World premiere of Limelight, October 16th, 1952

The world premiere took place at the Odeon Theater in London in the presence of Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, who later told Claire Bloom, “I laughed and cried and cried and laughed.”

Above: Newsreel footage of the premiere. 

Charlie and family at the premiere.
Son Sydney (who plays Neville) towers over all of them.

A page from the program for the London premiere.
( Source: Limelight, Chaplin Project, N.1)

The film opened in the U.S. a week later. However because of the negative feelings about Chaplin in America at the time, it was banned in many theaters. Chaplin eventually withdrew the film from circulation. When it was re-released in 1972, Chaplin & Ray Rasch won the Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Letter from the American Legion to United Artists requesting suspension of the film’s distribution.
( Source: Limelight, Chaplin Project, N.1)

In July 1953, Charlie & Oona received a touching letter from brother, Sydney, who had just attended a private screening of the film with his wife, Gypsy, in California:

“We think it is a ‘masterpiece’ and the greatest Charlie has ever made. There are no superlatives I could use to do justice to it. It was so well acted, so beautifully balanced between laughter and pathos. Gypsy and I cried like kids, so much so, that we waited for everyone to leave the room before we left our seats. You did an excellent piece of acting Charlie and so did Claire Bloom….

It’s a good thing you have not my brooding nature. If I had had to endure the persecution you have received in this country, someone would have been murdered. I think it is a damnable crime that such a picture as ‘Limelight’ should be banned in America….I get a great satisfaction when I hear people praise your work. It makes me very proud of you and I console myself with the thought that I am Charlie Chaplin’s brother, which is my usual form of introduction and which does not arouse in me the slightest thought of jealousy. I glory in your success and bask in your ‘Limelight'” (Syd Chaplin: A Biography, Lisa K. Stein, McFarland, 2010)


  1. Yes, I think it is reasonable to think that it was because of his career. In his book, Charlie Jr. explains that he didn't want to act in any of his father's films because he wanted to forge a completely independent career without being constantly associated with his father (though with that name it was pretty hopeless), and this is probably why he also shied away from his father's premieres etc. events which would get a lot of publicity. He does briefly appear in "Limelight", but according to his book (if I recall correctly), it took a lot of convincing from Chaplin for Jr. to agree to do it. Also, I think the reason why Sydney attended this premiere was solely because he did have a large supporting role in it – I don't recall seeing pictures of him at any other premieres for Chaplin's films.

  2. I always feel so bad for Charlie Jr. – he seemed to struggle so hard to forge his own identity and ultimately, it was too much for him. I think Charlie Sr. was right when he told Lita he didn't want the kid saddled with his name.

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