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Ed Bertram

Limelight (1952)

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Charles Chaplin's Limelight ranked #6 on our Growing Older list. It's not just Chaplin's character that's become older. His occupation as a clown has been disregarded by those who were once his fans. By having the other great silent comedian, Buster Keaton, perform a skit with him, Chaplin seems to communicate that the story is also about the death of Chaplin's classic "little tramp" character. There's no more room in the movie world for silent comedians (aka clowns). As the clown learns to reorder his life and embrace aspects of the aging process, he gives everything he's learned to give from his career to a young, suicidal woman instead of to an audience. Chaplin was slow to transition to the world of sound movies making silent masterpieces City Lights and Modern Times after the sound era was in full swing. As he reordered his career, he used all the techniques that made him a great silent comedian to make his first sound film, which was probably the most socially-conscious film to date, The Great Dictator. Limelight's clown has a life and career with a parallel direction to Chaplin's transition from silent film to sound. Just as Chaplin's "little tramp" had to die to make room for a biting satire that took aim at Hitler as best as possible for a movie filmed within the first year of WWII, the clown's limelight had to die to pave the way for greater purpose in his life, purpose that extends mercy and wisdom to someone in desperate need of what he's gained through his years.

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