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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)




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




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.




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.”




In all truth there is the seed of falsehood.

From My Autobiography: “As for that much-touted metaphysical word ‘truth’, there are different forms of it and one truth is as good as another. The classical acting at the Comédie Française is as believable as the so-called realistic acting in an Ibsen play; both are in the realm of artificiality and designed to give the illusion of truth — after all, in all truth there is the seed of falsehood.”




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.”




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)




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)




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.”




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

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




In the realm of the unknown there is an infinite power for good.

From “My Autobiography”: “My faith is in the unknown, in all that we do not understand by reason; I believe that what is beyond our comprehension is a simple fact in other dimensions, and that in the realm of the unknown there is an infinite power for good.”