplin. The use of his body to convey an image, even while speaking, is still remarkable today.

The most interesting thing about this movie is the sound. It exists where you least expect it, and at other times is lacking where it "normally" should be. For instance, the street scene at the beginning of the film is silent. There are children playing and horse carriages roaming the streets, yet the only sound heard is the organ grinder and some faint background "noises."

Brilliant support from Buster Keaton and Nigel Bruce, and absolutely flawless direction and writing by Mr. Chaplin, all come together to make this the definitive film of Mr. Chaplin's long career. During the scenes where he has gone back to being a street clown and passing the hat for tips, he remarks, "I don't really mind the streets. I suppose it's the tramp in me."

I haven't seen this film in over 35 years. I just wish I knew why.

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