As I go through the fifties I must stress to you, my readers, that I wasn't around back then and what perspective I have on it is through one young American woman who has yet to arrive in England - there are definite eerie parallels going on here, but I will only comment on them when the time arrives. In the meantime, I have not seen Limelight and so am at somewhat of a disadvantage here. Romantic, slightly sad, feminine – all attributes ballerinas have, whether they are suicidal or not – is what Chaplin wrote for his movie, and Frank Chacksfield does a great job in giving the song the delicacy it needs, as it sounds like something lovely but near lifeless coming back to life, gaining strength – as much native strength as it can have.
I don’t know if Limelight was a hit or if the audience somehow could sense themselves in Claire Bloom’s character – it is set in the distant-but-still-memorable past of 1914, the world about to haplessly enter a ‘war to end all wars’ (though whether the war itself is intimated in the movie, I don’t know). Chaplin is able to save her, and through doing so is able to save himself, enough to become a stage performer once more (paired up with his old partner, played by Buster Keaton) – so in the end it is a story of sustaining life and purpose, in perhaps finding meaning in a world that had none, continuing to dance and be grateful and take to the stage. For the British people, the comparison between the death of their monarch in 1952 and the ascension to the throne of a new one (the young Elizabeth II) just as this became a hit – – must have been inevitable. The old makes way for the new, the new gives love and respect to the old.