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"Limelight" (1952) 137 min., B&W, is Chaplin's last American film and his last great one. As with many of his other films, Chaplin wrote the screenplay, the music; he sings and plays, as well as directing and starring in it.

The narrative has many obvious (and less obvious) autobiographical parallels: Chaplin/"Calvero" (stage name) is a British music hall comedian, at one time the most famous and widely loved throughout the land. But Calvero's now much older and British entertainment tastes have changed; he's often unemployed because audiences now consider his routines boring.

Calvero often gets drunk to wipe out the taste of this defeat. One night, staggering home to his rooms one night he smells gas and breaks open the door where it's coming from. (The children watching him try to get his key in his apartment house door are Chaplin's own by his last wife.)

Inside he finds a young woman Claire Bloom, "Theresa"-"Terry," who is depressed and trying to commit suicide; she was a ballet dancer but lost the feeling in her legs and can no longer dance. Calvero takes Terry to his small apartment and gets a physician to treat her.

Terry's at the beginning of her career, while Calvero's near the end of his (in the limelight). On the physician's advice, Calvero decides her leg problems are psychological rather than physical so he resolves to help her overcome her depression and her wish to die. He eventually succeeds and Terry's career "blooms" (FYI, Claire Bloom's ballet scenes are by a ballet dancer double; Chaplin's singing & playing are his alone). They each give meaning and hope to the other's life.

Terry becomes famous and in a position to help Calvero whom she loves and wants to marry. Calvero loves Terry but, concerned at their age disparity, thinks she should marry someone closer to her own age.

The whole movie has very poignant scenes (the ending especially) interlaced with humor. Throughout, there are sprinkles of Chaplin's unique style of physical comedy which depends on his mix of remarkable athleticism and coordination. Some are introduced as dreams he has of his earlier, more successful days; a really great extended one, near the film's end, is with Buster Keaton.

(FWIW, the young composer/Army officer that Calvero thinks is more suitable than he for Terry to marry is played by Sidney Chaplin, Charlie's son from one of his previous marriages.)

IMO, this movie is Chaplin's farewell to his career -- demonstrating, documenting and summing up his enormous talent and contributions to the entertainment field: screenplay, directing, acting, comedy, music: popular songs plus ballet & choreography.

I saw this at a KU Alum film series and there was sustained applause and very few dry eyes at the end.

I rate it 10 of 10 stars. A few User Reviews on IMDb.com mention how inspirational this movie has been to them saying it's changed their lives. On IMDb's voting, slightly over 70% rate it as a 10, 9, or 8; less than 3% rate it as a 1, 2, or 3.

For far, FAR more info on "Limelight," browse: http://imdb.com/title/tt0044837/

 
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