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Chaplin Quotations


[Talkies] are spoiling the oldest art in the world — the art of pantomime. They are ruining the great beauty of silence.

From an interview with Gladys Hall in Motion Picture Magazine, May 1929: “They [talkies] are spoiling the oldest art in the world — the art of pantomime. They are ruining the great beauty of silence. They are defeating the meaning of the screen, the appeal that has created the star system, the fan system, the vast popularity of the whole — the appeal of beauty. It’s beauty that matters in pictures — nothing else.”




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.”




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.”




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)




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.”




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.”




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