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Chaplin Quotations


Love is life on a higher plain of existence, working through man to unite the forces of nature into a perfect whole. It is the merging force binding every element in existence into a perfect whole.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes in the archives (Ref. ch15423001)




People miss happiness by chasing after false values and repressing the feelings that make life valuable and beautiful. When you get up in the morning feeling fine your experience during just those few minutes or hours when you are reacting happily to life is an end in itself.

Quoted in “Chaplin’s Heart, Aims Bared in S.F. Talk” by George P. West, San Francisco Call, November 11, 1922




That's all any of us are - amateurs. We don't live long enough to be anything else.

From Limelight (1952):
Postant: Don’t you worry. Tonight you’re going to make them all look like a bunch of amateurs.
Calvero: That’s all any of us are - amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.




The accumulating complexities of modern life, the kinetic invasion of the twentieth century finds the individual hemmed in by gigantic institutions that threaten from all sides, politically, scientifically and economically. We are becoming the victims of soul-conditioning, of sanctions and permits.

From My Autobiography: “At this juncture, I think it appropriate to sum up the state of the world as I see it today. The accumulating complexities of modern life, the kinetic invasion of the twentieth century finds the individual hemmed in by gigantic institutions that threaten from all sides, politically, scientifically and economically. We are becoming the victims of soul-conditioning, of sanctions and permits.

This matrix into which we have allowed ourselves to be cast is due to a lack of cultural insight. We have gone blindly into ugliness and congestion and have lost our appreciation of the aesthetic. Our living sense has been blunted by profit, power and monopoly. We have permitted these forces to envelop us with an utter disregard of the ominous consequences.

Science, without thoughtful direction or sense of responsibility, has delivered up to politicians and the militaire weapons of such destruction that they hold in their hands the destiny of every living thing on this earth.

This plethora of power given into the hands of men whose moral responsibility and intellectual competence are to say the least not infallible, and in many cases questionable, could end in a war of extermination of all life on earth. Yet we go blindly on.

[…]

Man is an animal with primary instincts of survival. Consequently, his ingenuity has developed first and his soul afterwards. Thus the progress of science is far ahead of man’s ethical behaviour”




Knowledge inspires courage. I’m not sceptical but I’d sooner know than believe.

Manuscript notes in the Charlie Chaplin archives




I’m unconscious while I’m acting. I live the role and am not myself.

Quoted in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, February 22, 1925




It is incongruous that in this atomic age of speed we are shut in and shut out by passports.

Rupert Macabee (Michael Chaplin) says this in A King in New York




I no longer have any use for America at all. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ was President ... [America is] so terribly grim in spite of all the material prosperity.

Cedric Belfrage of the Amercian socialist weekly National Guardian visited Chaplin in Vevey and published quotes from their private conversation in “Chaplin Looks at USA”, November 14, 1955: “I no longer have any use for America at all. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ was President. Yes, I feel bitter – very bitter. But remember that for 15 years I was hounded as a ‘communist’ and persecuted as if I were a criminal – and once faced 25 years in jail for ‘white slavery’ and whatever else they could throw in. I do not need the American market for my films. I will never allow any of my pictures which I control to be shown in America again. [America is] so terribly grim in spite of all the material prosperity. I’m not against materialism but look at what the American kind has done. They no longer know how to weep. Compassion and the old neighbourliness have gone. People stand by and do nothing when friends and neighbours are attacked, libelled and ruined. The worst thing is what it has done to the children. They are being taught to admire and emulate stoolpigeons, to betray and to hate – and all in a sickening atmosphere of religious hypocrisy.”

When the United Press Association telegrammed Chaplin asking him to confirm the quotes, he realised he had been manipulated and replied, “Whatever statements were made, true or not true, this man could never have entered my house as a reporter. I received him as my guest.”




When I’m not making pictures, I’m thinking of them, and when I’m not thinking of them, I’m dreaming of them.

Quoted in Spotlight, May 5, 1917




My costume helps me to express my conception of the average man, of almost any man, of myself. The derby, too small, is a striving for dignity. The mustache is vanity. The tightly buttoned coat and the stick and his whole manner are a gesture toward gallantry and dash and ‘front.’ He is chasing folly, and he knows it. He is trying to meet the world bravely, to put up a bluff, and he knows that, too. He knows it so well that he can laugh at himself and pity himself a little.

Quoted in “Chaplin’s Heart, Aims Bared in S.F. Talk” by George P. West, San Francisco Call, November 11, 1922




That is all there is in life — beauty. You find that and you have found everything.

From “Chaplin Explains Chaplin”, an interview with Harry Carr in The Motion Picture Magazine, Nov. 1925. (archive reference ECCI00029676, ch22542001). Carr discusses “A Woman of Paris” of Paris with Chaplin:
Carr: “But you were so sophisticated in A Woman of Paris that the picture failed.”
Chaplin: “Oh, it wasn’t such a failure. It has made $100,000.” […] “It wasn’t because it was too sophisticated; it was because it held out no hope. It was just like life. The people wanted to see the boy saved from suicide; and have the girl go back to him, and have them live happily forever after.”
Carr: “In other words, it was tragedy.”
Chaplin: “Yes, it was tragedy.” […] “I like tragedy. I don’t like comedy.”
Carr: “You what! You don’t like comedy?”
Chaplin: “No. I like tragedy; it is beautiful. The only comedy that is worth while is when it has beauty. That is all there is in life—beauty. You find that and you have found everything. Only it is hard to find.”




I lie down on the beach on my back and look up at the sky and stop thinking, in a sort of empty bliss. Then my tummy tells me it is time to eat—and I eat. Then I lie down again in the sand. And life is worth while.

From “Chaplin Explains Chaplin”, an interview with Harry Carr in The Motion Picture Magazine, Nov. 1925. (archive reference ECCI00029676, ch22542002). Carr asks Chaplin at the end of the interview, “Is life worth while?”
Chaplin: “At times”
Carr: “For instance?”
Chaplin: “For instance, I lie down on the beach on my back and look up at the sky and stop thinking, in a sort of empty bliss. Then my tummy tells me it is time to eat—and I eat. Then I lie down again in the sand. And life is worth while.”




It is pure instinct with me — dramatic instinct.

From “Chaplin Explains Chaplin”, an interview with Harry Carr in The Motion Picture Magazine, Nov. 1925. (archive reference ECCI00029676, ch22542001). Carr discusses “A Woman of Paris” of Paris with Chaplin:

“‘You said some hard things—and some good things about my picture, [The Gold Rush],’ [Chaplin] said and added with a shadow of a smile: ‘You were exactly right—both times.’ And then he added with an afterthought ‘Except that place where you said I was getting sophisticated.’
‘Well aren’t you?’ [replied Carr]
Charlie shook his head, ‘Never sophisticated,’ he said. ‘I am not sophisticated at all. I read in the papers where I have this and that large motive for doing things; but they are wrong. It is pure instinct with me—dramatic instinct. I don’t figure it out: I just know it is right or wrong.’”




It’s depleting, don’t you know, this business of being funny all the time! I need a rest.

From “Chaplin Here; Is Ready For Dramatic Pictures” in San Francisco News, November 9, 1922. (during production of A Woman of Paris) “It’s depleting, don’t you know, this business of being funny all the time! I need a rest. And this is a good way to get it, trying my hand at something else.”




Comedy must be true to life.

Quoted in “Photoplays and Photoplayers,” Washington Times, January 26, 1915: “Comedy must be true to life. There must be realism in comedy. It is ever more necessary than in drama. Coarse burlesque is not wanted any more. It is the deviation from the ordinary that makes the picture funny. Some little act that is unexpected and causes a surprise brings the laugh. Yet this act must be natural and in accordance with what the character might do in real life. If the act does not accord with the character, if it is forced, then it merely appears absurd and fails to be funny.”




My tramp is made up of mimicry.

Quoted in Film Weekly, Oct. 22, 1938: “This much is certain. I’ll never talk while doing the Charlie Chaplin character I have used in my pictures heretofore. It’s a question whether I would be wise to do a talking part at all. My tramp is made up of mimicry.”




One cannot do humour without a great sympathy for one's fellow man.

“Ageless Master’s Anatomy of Comedy: Chaplin, An Interview”, interview with Richard Meryman, Life Magazine, March 10, 1967




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.




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

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux




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

Screen title in A Woman of Paris (1923)