Although he did not realize it at the time, Charlie Chaplin would not set foot in America again for twenty years. As part of his plan to premier Limelight in London, and then, to take an extended family holiday, to show his wife and children the country where he was born, Chaplin, before the trip, applied for and received the necessary permit from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to reenter the United States. But behind the scenes, elaborate plans were being made by the FBI, the INS and the Attorney General to rescind that reentry permit and give Chaplin the comeuppance they believed he so richly deserved for his longstanding history of “moral turpitude” and contempt for the American way of life. Out of fairness to the allegedly lecherous malefactor, and in keeping with America’s democratic principles, Chaplin was reassured that he would be given a fair - and undoubtedly well-publicized - hearing, with an opportunity to clear his good name. Just in case he was naïve enough to risk submitting to this “unbiased” enquiry, J.Edgar Hoover’s minions had already begun taking sworn depositions from every woman they could find who had ever been intimate with Chaplin. (Those interviews can be found in Chaplin’s FBI-FOIA files). Whether he would return to the United States was strictly up to him, Chaplin was informed by ship’s radio on his second day at sea. Everything would be done by the letter of the law. Chaplin got the overt - and the covert - messages. What he would also soon discover was that his film Limelight was about to become the target of a politically-motivated boycott.
was Chaplin's last great film. He would make two additional films during the next twenty years - A King In New York
(1957) and A Countess From Hong Kong
(1967). But by then he was past his prime.
sympathetically portrayed the personal and professional dilemmas of an aging comedian who is past his own prime. Calvero is an ex-music hall star who has lost the ability to be funny and fallen from favor with his fans and admirers. Their indifferent reception to his stage act is reminiscent of Chaplin's fans' recent thumbs down verdict on his last film effort, Monsieur Verdoux
poses the question: does Calvero have the emotional fortitude to overcome rejection and stage a comeback? Chaplin's answer: both he, the former childhood invulnerable, and his alter-ego Calvero are intensely determined to win back the public's affection. Or - in Calvero's case, at least - to die trying.
Calvero suffers from alcoholism and chronic depression. In the film, these illnesses are depicted both as root cause of and emotional reaction to his failing theatrical career. They also happen to have been the two co-morbid medical conditions that destroyed Charlie Chaplin, Sr.'s career. The 38-year-old actor's end-stage alcoholic descent had been a heart-breaking spectacle which his loving and impressionable 12-year-old son, Charlie, witnessed firsthand.
At this late stage in his own film career, Chaplin found himself in his father's shoes once more. Just as his earlier courtroom ordeals in the Joan Barry paternity suit were eerily reminiscent of Charlie Sr.'s legal experiences, so Chaplin's recent feelings of shame, guilt and depression over Monsieur Verdoux's
box office flop were reminiscent of his emotionally devastated father's feelings of professional failure. Chaplin poignantly captured those feelings in the scene in which Calvero confronts himself in his dressing room looking-glass after being booed offstage