I’m one of the oldest guys in my office. And I don’t think anyone has been doing my job longer than me.
Sometimes, people bring up the “r” word to me. And I don’t like it. I don’t want to retire and I never expect to.
I am not delusional, though. One of these decades, my eyes and ears will fail me. One of these decades, my brain might not be sharp enough to keep up with the technology changes.
Heaven help me, maybe one day I will not be hungry and motivated anymore. And I won’t have Gordon Ramsay there to berate me to rekindle my passion.
Aging in the workplace is rough. But it is a cakewalk compared to aging in showbusiness.
Charlie Chaplain’s “Limelight” is a meditation on the aging process. It is beautiful but grim, romantic but honest.
When he was 30, Chaplain was one of the most popular, powerful, and respected entertainers in the world.
When he was 60, Chaplain had been humbled from every conceivable angle.
He hadn’t had a hit in more than a decade. His last big movie – “The Great Dictator” – had wrongly dismissed Hitler as a harmless buffoon who was second fiddle to Mussolini. Chaplain’s sincere belief that Utopian Socialism would sweep the Western World looked increasingly unlikely and foolish. And he wasn’t funny anymore.
He did have one last solid film left in him, though.
As the story begins, washed-up clown Calvero (Chaplain) is doing a good deed. He brings a depressed young ballet dancer named Terry into his apartment after she tries to commit suicide.
The first act is talky and philosophical. Calvero weaves a spell of passion and positivity, trying to inspire the beautiful artist to stay alive and keep dancing. “Billions of years it’s taken to evolve human consciousness and you want to wipe it out. Wipe out the miracle of all existence. More important than anything in the whole universe!”
Yet the old man is also clearly talking to himself – trying to use his wits to stave off despair. He continues to perform, even though he dislikes his material and the audience. And no one likes him.
“If all else fails,” Terry smiles, “there’s always that little home in the country.”
“This is my home, here,” Calvero states.
“I thought you hated the theater.”
“I do. I also hate the sight of blood, but it’s in my veins.”
Overall, this is an intelligent and emotional little drama – like “A Star is Born” but better. But one of the challenges is that Calvero has truly lost his comedy mojo like he says. And so has Chaplain.
The talky scenes are splendid. Calvero’s performances are appropriately unfunny. But why are there so many of them? For the life of me, I can’t figure out whether Charlie Chaplain didn’t heed his own life-lessons and recognize that he wasn’t a competent comedian anymore.
Another weakness of “Limelight” is that Terry falls hopelessly in love with Calvero. Only in the movies. In my time in the real world, I’ve never witnessed a situation where a good-looking 20-year-old asks a broke old single man for his hand in marriage. And if that did ever happen, I’ll be darned if he’d so principled as to turn her down!
In the real world, old age takes away just about everything about you that is great and desirable. It doesn’t diminish your ability to appreciate art, though. Thank heavens for old movies.