Date of Birth
16 April 1889, Walworth, London, England, UK
Date of Death
25 December 1977, Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland
Charles Spencer Chaplin
The Little Tramp
5′ 5″ (1.65 m)
Charlie Chaplin, considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular “Little Tramp” character; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk. Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in Walworth, London, England on April 16th, 1889 to Charles and Hannah (Hill) Chaplin, both music hall performers, who were married on June 22nd, 1885. After Charles Sr. separated from Hannah to perform in New York City, Hannah then tried to resurrect her stage career. Unfortunately, her singing voice had a tendency to break at unexpected moments. When this happened, the stage manager spotted young Charlie standing in the wings and led him on stage, where five-year-old Charlie began to sing a popular tune. Charlie and his half-brother, Syd Chaplin (born Sydney Hawkes), spent their lives in and out of charity homes and workhouses between their mother’s bouts of insanity. Hannah was committed to Cane Hill Asylum in May of 1903 and lived there until 1921, when Chaplin moved her to California. Chaplin began his official acting career at the age of eight, touring with The Eight Lancashire Lads. At 18 he began touring with Fred Karno’s vaudeville troupe, joining them on the troupe’s 1910 US tour. He traveled west to California in December 1913 and signed on with Keystone Studios’ popular comedy director Mack Sennett, who had seen Chaplin perform on stage in New York. Charlie soon wrote his brother Syd, asking him to become his manager. While at Keystone, Chaplin appeared in and directed 35 films, starring as the Little Tramp in nearly all. In November 1914, he left Keystone and signed on at Essanay, where he made 15 films. In 1916, he signed on at Mutual and made 12 films. In June 1917, Chaplin signed up with First National Studios, after which he built Chaplin Studios. In 1919, he and Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith formed United Artists (UA). Chaplin’s life and career was full of scandal and controversy. His first big scandal was during World War I, during which time his loyalty to England, his home country, was questioned. He had never applied for US citizenship, but claimed that he was a “paying visitor” to the United States. Many British citizens called Chaplin a coward and a slacker. This and his other career eccentricities sparked suspicion with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Council (HUAC), who believed that he was injecting Communist propaganda into his films. Chaplin’s later film The Great Dictator (1940), which was his first “talkie”, also created a stir. In the film, Chaplin plays a humorous caricature of Adolf Hitler. Some thought the film was poorly done and in bad taste. However, it grossed over $5 million and earned five Academy Award Nominations. Another scandal occurred when Chaplin briefly dated 22-year-old Joan Barry. However, Chaplin’s relationship with Barry came to an end in 1942, after a series of harassing actions from her. In May of 1943 Barry returned to inform Chaplin that she was pregnant, and filed a paternity suit, claiming that the unborn child was his. During the 1944 trial, blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father, but at the time blood tests were inadmissible evidence and he was ordered to pay $75 a week until the child turned 21. Chaplin was also scrutinized for his support in aiding the Russian struggle against the invading Nazis during World War II, and the U.S. government questioned his moral and political views, suspecting him of having Communist ties. For this reason HUAC subpoenaed him in 1947. However, HUAC finally decided that it was no longer necessary for him to appear for testimony. Conversely, when Chaplin and his family traveled to London for the premier of Limelight (1952), he was denied re-entry to the United States. In reality, the government had almost no evidence to prove that he was a threat to national security. He and his wife decided, instead, to settle in Switzerland. Chaplin was married four times and had a total of 11 children. In 1918, he wed Mildred Harris, they had a son together, Norman Spencer Chaplin, who only lived three days. Chaplin and Mildred were divorced in 1920. He married Lita Grey in 1924, who had two sons, Charles Chaplin Jr. and Sydney Chaplin. They were divorced in 1927. In 1936, Chaplin married Paulette Goddard and his final marriage was to Oona O’Neill (Oona Chaplin), daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill in 1943. Oona gave birth to eight children:Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin, Eugene, Jane, Annette-Emilie and Christopher Chaplin. In contrast to many of his boisterous characters, Chaplin was a quiet man who kept to himself a lot. He also had an “un-millionaire” way of living. Even after he had accumulated millions, he continued to live in shabby accommodations. In 1921, Chaplin was decorated by the French government for his outstanding work as a filmmaker, and was elevated to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1952. In 1972, he was honored with an Academy Award for his “incalculable effect in making motion pictures the art form of the century.” He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1975 Queen’s Honours List for his services to entertainment. Chaplin’s other works included musical scores he composed for many of his films. He also authored two autobiographical books, “My Autobiography” in 1964 and its companion volume, “My Life in Pictures” in 1974. Chaplin died of natural causes on December 25, 1977 at his home in Switzerland. In 1978, Chaplin’s corpse was stolen from its grave and was not recovered for three months; he was re-buried in a vault surrounded by cement. Charlie Chaplin was considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema, whose movies were and still are popular throughout the world, and have even gained notoriety as time progresses. His films show, through the Little Tramp’s positive outlook on life in a world full of chaos, that the human spirit has and always will remain the same.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Amy Smith < email@example.com>
|Oona Chaplin||(16 June 1943 – 25 December 1977) (his death) 8 children|
|Paulette Goddard||(1 June 1936 – 4 June 1942) (divorced)|
|Lita Grey||(26 November 1924 – 25 August 1927) (divorced) 2 children|
|Mildred Harris||(23 October 1918 – 4 April 1921) (divorced) 1 child|
A tramp with toothbrush mustache, undersized bowler hat and bamboo cane who struggled to survive while keeping his dignity in a world with great social injustice.
Highly descriptive facial expressions
Stories often reflect his liberal political beliefs
Destroyed the original negative of Sea Gull, The (1933) before a number of witnesses. The film never saw release, possibly because he was dismayed by the poor performance of his lead actress, Edna Purviance.
Grandfather of Dolores Chaplin and Carmen Chaplin.
Long after becoming a millionaire, he continued to live in a shabby hotel room, and kept his studio checks in a trunk for months.
He thought his period with Mutual was the most consistently pleasant period in his career, although he felt that the plots of the films were too formualic for his taste.
Ranked #79 in Empire (UK) magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” list. [October 1997]
He was 29 years old when he wed Mildred Harris; she was 17.
He was 35 years old when he wed Lita Grey; Lita was 16.
He was 47 years old when he wed Paulette Goddard; Paulette was 26.
He was 54 years old when he wed Oona O’Neill (Oona Chaplin); Oona was 17.
On 3 March 1978 his dead body was stolen from the Corsier-Sur-Vevey cemetery. It took until 18 May when the police found it.
His Beverly Hills residence was known as “Breakaway House”. Designed by Chaplin himself and built by studio carpenters, it began falling to bits over the years, much to the amusement of visitors. Built on Summit Drive in the Pickfair neighborhood, the house boasted a pipe organ Chaplin continually used to entertain his guests in the great hall; he also screened his films there. His tennis court was a hive of activity; even the elusive Greta Garbo was a frequent player. He seems to have been an inspiring host; many of his guests joined in with his antics, and reflected that they had never been so funny before or since — it was the influence of Chaplin.
Half-brother of Syd Chaplin.
Father of Charles Chaplin Jr. and Sydney Chaplin with Lita Grey.
First wife, Mildred Harris was the mother of his first child, a son named Norman Spencer (born July 7, 1919). The baby, who was nicknamed “The Little Mouse,” was born with severe disabilities and lived only three days.
Father, with Oona Chaplin, of Geraldine Chaplin (born August 1, 1944), Michael Chaplin (born March 7, 1946) Josephine Chaplin (born March 28, 1949), Victoria Chaplin (born May 19, 1951), Eugene Chaplin (born August 23, 1953), Jane Chaplin (born May 23, 1957), Annette Emily Chaplin (born December 3 1959) and Christopher Chaplin (born July 8, 1962).
He was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Council (HUAC) in September of 1947, but his appearance was postponed three times, and he never appeared. He sent HUAC a telegram stating “I am not a Communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life”. HUAC determined that it was no longer needed for him to appear.
Knighted in 1975.
In her book, “Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin”, Joyce Milton asserts that Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial classic, “Lolita”, was inspired by Chaplin’s relationship with Lita Grey. On the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth, celebrations were held in Corsier and Vevey, Switzerland, where he last lived. For the occasion, 100 children from the region performed a choreography dressed up as little tramps.
Interred at Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery, Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
A much-repeated story claims that he once entered a Charlie Chaplin-look-a-like-contest and finished third! In some versions of the story, he came in second.
Stan Laurel was his understudy on the English stage.
When both Stan Laurel and Chaplin moved to America they shared a room in a boarding house.
Cooking was not allowed in the boarding house where Stan Laurel and Chaplin stayed, so he would play the violin to cover up the sound of Laurel frying up food on a hot plate.
Invented his tramp costume with the help of Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle’s pants. Arbuckle’s father-in-law’s derby, Chester Conklin’s cutaway, Ford Sterling’s size-14 shoes, and some crepe paper belonging to Mack Swain (which became the tramp’s mustache). The only item that actually belonged to Chaplin was the whangee cane.
His bowler and cane was sold for $150,000 in 1987.
He was the first actor to appear on the cover of “Time” magazine, (July 6, 1925).
He was also the first actor to have a comic strip about him; Ed Carey’s 1916 strip, “Pa’s Imported Son-in-Law”, detailed the adventures of Chaplin.
After his body was recovered from grave robbers, Chaplin was reburied in a vault surrounded by cement.
Pictured (as Charlie Chaplin) on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts,Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.
Pictured on one of fifteen 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps in the “Celebrate the Century” series, issued 3 February 1998, celebrating the 1910s.
In Spain he had a different dubbing actor in each of his sound films. They were: Ricardo Solans for The Great Dictator (1940), Félix Acaso forLimelight (1952) and Joaquín Díaz for A King in New York (1957). The dubbing actor of Monsieur Verdoux (1947) is, at this time, unknown.
Father-in-law of Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée.
Son-in-law of Eugene O’Neill.
Grandfather of James Thiérrée.
Most people (now and during his lifetime) believe that Chaplin had brown eyes because they had only seen him in black and white with black eye makeup on. It fact they were very blue. Chaplin remarked in his autobiography that people meeting him for the first time were always struck by his blue eyes. And his future wife Oona Chaplin wrote “Just met Charlie Chaplin. What blue eyes he has!” to a girlhood friend in 1942.
Was an accomplished musician who, in his later years, often reissued his silent films with scores he had composed himself.
His handprints, footprints and signature were immortalized in cement at Grauman’s (now Mann’s) Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, but after his fall from grace with the Americans because of his political views, the section of cement was removed from public view. It cannot be located and is now feared lost.
Half brother of Wheeler Dryden.
His mother, Hannah Smith Chaplin, was Romanichal (English Gypsy).
Grandfather of actress Kiera Chaplin.
Grandfather of Aurélia Thiérrée.
Although Adolf Hitler was not at all a fan – in fact he had been misinformed that Charlie was Jewish, and therefore despised him – he was also well aware of how beloved Charlie was throughout the world at that time, and that was the reason he grew the Chaplin moustache: he thought it would endear him to the people. (Source: The Tramp and the Dictator)
Biography in: “Who’s Who in Comedy” by Ronald L. Smith. Pg. 99-102. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
As a child he was confined to a bed for weeks due to a serious illness. At night his mother would sit at the window and act out what was going on outside. This was a major reason Chaplin became a comedian.
When Chaplin arrived in the U.S. with the Fred Karno troupe on Oct. 2, 1912, in his second trip to America, according to Ellis Island immigration records he had $45 in his pocket. He listed his half-brother, Sydney Chaplin, as his next of kin, even though his mother was still alive. Sailing with him was fellow Karno troupe member Arthur Stanley Jefferson–later to be known as Stan Laurel.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. “World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945”. Pages 115-124. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Did not receive screen credit on the many comedies he made for Keystone in 1914-1915, as it was studio policy not to credit its actors (any Keystone film that credits Chaplin is a reissue print). His first screen credit appeared on His New Job (1915), his first film for Essanay.
Called Battleship Potemkin (1925) his favorite movie.
He was voted the 9th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Is mentioned in the song called “Facts of life” from 2004.
Was 73 years old when his youngest son, Christopher, was born.
Received an Honorary Oscar the The 44th Annual Academy Awards (1972) (TV). He appeared on stage blowing kisses to the Hollywood audience with tears running down his face while he received a long standing ovation. Ironically, he won another Oscar the following year.
He and Buster Keaton had an interesting relationship. Long considered rivals but always having avoided commenting about each other in the press, Chaplin hired Keaton for a part in Limelight (1952). Keaton, who was flat broke at the time, went into a career decline after having been signed by MGM in 1928, as the studio would not let him improvise in any of his films nor allow him any writing or directorial input, and he was eventually reduced to writing gags – often uncredited – for other comedians’ films. Chaplin, at this point, felt sorry for Keaton due to his hard luck, but Keaton recognized that, despite Charlie’s better fortune and far greater wealth, Chaplin was (strangely) the more depressed of the two. In one scene in Limelight, Chaplin’s character was dying. While the camera was fading away, Keaton was muttering to Chaplin without moving his lips, “That’s it, good, wait, don’t move, wait, good, we’re through.” In his autobiography Keaton called Chaplin “the greatest silent comedian of all time.”
At the Golden Camera Awards 2005 in Berlin, Geraldine Chaplin told in a moving speech honoring Jerry Lewis about the last time she saw her father alive. He watched a movie of Lewis on television screaming “He`s funny, that bastard!”.
Named the #10 Greatest Actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute.
In all his years of living and working in the United States he never became a U.S. citizen.
He was the uncle of Spencer Dryden, drummer for the 1960s rock band Jefferson Airplane.
Founder of United Artists along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith.
Profiled in in J.A. Aberdeen’s “Hollywood Renegades: The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers”. Palos Verdes Estates, CA: Cobblestone Entertainment.
His performance as The Tramp in City Lights (1931) is ranked #44 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Is portrayed in “Sesame Street” (1969) skits by Linda Bove (Linda) and Sonia Manzano (Maria).
His performance as The Little Tramp in City Lights (1931) and a slew of other pictures is ranked #24 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Composed about 500 melodies, including “Smile” and “This Is My Song”.
Up until his last few movies, he never shot with a working script. He would start with a story in his mind and constantly retool it, often shooting hours of scenes that wouldn’t make the final cut until he was satisfied. He spent his nights during filming, critiquing the rushes with his assistant directors. Consequently compared to the major studio’s films, he spent months/years and excessive amounts of money on his productions. He often said though he would not release any of his films until he was 100% satisfied with the result.
After finishing his last film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) in 1966, he composed the music to many of his silent movies, among them The Circus (1928) in 1968, The Kid (1921) in 1971 and A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923) in 1976.
His trademark character The Tramp appeared in about 70 movies, shorts and features, during a period of 26 years, from the one-reeler Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) in 1914 to his triumphant feature The Great Dictator (1940) in 1940.
Charlie loved to play tennis, but described golf as “a game I can’t stand”.
Marlon Brando played the starring role in Chaplin’s last movie, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) in 1966. While Brando had always greatly admired Chaplin’s work and looked upon him as “probably the most talented man the [movie] medium has ever produced,” the two superstars didn’t get along during the shooting. In his autobiography, Brando described Chaplin as “probably the most sadistic man I’d ever met.” Chaplin, on his side, said that working with Brando simply was “impossible”.
His film, The Great Dictator (1940), was banned in Germany.
Was once working as a butler in England, a job he enjoyed. He was fired after he was caught playing a trumpet he had found in his employer’s attic.
His mother was so poor she was once forced to pawn her son’s spare clothes.
His mother was in and out of mental hospitals throughout her life.
When Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle was unable to find work after his infamous trial, Chaplin supported him out of his own pocket.
First actor to be nominated for a single Academy Award (Best Actor) for a film in which he was credited as portraying two different characters. InThe Great Dictator (1940), he played a Jewish barber–a variation of his Little Tramp character–and Adenoid Hynkel, his version of Adolf Hitler.
Was an agnostic who believed in some sort of “Supreme Force”, according to his son Charles Chaplin Jr.’s autobiography, “My Father, Charlie Chaplin”.
His father, with whom he lived for only a brief period of time in his childhood while his mother was committed to a mental asylum, died as the result of alcohol abuse at 37, when Charlie was 12.
The fact that neither City Lights (1931) nor Modern Times (1936), two of Chaplin’s most beloved and acclaimed movies, were nominated for a single Academy Award has puzzled many. One explanation could be that Chaplin expressed disdain for the Academy Awards early on; according to his son Charles Chaplin Jr., for a time Chaplin even used the Honorary Award he won in 1929 as a doorstop. Apparently his view on the Awards changed with time, however, as he accepted and seemed touched by his second Honorary Award in 1972.
According to his daughter Geraldine Chaplin, in the last years of his life Chaplin began to worry that he might not be remembered after his death. This was a major reason why he allowed his trademark character The Little Tramp to appear on several commercial products in the 1970s.
In 1934 Chaplin was scheduled to serve as best man at broadcaster Alistair Cooke’s marriage to Ruth Emerson (Ruth Emerson Cooke), but Charlie never showed. Reputedly, he and wife-to-be Paulette Goddard were having such a good time at Southern California’s Lake Arrowhead, they decided to stay.
He was born four days before Adolf Hitler.
The last movie he saw (and very much enjoyed) was Rocky (1976).
Chaplin remained in remarkably good physical and mental shape for most of his life, still playing tennis regularly well into his seventies and working constantly. However, after the competition of what turned out to be his last film, [[A Countess From Hong Kong]] (1967), his health began to visibly deteriorate.
Cinematic genius that he was, Chaplin never won an Academy Award in an acting category, his only Oscar victory being in the capacity of composer.
He directed and starred in four of the American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest Movies: The Gold Rush (1925) at #25, Modern Times (1936) at #33,The Great Dictator (1940) at #37 and City Lights (1931) at #38.
Once played Sherlock Holmes in a one-act play.
While visiting Winston Spencer Churchill in England in 1937, Chaplin found Churchill studying newspapers and looking worried. When Chaplin asked what was disturbing him, Churchill replied, “Germany.” Chaplin made some airy remark to try to dismiss the subject, but Churchill replied, “No, no, it’s quite serious.”.
Was a good friend of Winston Spencer Churchill.
He was awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1975 Queen’s Honours List for his services to entertainment.
Chaplin’s salary quickly rose during the Teens from $150 per week in 1913 for Keystone, $1250 per week at Essanay, and $10,000 per week with plus a $150,000 bonus at Mutual to $150,000 per film in 1918 at First National.
Spent some of his spare time in the tiny village of Waterville on the southern tip of Ireland. There is a life sized statue of Chaplin on the edge of a waterfront park in the village.
As of 2011 he is the only person to receive a twelve minute standing ovation at the Academy Awards when he appeared to accept an honorary award “for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” It is the longest in the history of the Academy Awards.
Great-Uncle of Drunkfux.
Was aboard William Randolph Hearst’s yacht when Thomas Ince got killed, the subject of “The Cat’s Meow”.
All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
[Returning to Los Angeles after a 20-year self-imposed exile to accept his honorary Oscar in 1971] Thank you so much. This is an emotional moment for me and words seem so futile, so feeble . . . I can only say that . . . thank you for the honor of inviting me here and . . . oh . . . you’re wonderful, sweet people. Thank you.”
I like friends as I like music, when I am in the mood. To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune.
The minute you bought your ticket you were in another world.
I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.
The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.
[on being informed that Adolf Hitler sat through two screenings of The Great Dictator (1940)] I’d give anything to know what he thought of it.
I have no further use for America. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ was President.
[answering the bad reviews he got on his last movie, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)] If they don’t like it, they are bloody idiots. A diplomat falls in love with a prostitute – what better story can they get than that?
The summation of my character [The Tramp] is that I care about my work. I care about everything I do. If I could do something else better, I would do it, but I can’t.
Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is “elephant”.
I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.
I don’t believe that the public knows what it wants; this is the conclusion that I have drawn from my career.
[on his screen character, The Little Tramp] A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.
All my pictures are built around the idea of getting in trouble and so giving me the chance to be desperately serious in my attempt to appear as a normal little gentleman.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose.
Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.
Actors search for rejection. If they don’t get it they reject themselves.
I went into the business for the money, and the art grew out of it. If people are disillusioned by that remark, I can’t help it. It’s the truth.
My childhood was sad, but now I remember it with nostalgia, like a dream.
Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot.
It isn’t the ups and downs that make life difficult; it’s the jerks.
I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table . . . I hope we shall abolish all hydrogen and atom bombs before they abolish us first.
A day without a laugh is a wasted day.
Even funnier than a man who has been made ridiculous is the man who, having had something funny happen to him, refuses to admit that anything out of the way has happened, and attempts to maintain his dignity. Perhaps the best example is the intoxicated man who, though his tongue and walk will give him away, attempts in a dignified manner to convince you that he is quite sober. He is much funnier than the man who, wildly hilarious, is frankly drunk and doesn’t care a whoop who knows it. Intoxicated characters on the stage are almost always “slightly tipsy” with an attempt at dignity because theatrical managers have learned that this attempt at dignity is funny.
Comedy really is a serious study, although it must not be taken seriously. That sounds like a paradox, but it is not. It is a serious study to learn characters; it is a hard study. But to make comedy a success there must be an ease, a spontaneity in the acting that cannot be associated with seriousness.
Through humor, we see in what seems rational, the irrational; in what seems important, the unimportant. It also heightens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity.
One of the things most quickly learned in theatrical work is that people as a whole get satisfaction from seeing the rich get the worst of things. The reason for this, of course, lies in the fact that nine tenths of the people in the world are poor, and secretly resent the wealth of the other tenth.
Figuring out what the audience expects, and then doing something different, is great fun to me.
The first time I looked at myself on the screen, I was ready to resign [the movie contract]. That can’t be I, I thought. Then when I realized it was, I said, “Good night.” Strange enough, I was told that the picture was a scream. I had always been ambitious to work in drama, and it certainly was the surprise of my life when I got away with the comedy stuff.
Naturalness is the greatest requisite of comedy. It must be real and true to life. I believe in realism absolutely. Real things appeal to the people far quicker than the grotesque. My comedy is actual life, with the slightest twist or exaggeration, you might say, to bring out what it might be under certain circumstances.
[in 1915] Motion pictures is still in its infancy. In the next few years I expect to see so many improvements that you could then scarcely recognize the comedy of the present day.
I don’t want perfection of detail in the acting. I’d hate a picture that was perfect, it would seem machine made. I want the human touch, so that you love the picture for its imperfections.
I think a very great deal of myself. Everything is perfect or imperfect, according to myself. I am the perfect standard.
I usually go to see myself the first night of a new performance, but I don’t laugh. No, I just go to see whether or not the film is taking, and what I’ve done that I shouldn’t do. And if it’s a success, I’m happy. There’s something that makes you feel pretty good in knowing that all over the world people are laughing at what you’re doing. But if it isn’t a success, then it’s terrible, to feel that you’re a failure all over the world at the same time.
[on Douglas Fairbanks] He had extraordinary magnetism and charm and a genuine boyish enthusiasm which he conveyed to the public.
[on D.W. Griffith] The whole industry owes its existence to him.
[Upon watching the young Jerry Lewis on TV] That bastard is funny! He knows how to take the audience.
My only enemy is time.
I don’t believe I deserve dinner unless I’ve done a day’s work.
[Upon receiving an Honorary Oscar at the 44th annual Academy Awards] Thank you so much. This is an emotional moment for me. Words seem so futile and so feeble. I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here and you are all wonderful, sweet people. Thank you.
Life is a beautiful magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish.
[on receiving a lifetime Oscar, 1972] Words are so futile, feeble.