LIMELIGHT AND AFTER: The Education of an Actress by Claire Bloom
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LIMELIGHT AND AFTER: The Education of an Actress

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An impeccable 138-page memoir of Bloom's early, precocious career, through the opening of Limelight--followed, anti-climactically, by fragmentary commentaries on her acting career since. Childhood was English/Jewish, a mix which is crisply evoked. And ""I was afraid of nearly everything""--especially when France fell (""I only remember my mother waiting in her best coat to meet the Germans""). . . and when Claire, brother John, and Mother were shipped off to safety in Florida. But the relatives there proved unpleasant, so it was off to Queens, N.Y.--where twelve-year-old Claire got to see Broadway shows and to audition (successfully) for a children's radio show. Thus, by the time the Blooms returned to London, Claire (niece of a briefly famed actress) was hooked. And when father Eddie deserted the family, the pretty 15-year-old drama student found herself eagerly becoming the breadwinner: in the BBC radio rep company; at the Oxford playhouse; almost Juliet in Peter Brook's production (""I imagined those eyed had the power to frighten you into being a better actress""), almost Ophelia in Olivier's Hamlet film; and The Lady's Not For Burning with Gielgud and Burton. ""The perfect uncomplicated life: my fifteen pounds a week, my mother's approval, and no love affairs."" But then. . . a phone call requesting that photos be sent to Charlie Chaplin. Unbelievable yet true. So to N.Y.--for rehearsals and tests: ""some composite young woman, lost to him in the past, was what he wanted me to bring to life."" And, the role won, on to filming in L.A.--where Claire, ""an adoring surrogate daughter,"" eagerly took to CC's ""exacting, dictatorial ingenuity."" Bloom captures the Chaplin magic. The film's poignant tug at her own filial ache speaks for itself. (Her father reappeared at the height of her triumphs. . . only to die soon after Claire rebuffed him in a backstage encounter.) And this shiny, dark tale is delivered without pretensions or one word too many. So, though Bloom's afterwords--on theater vs. film, the Method, ensemble acting, Gielgud and Richardson, typecasting--are good enough of their kind (slightly too soulful), they oddly detract from the small, quiet marvel which has gone before.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row