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Chaplin Quotations


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.




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.”




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

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




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

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




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”




To work is to live - and I love to live.

June 30, 1976 to journalists. Quoted in the Chronology section of David Robinson’s “Chaplin: His Life and Art”




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




The heart and the mind ... what an enigma.

Calvero says this in Limelight