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Chaplin Quotations


Simplicity is a difficult thing to achieve.

From an interview with Richard Meryman, 1966




Life can be wonderful if you're not afraid of it. All it needs is courage, imagination ... and a little dough.

Calvero (Charles Chaplin) says this to Terry (Claire Bloom) in Limelight (1952)




Imagination means nothing without doing.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease from pain.

From “Mr. Chaplin Answers His Critics”; The Comedian Defends His Ending of ‘The Great Dictator’ by Charles Chaplin, The New York Times, 27 October 1940.




You’ll never find rainbows if you’re looking down.

From the lyrics to “Swing Little Girl”, the song at the beginning of The Circus, which Chaplin himself sang for the film’s 1969 rerelease.




Let us strive for the impossible. The great achievements throughout history have been the conquest of what seemed the impossible.

From “To Support the President’s Rally for a Second Front Now!”, Madison Square Park, July 22, 1942. Quoted in My Autobiography:
“Let us aim for victory in the spring. You in the factories, you in the fields, you in uniforms; you citizens of the world, let us work and fight towards that end. You, official Washington, and you, official London, let us make this our aim - victory in the spring.
If we hold this thought, work with this thought, live with this thought, it will generate a spirit that will increase our energy and quicken our drive.
Let us strive for the impossible. Remember the great achievements throughout history have been the conquest of what seemed the impossible.”




Perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express.

From My Autobiograpy: “Schopenhauer said happiness is a negative state — but I disagree. For the last twenty years I have known what happiness means. I have the good fortune to be married to a wonderful wife. I wish I could write more about this, but it involves love, and perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express. As I live with Oona, the depth and beauty of her character are a continual revelation to me. Even as she walks ahead of me along the narrow sidewalks of Vevey with simple dignity, her neat little figure straight, her dark hair smoothed back showing a few silver threads, a sudden wave of love and admiration comes over me for all that she is — and a lump comes into my throat.”




A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.

From Chaplin’s My Autobiography: “The secret of Mack Sennett’s success was his enthusiasm. He was a great audience and laughed genuinely at what he thought funny. He stood and giggled until his body began to shake. This encouraged me and I began to explain the character: ‘You know this fellow is many-sided, a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. He would have you believe he is a scientist, a musician, a duke, a polo-player. However, he is not above picking up cigarette-butts or robbing a baby of its candy. And, of course, if the occasion warrants it, he will kick a lady in the rear—but only in extreme anger!’ I carried on this way for ten minutes or more, keeping Sennett in continuous chuckles. ‘All right,’ he said, ‘get on the set and see what you can do there.’”




I am a citizen of the world.

”‘Why haven’t you become a citizen?’ said another voice. ‘I see no reason to change my nationality. I consider myself a citizen of the world,’ I answered.” - Charlie Chaplin quotes this dialogue in “My Autobiography” from the press conference for Monsieur Verdoux, which took place right after its premiere in New York. Rather than directing their questions at the film itself, the hostile journalists interrogated Chaplin about his political sympathies, patriotism, tax affairs and refusal to adopt American citizenship.

Chaplin is also quoted in “My Father, Charlie Chaplin” by Charles Chaplin Jr.: “I consider myself a citizen of the world, an internationalist… I just happen to have been born in London, England. It could have been Burma or China or Timbuktu, I’d still be the way I am. I’d keep my first citizenship because, being an accident of birth, it wouldn’t have any real significance. But wherever I live I’ll conform to the rules, laws and regulations of that country.”

In a 1942 speech at “Artists’ Front to Win the War” at Carnegie Hall, Chaplin declared, “I’m not a citizen, I don’t need citizenship papers, and I’ve never had patriotism in that sense for any country, but I’m a patriot to humanity as a whole. I’m a citizen of the world. If the Four Freedoms mean anything after this war, we don’t bother about whether we are citizens of one country or another.”

And in a response to an interrogator from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1948, Chaplin said, “I consider myself as much a citizen of America as anybody else and my great love has always been here in this country […] at the same time I don’t feel I am allied to any one particular country. I feel I am a citizen of the world. I feel that when the day comes and we have the barriers down and so forth so the people come and go all around the world and be a part of any country, and I have always felt that about citizenship.”




Life is a beautiful magnificent thing, even to a jelly fish.

From a scene in Limelight




We think too much and feel too little.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux.




I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table.

In response to journalist for his views on the future of mankind at his 70th birthday, April 16, 1959. “I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table… I hope we shall abolish all the hydrogen and atom bombs before they abolish us first.”




If you're really truthful with yourself, it's a wonderful guidance.

From 1966 interview with Richard Meryman




The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.

From My Autobiography : “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury. Each day I stepped into the Carlton was like entering a golden paradise. Being rich in London made life an exciting adventure every moment. The world was an entertainment.”




I suppose that’s one of the ironies of life – doing the wrong thing at the right moment.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux.




All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.

From “My Autobiography”:
“‘The public doesn’t line up outside the box-office when your name appears as they do for mine.’
‘Maybe,’ said Sennett, ‘but without the support of our organization you’d be lost.’ He warned: ‘Look what’s happening to Ford Sterling.’
This was true, for Ford had not fared very well since leaving Keystone. But I told Sennett: ‘All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.’ As a matter of fact I had made some of my most successful pictures with just about that assembly.’




The deeper the truth in a creative work, the longer it will live.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




What a sad business, being funny

From Limelight (1952): Terry (Claire Bloom) to Calvero (Charles Chaplin) after he tells her of his downfall in show business.




We must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.

From My Autobiography, on the creation of The Gold Rush: “In the creation of comedy, it is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule; because ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance: we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.”