One of Charlie Chaplin's most personal projects was 1952's Limelight
for which he composed the unforgettably haunting score and which featured his son Sydney in a major supporting role. The result is a bittersweet masterwork, a May-September romance between an ascendant ballerina (Claire Bloom in only her second film) and a fading clown. Script and performances are superb, and though entirely studio-made, with London recreated in America, Chaplin's great visual sensibility ensures the production never feels stage-bound. The story harks back to the glory years of Music Hall and in fictionalised form draws heavily on Chaplin's experiences as recounted in his superb autobiography
More affectionate and philosophical than the comparable Sunset Boulevard (1950), the story movingly echoes A Star is Born (1937) and The Red Shoes (1948), while one brilliant touch is the inclusion of Chaplin's fellow "silent" era star, Buster Keaton as his stage partner. Comedy is not forgotten, but this is at heart a moving reflection on the passage of time, a deeply autobiographical work in which the never seen background of the Great War is an ironic contrast to Chaplin's celebration of youth, theatre, music, love and life itself.
On the DVD: Limelight is presented in the original 4:3 black and white with excellent mono sound and a picture which apart from a little unobtrusive grain is absolutely immaculate. Also included are French and Italian-dubbed versions and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the soundtrack, which simply adds unnecessary spatial processing to the mono original. The disc features multiple subtitle options, including English for hard of hearing.
Disc 2 features a very useful six-minute introduction by David Robinson and an excellent 26-minute new documentary featuring contributions from Claire Bloom, Sydney Chaplin and Bernardo Bertolucci. One remarkable extra is Chaplin's entire Oscar-winning 58-minute score available as 36 separate musical cues in excellent mono. There is a four-minute scene that was included in the original release of the film and later cut, an unfinished short from 1919, The Professor (6 min), which introduces the flea circus idea developed in Limelight, as well as English and Italian trailers. Also included is a nine-section photo gallery and selection of posters, as well as two extracts from Chaplin reading Footlights, the unpublished novel upon which he based the film. Finally, 15 minutes of colour home movies show the star with his family in 1950 and more remarkably, revisiting the London of his youth in 1959. --Gary S Dalkin
A young dancer wants to know if the white-haired gentleman who saved her life is Calvero, the great music hall comedian. "I was," the gent replies. Charles Chaplins Limelight
is a glimmering homage to what was, a proud look at a bygone entertainment era and a bittersweet tale of an artist passing the torch to a new generation. Chaplin portrays Calvero (the "tramp comedian" per an old theatrical poster in his room), who rescues a distraught ballerina (Claire Bloom) from suicide and mentors her to success. Among the films comedy highlights is a musical routine thats anything but routine in the hands of legend Chaplin and stony-faced Buster Keaton. The extraordinary score by Chaplin, Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell earned the screen legend his only competitive Oscar.
Winner of 4 Academy Awards. Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design and Original Score, 1976. Winner of 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Best Direction, Best Cinematography, 1976.