Calvero, once a famous Music Hall star, now a washed-up old man, saves a neighbor from suicide. He nurtures the young ballerina with paralyzed legs back to health, and helps her regain her self-esteem, so that she may return to the stage.
Made during the height of McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the U.S., Limelight was Chaplin’s reaction to his own decreasing popularity. A return to the memories of his youth spent in London music halls, it depicts with sweet and nostalgic details the life of an entertainer, as well as fame’s blows.
As Peter von Bagh notes, the film’s autobiographical component represents only one strand of its cumulative power. It is not just Chaplin’s testament to his own art, but to art in general and to the striving for love that brings meaning to any life.