CALVERO AS A LION COMIQUE
Chaplin as the aging ex-music hall star Calvero, dressed in an elegant man-about-town outfit in his film Limelight (1952), his most explicitly autobiographical work. Like Charlie Chaplin Sr., Calvero is a once-famous alcoholic actor who has lost touch with his audience and fallen on hard times. Limelight contains Chaplin’s most explicit acknowledgement of his lifelong but previously unconscious psychological identification with his lion comique father. This film came at a point in Chaplin’s own life (age 63) when he was finally coming to terms with his previously unresolved conflicts about fatherhood and felt a strong need to make peace with his painful childhood memories of his own father. In an unpublished autobiographical novel he wrote at this time (Footlights), he revisited and re-examined his parents’ failed marriage. In doing so, he came to terms with the role his mother’s “tragic promiscuity” had originally played in driving his father away and destroying their family.
As a boy, he had always sided with Lillie and blamed Charlie Sr. for abandoning them. From this point on in Chaplin’s private life, he became a loving and devoted, thoroughly respectable family man—a Victorian paterfamilias. Charlie’s youthful womanizing days were a thing of the past which he unapologetically remembered without regret. Chaplin was however quite bitter about the well-organized smear-campaign his political enemies employed to demonize him by painting an ugly portrait of him as a morally degenerate lecher and dredging up ancient sexual scandals as a means of justifying the current revocation of his US re-entry permit—thereby driving him into exile.