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Monday, July 13, 2015

Limelight (1952)

In 1914 London, a washed up music hall clown (Charlie Chaplin) takes in a young dancer (Claire Bloom) after her suicide attempt. They bond and she falls in love with him but he is wise enough to know that it's more gratitude than love and that her future lies without him. In this valentine to his early days as a performer in Britain's music halls, it's hard to separate Chaplin from his character and I'm not sure we're supposed to. Chaplin sentimentalizes the period but it's an honest sentiment. It's a lovely little tearjerker of a memory piece. There's also the brief (very brief) thrill of seeing cinema's two greatest clowns perform together for the one and only time, Chaplin and Buster Keaton. But it's not entirely Chaplin's show. As the young ballerina, Claire Bloom (the film is often incorrectly called her film debut) provides a strong performance that beautifully complements Chaplin's. Unfortunately, by the time the film opened Chaplin was a controversial figure and refused re-entry into the U.S. and LIMELIGHT only played a few cities on the East Coast. It wasn't until 1972 that it was given a normal release in the U.S. and ironically Chaplin received his only competitive Oscar when his underscore for the film won the 1972 best score Oscar. With Nigel Bruce, Sydney Chaplin, Norman Lloyd, Marjorie Bennett and a very young but easily recognizable Geraldine Chaplin.

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