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Chaplin Quotations


Simplicity of approach is always best.

From My Autobiography: “The intellectualising of line and space, composition, tempo, etc., is all very well, but it has little to do with acting, and is liable to fall into arid dogma. Simplicity of approach is always best.”




What do you want meaning for? Life is desire, not meaning!

From a scene in Limelight




One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify.

Henri Verdoux says this to a reporter before being led to the guillotine in Monsieur Verdoux




In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




I am at peace with God. My conflict is with man.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux




The world is not composed of heroes and villains, but of men and women with all the passions that God has given them. The ignorant condemn, but the wise pity.

Charlie Chaplin: Prefatory title to A Woman of Paris, 1923 (archive reference: ECCI00313430, chm241001)

Chaplin is quoted in “A Woman of Paris Next Chaplin Film” in the Atlanta American, October 21, 1923: “I have tried to make a story of life as I see it—a life that is not composed of heroes and villains, but of men and women with all their passions given to them by God. My sole purpose is that of entertainment, but if a moral has crept into it, it is a preachment for tolerance and understanding for those who have made mistakes, to invite your pity for human weakness, for after all, none is perfect. It is so easy to condemn—so hard to understand, and forgive.”

He is also quoted in “Chaplin Tries Something He Never Tried Before” in the Taunton Daily Gazette, April 3, 1923: Human beings are neither heroes nor villains, neither good nor bad, and are not to be held personally accountable for actions resulting in tragedy. They are straws swayed from the outside by the social entity to which individuals are chained, and by public opinion. I don’t necessarily mean press or church, state or mob, but the influence of any person, group, custom, tradition or social gesture.”




Whomever lives, gambles with life.

Full quote: The mystic urge to gamble is as deep in man as the instinct to survive. It is as much a part of him and as unavoidable as breathing, for whomever lives, gambles with life. (From manuscript notes in the Charlie Chaplin archives)




Machinery should be a blessing to mankind and not a curse.

Paper, Charles Chaplin, An Idea for the Solution of War Reparations , 1932: “We can produce in abundance food and materials, and manufacture in mass production all the essentials and luxuries of life. Machinery should be a blessing to mankind and not a curse. Therefore, let us have shorter hours of labor and cheaper money. The purchasing power comes through wages. Then let us raise them to where each man can enjoy the blessings and the glory of science, which were not created for profit alone, but to serve humanity also.”




All artists experience a lull in their work. It is a period of replenishing the soil – of plowing in and turning under our past experiences and watering them afresh with new ones.

From “A Comedian Sees the World”: After the premiere of City Lights, “My friends convinced me that I had a success and after the ordeal of that first night in Los Angeles I made plans to leave the following evening for New York. Upon my arrival there I invited the late Ralph Barton, the famous caricaturist and writer, to come as my guest to Europe. He confessed to me that he had been feeling depressed, and that recently he had attempted suicide. Poor Ralph! I remember I tried to appeal to his ego.
‘Life could never defeat me,’ I said. ‘Nothing matters, only physical pain. Our tragedies are only as big as we make them.’
Ralph was creatively exhausted. This, I think, preyed on his mind and was partly the cause for his later killing himself.
I tried to cheer him up. ‘All artists experience a lull in their work. It is a period of replenishing the soil–of plowing in and turning under our past experiences and watering them afresh with new ones. But later you’ll reap a creative harvest,’ I laughed. ‘What you need is adventure, so come to Europe.’ He accepted my invitation, and we sailed for England on the Mauretania.”




Over the years I have discovered that ideas come through an intense desire for them; continually desiring, the mind becomes a watch-tower on the look-out for incidents that may excite the imagination – music, a sunset, may give image to an idea.

From My Autobiography: “Interviewers have asked me how I get ideas for pictures and to this day I am not able to answer satisfactorily. Over the years I have discovered that ideas come through an intense desire for them; continually desiring, the mind becomes a watch-tower on the look-out for incidents that may excite the imagination – music, a sunset, may give image to an idea.
I would say, pick a subject that will stimulate you, elaborate it and involve it, then, if you can’t develop it further, discard it and pick another. Elimination from accumulation is the process of finding what you want.”




The persecution of any minority is inhuman and unnatural. That belief is timeless and beyond change.

Speaking of his film The Great Dictator Charlie Chaplin is quoted in John S. Truesdell’s “Chaplin’s Great Dictator Now Ready for Release”, Detroit Michigan Free Press, August 25, 1940: “My reason for producing this film is that I believe the persecution of any minority is inhuman and unnatural. That belief is timeless and beyond change. The tone of the picture is, of course, anti-militaristic. Our ammunition is laughs, and our target the vanities of men who set themselves above other men.”




Beauty is the spirit of all things, an exaltation, a psalm of life and death, of good and evil, of vileness and purity, of joy and pain, of hate and love—all of it incarnate in the object we see or hear. It is an empathy, a feeling into art or nature that we observe—all of it a singing harmony to our senses.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes (“Thoughts and Ideas.” June 2, 1955. ch00372002)




How does one get ideas? By sheer perseverance to the point of madness.

From “My Autobiography” : “Interviewers have asked me how I get ideas for pictures and to this day I am not able to answer satisfactorily. […] How does one get ideas? By sheer perseverance to the point of madness. One must have a capacity to suffer anguish and sustain enthusiasm over a long period of time. Perhaps it’s easier for some people than others, but I doubt it.”




My happiest days are those in which I do good work.

From “Sh-s-s-h! Chaplin is Forced to Reveal Comedy Secrets!” in The Photoplayers’ Weekly, August 5, 1915: “Whatever the good people want I shall try to give them. My happiest days are those in which I do good work. Sometimes I have taken a whole day on a few scenes so as to get the right comedy situations. I realize all the time that every gesture of my fingers and arms and every contortion of my facial muscles will be witnessed by many millions of people seeking entertainment.”




Making fun is serious business.

From an article by Chaplin called “Making Fun” in the December 1916 issue of The Soil: “Making fun is serious business. It calls for deep study, for concentrated observation. It is the business of a funny man to know what makes people laugh and why it makes them laugh. He must be a psychologist before he can become a successful comedian.”




I hope that the entertainment I give has some lasting effect on people. I hope they see the beauty that I myself am seeking. I am trying to express a beauty that embraces not only physical characteristics and scenes, but the true fundamental emotions of humanity. Beauty. Beauty is what I am after.

From “A Window in the New World”, Toronto Star Weekly, May 14, 1921




Remember, you can always stoop and pick up nothing.

Henri Verdoux (Chaplin) says this in Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Also, in My Autobiography, Chaplin recounts: “Mother had a saying: ‘You can always stoop and pick up nothing.’ But she herself did not adhere to this adage, and my sense of propriety was often outraged.”




That which is apparent ends. That which is subtle is never-ending.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




A man is what a woman makes him and a woman makes herself.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes