When it comes to the rivalry between those famous silent clowns, I have always been a bigger fan of Buster Keaton. It was Buster who made me fall in love with silent film and old Hollywood. However, it’s impossible for me to deny Charlie Chaplin’s genius. He was a master at what he did. He was a master film maker of the highest order – actor, writer, director… he was everything. His greatest achievement was his ability to mesh comedy and pathos together. You laughed…and you cried. I always get very emotional at the end of City Lights when the blind girl, finally able to see, realizes that it was Charlie, the little tramp, who paid for her surgery. Urgh…..the tears do flow.
Chaplin’s filmography is filled with wonderful films – we all know The Gold Rush, Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator etc etc but I very rarely hear people talk about Limelight.
In Limelight, Charlie plays Calvero, a once famous stage clown who now finds himself impoverished and forgotten. One night he saves a young dancer from committing suicide and proceeds to help her recover her health and her future. It is through this relationship that Calvero regains his own confidence.
Chaplin himself, composed the main theme for the movie and it is absolutely perfect. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time – just like the film. Chaplin was able to create a perfect piece of music that completely encapsulates the tone of the movie. Every time i listen to it I am transported back to the first time I saw the film. I feel those emotions deep in my gut and its almost enough to bring a tear to my eye. While this film was not Chaplin’s finale film, it really does feel like his farewell piece. A semi-autobiographical tale that looks back at his past and then hands the baton over to the young new talent that is sure to come.
I highly recommend listening to this if you are a fan of music and/or film – and then I highly recommend watching Limelight itself. (P.S Also worth noting that my boo Buster has a small role in the film as another washed-up comedian of the past which is moving in of itself. Two giant stars of the silent era – rivals- together on screen.)
Two wonderful different versions of the same piece of music