The flea circus act in the film was a comedy idea that Charles Chaplin had conceived of in 1919. Originally, he used it in the one completed scene of an aborted film project called The Professor (1919). Later he attempted to use the idea for The Circus (1928) and The Great Dictator (1940), but could not justify in either plot. Finally, in this film he was finally able to use the act.
Final film of Edna Purviance. NOTE: She was Charles Chaplin's favorite co-star from the silent era, and remained close to Chaplin throughout her life. She rarely worked in films after the 1920s. Chaplin kept her on his payroll until her death in 1958.
The Academy Award that Charles Chaplin won for composing this film's score is the only competitive Oscar he ever received; his other awards were given to him for special achievement outside of the established categories.
When some scenes were re-shot, Claire Bloom was unavailable, so Charles Chaplin's wife, Oona Chaplin, stood in for her. She can be seen lying in the bed through the doorway after the housemaid has told Chaplin's character that his "wife" isn't eating.
The first feature film in which Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton appeared onscreen together. This is often wrongly cited as their first onscreen meeting, but both appeared in a short publicity film in 1922 entitled Seeing Stars (1922).
Charles Chaplin sailed to London for the 16 Oct 1952 world premiere, but his re-entry permit was revoked after he left because of accusations that he was tied to the Communist party--a common charge in the "Red Scare" era in the US in the 1950s made against those--especially in the arts--who raised questions or objections to American foreign or domestic policies. After showings of "Limelight" in New York and other East Coast cities, an anti-Chaplin frenzy whipped up by ultra-conservative politicians and organizations caused cancellation of showings in other cities.
Charles Chaplin, Ray Rasch and Larry Russell won the Oscar for Best Original Score for this film, but it was the Oscar for films released in 1972. The picture had never played in a Los Angeles-area cinema during the intervening 20 years and was not eligible for Oscar consideration until it did.
The 60th anniversary of "Limelight" was celebrated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a reception, panel and film screening at its Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, on October 3, 2012. Cast members Claire Bloom and Norman Lloyd shared their recollections in a conversation moderated by Chaplin biographer/archivist Jeffrey Vance.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton had an interesting relationship. Long considered rivals but always having avoided commenting about each other in the press, Chaplin hired Keaton for a part in this film. Keaton, who was flat broke at the time, went into a career decline after having been signed by MGM in 1928, as the studio would not let him improvise in any of his films nor allow him any writing or directorial input, and he was eventually reduced to writing gags--often uncredited--for other comedians' films. Chaplin, at this point, felt sorry for him due to his hard luck, but Keaton recognized that, despite Charlie's better fortune and far greater wealth, he was (strangely) the more depressed of the two. In one scene in this film, Chaplin's character was dying. While the camera was fading away, Keaton was muttering to Chaplin without moving his lips, "That's it, good, wait, don't move, wait, good, we're through." In his autobiography Keaton called Chaplin "the greatest silent comedian of all time."
The rumor has been widely circulated that Buster Keaton was much funnier than Charles Chaplin in their scene together, so Chaplin cut Keaton's best scenes. In her book "Buster Keaton Remembered", Keaton's widow Eleanor Keaton refutes this story; according to her, the rumor was started by Raymond Rohauer, Keaton's business partner. The point of the scene was to show Chaplin as Calvero having one final triumph before he has a heart attack and dies. It would not have made sense for Keaton, who was not even a major character in the movie, to outshine Chaplin.