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Chaplin Quotations


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

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




A man's true character comes out when he's drunk.

Calvero (Charles Chaplin) to Terry (Claire Bloom) after she finds him drunk with friends in Limelight (1952)




Despair is a narcotic. It lulls the mind into indifference.

Henri Verdoux (Chaplin) says this in Monsieur Verdoux (1947)




I am what I am: an individual, unique and different.

In “A Writer’s Notebook”, Somerset Maugham attributes Chaplin’s profound melancholy and loneliness to his impoverished days back in London and comments that Chaplin is nostalgic to those days: “Charlie Chaplin… his fun is simple and sweet and spontaneous. And yet all the time you have a feeling that at the back of all is a profound melancholy. He is a creature of moods and it does not require his facetious assertion ‘Gee, I had such a fit of the blues last night I didn’t hardly know what to do with myself’ to warn you that his humour is lined with sadness. He does not give you the impression of a happy man. I have a notion that he suffers from a nostalgia of the slums. The celebrity he enjoys, his wealth, imprison him in a way of life in which he finds only constraint. I think he looks back to the freedom of his struggling youth, with its poverty and bitter privation, with a longing which knows it can never be satisfied. To him the streets of southern London are the scene of frolic, gaiety and extravagant adventure…I can imagine him going into his own house and wondering what on earth he is doing in this strange man’s dwelling. I suspect that the only home he can ever look upon as such is a second-floor back in the Kennington Road. One night I walked with him in Los Angeles and presently our steps took us to the poorest quarter of the city. There were sordid tenement houses and the shabby gaudy shops in which are sold the various goods that the poor buy from day to day. His face lit up and a buoyant tone came into his voice as he exclaimed, ‘Say, this is the real life, isn’t it? All the rest is just sham.’” In “My Autobiography”, Chaplin is annoyed by Maugham’s “attitude of wanting to make poverty attractive” and retorts that he does not know any poor man who has nostalgia for poverty. He concludes: “In spite of Maugham’s assumptions, like everyone else I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of ancestral promptings and urgings; a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, all of which I am the sum total.”




This is a ruthless world and one must be ruthless to cope with it.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux




I neither believe nor disbelieve anything.

From “My Autobiography”: “I neither believe nor disbelieve in anything. That which can be imagined is as much an approximation to truth as that which can be proved by mathematics. One cannot always approach truth through reason; it confines us to a geometric cast of thought that calls for logic and credibility. We see the dead in our dreams and accept them as living, knowing at the same time they are dead. And although this dream mind is without reason, has it not its own credibility? There are things beyond reason. How can we comprehend a thousand billionth part of a second? Yet it must exist according to the system of mathematics.”




The world cannot be wrong if in this world there's you.

From “This is My Song”. Music and lyrics by Charles Chaplin for The Countess from Hong Kong




Life could be wonderful if people would leave you alone.

Hannah (Paulette Goddard) says this to the Barber (Charles Chaplin) in The Great Dictator (1940)




Let's call them years of a friendly misalliance.

King Shadov (Charles Chaplin) to his estranged wife, Queen Irene (Maxine Audley), on the state of their broken marriage in A King in New York (1957)




I have yet to know a poor man who has nostalgia for poverty.

From My Autobiography: “I have yet to know a poor man who has nostalgia for poverty, or who finds freedom in it …
I found poverty neither attractive nor edifying. It taught me nothing but a distortion of values, an over-rating of the virtues and graces of the rich and the so-called better classes.”




Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

Richard Roud, “The Baggy-Trousered Philanthropist”, quoted in obituary, The Guardian (London, Dec. 28, 1977)




Life and death are too resolute, too implacable to be accidental.

From “My Autobiography”: “I once saw on a tombstone in the South of France a photograph of a smiling young girl of fourteen, and engraved below, one word: ‘Pourquoi?’ In such bewilderment of grief it is futile to seek an answer. It only leads to false moralizing and torment – yet it does not mean that there is no answer. I cannot believe that our existence is meaningless or accidental, as some scientists would tell us. Life and death are too resolute, too implacable to be accidental.”




The basic essential of a great actor is that he loves himself in acting.

From My Autobiograpy: “The basic essential of a great actor is that he loves himself in acting. I do not mean it in a derogatory sense. Often I have heard an actor say: ‘How I’d love to play that part,’ meaning he would love himself in the part. This may be egocentric; but the great actor is mainly preoccupied with his own virtuosity […] Just a fervent love of the theatre is not sufficient; there must also be a fervent love of and belief in oneself.”




Faith is a precursor of all our ideas.

From “My Autobiography”: “As I grow older I am becoming more preoccupied with faith. We live by it more than we think and achieve by it more than we realize. I believe that faith is a precursor of all our ideas. Without faith, there never could have evolved hypothesis, theory, science or mathematics. I believe that faith is an extension of the mind. It is the key that negates the impossible. To deny faith is to refute oneself and the spirit that generates all our creative forces.”




Art was an additional emotion applied to skillful technique.

From “My Autobiography”: “It seems that each time art is discussed I have a different explanation of it. Why not? That evening I said that art was an additional emotion applied to skilful technique. Someone brought the topic round to religion and I confessed I was not a believer. Rachmaninov quickly interposed: ‘But how can you have art without religion?’
I was stumped for a moment. ‘I don’t think we are talking about the same thing,’ I said. ‘My concept of religion is a belief in a dogma — and art is a feeling more than a belief.’
`So is religion,’ he answered. After that I shut up.”




I've arrived at the age where a platonic friendship can be sustained on the highest moral plane.

Limelight (1952): Calvero (Charles Chaplin) to Terry (Claire Bloom) after the aging clown invites the much-younger dancer to recover in his flat




I'm an old weed. The more I'm cut down, the more I spring up again.

Calvero says this in Limelight




I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.

From “My Autobiography”: “I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born. When I confronted Sennett I assumed the character and strutted about, swinging my cane and parading before him. Gags and comedy ideas went racing through my mind.”




Time heals, and experience teaches that the secret of happiness is in service to others.

Screen title in A Woman of Paris (1923)




I'm an old sinner. Nothing shocks me.

From Limelight (1952): Calvero (Charles Chaplin) to Terry (Claire Bloom) as he tries to learn if she has a venereal disease.