Charlie Chaplin stuck to his theories for a long time. In the talkies era, he made two silent movies- City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936); although the latter had some talkies part, including a song and dance scene by the genius himself, it can safely be clubbed under the silent movies.
Chaplin made 5 talkie movies in his lifetime, out of which in 4 of them- The Great Dictator(1940), Monsieur Verdoux(1947), Limelight(1952) and A King In New York(1957)- he was the protagonist and one- his last movie and the only colour movie of his lifetime-A Countess from Hong Kong(1967), he directed and played a small cameo.
Now, amongst those 5 Talkies, except for TGD, the other four could not see much of commercial success. Now, for Chaplin, who dominated the silent era of motion pictures, the transformation into the talkies was challenging. The major reason was he had already attained International success and was popular in countries who did not speak English. It was his own cautious decision that if he made a Talkie, there would be no Tramp in that. He maintained that stance, and barring a couple of minutes of song and dance in Modern Times, the Tramp never uttered any word on screen.
The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first Talkie and was a blockbuster. However, the barber character resembled a lot with the Tramp although Chaplin never admitted that. TGD was a big hit, even though America was not into World War by that time. It seemed that the success from the silent times would be replicated in Talkies also by Chaplin but then somehow, he lost the pulse altogether after that. What went wrong? Did the movies have problems or there was something more? Let us see one by one the other four unsuccessful Talkies ventures of Charlie Chaplin.
It seems, Chaplin had taken this lesson from MV’s failure, and decided to come out of this socio political overdose in his last 4-5 movies and make a human drama. Limelight (1952) is a true classic, a masterpiece in its own and for me the best Chaplin has ever done. The movie reflected the honest effort, the pain, and the hard work Charlie had put behind it- be it the script, the music, the direction or the acts. Right from giving his son- Sydney Chaplin a substantial role to calling his old mate of silent era, Buster Keaton for a gem of an act towards the end, Chaplin had surely wanted this to be his Swan Song. Limelight should have been a befitting farewell to this amazing man, but it could not. An American movie set in 1914 London; Limelight was denied a release in the US. The reason has been oft discussed and we all know it very well. But, without a release, there was no reason of Limelight to be commercially successful. It was given a release 20 years afterwards in 1972, and was given Academy Awards as well, but all were too late by then. By the time people could realize what a masterpiece Limelight was, Chaplin had already retired from the movies and counting his last days in Switzerland where he breathed his last in 1976. Limelight was perhaps the longest movie of Chaplin, having around 130 minutes of runtime. Claire Bloom gave her lifetime performance as the leading lady to Chaplin. And the old man gave his lifetime show here as Calvaro, the Tramp Comedian of Nineteenth Century British Theatres. A drama of Calvaro’s success to failure to oblivion- from where the movie starts- to again his bounce back after several attempts to give that one lifetime act in the final scene which causes his death on the stage- Limelight covers shades of brilliance which no other Chaplin movie had ever done. Calvaro had inspired many such characters later in Hollywood and in other industries also.