Shot Analysis: Chaplin vs. Keaton in Limelight
This one shot of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in 1952’s Limelight completely sums up their legacies, their personalities, and the impact they had on audiences.
Keaton, sitting in the back, complains about the nostalgic audience members waiting to see them perform once more. Chaplin, however, carries about his business and seems to hardly hear Keaton.
The films of Buster Keaton were always a bit more cynical then those of other silent films. They were that of man vs. nature, and nature always seemed to hold a grudge against the Great Stone Face and so, Keaton has an irritable outlook on life. It’s worth noting that, by this time, Keaton was out of work and had fallen on hard times, and only Chaplin’s fondness for him led to this part in Limelight. He doesn’t want people to remind him of the past and he’d rather move on, or else he’ll face regrets.
Meanwhile, Chaplin has an always-positive outlook on life. He’s ready for a comeback and he looks back at his career with pride. His motto was “Smile” and he truly wants to put on a great show for people. He practices his facial expressions, ready to ham it up.
True to form, Chaplin is in the foreground of this shot, as he was the most popular mainstream silent film comedian of the time, and Keaton was always the alternative.