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Chaplin Quotations

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.”

Wisdom usually grows up on us like calluses when we are old, gnarled and bent.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

Men who think deeply say little in ordinary conversations.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

I could kill laughs more quickly by overdoing something than by any other method.

From “What People Laugh At”, American Magazine, November 1918: “One of the things I have to be most careful about is not to overdo a thing, or to stress too much any particular point. I could kill laughs more quickly by overdoing something than by any other method. If I made too much of my peculiar walk, if I were too rough in turning people upside down, if I went to excess in anything at all, it would be bad for the picture.”

It is not reality that matters in a film but what the imagination can make of it.

From My Autobiography: “… I was depressed by the remark of a young critic who said that City Lights was very good, but that it verged on the sentimental, and that in my future films I should try to approximate realism. I found myself agreeing with him. Had I known what I do now, I could have told him that so-called realism is often artificial, phoney, prosaic and dull; and that it is not reality that matters in a film but what the imagination can make of it.”

No doubt you were extremely beautiful as a young girl, but your youth could never compete with your age now.

Henri Verdoux (Charles Chaplin) says this to Marie Grosnay (Isobel Elsom) as he tries to seduce her in Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

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

Calvero says this in Limelight

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

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

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

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

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

Too much kindness and respect are given to the unseen and not enough to humanity. It seems that in our nature we loathe each other and bestow our respect and love on the abstract.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

Humor is the ability to discern in a kindly way the folly in what is considered normal, sublime behavior, and to discern the discrepancy in what appears as a truth.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

Humor is kindly. Wit is caustic.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes

My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist.

From “My Autobiography”: “Friends have asked how I came to engender this American antagonism. My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non¬conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refused to fall in line by hating them. This, of course, has offended many […]
Secondly, I was opposed to the Committee on Un-American Activities — a dishonest phrase to begin with, elastic enough to wrap around the throat and strangle the voice of any American citizen whose honest opinion is a minority one.
Thirdly, I have never attempted to become an American citizen.”

One either rises to an occasion or succumbs to it.

From “My Autobiography”. On the occasion of his first performance in Karno’s The Football Match, Chaplin remembers: “At the back of the enormous stage I walked up and down, with anxiety superimposed on fear, praying to myself. There was the music! The curtain rose! On the stage was a chorus of men exercising. Eventually they exited, leaving the stage empty. That was my cue. In an emotional chaos I went on. One either rises to an occasion or succumbs to it. The moment I walked on to the stage I was relieved, everything was clear”