The Real Charlie Chaplin

Charles Chaplin
Chaplin at home (1919)

To most men there is one thing that is above all things sacred, and that they would guard from the prying gaze of a curious world. This place they call “Home”.

The movie star, however, lives in the limelight, and earning a colossal salary, likes to have something to show for it. Which perhaps explains why the American magazines are full of flamboyant descriptions of the palatial residences of these super-twinklers on the film horizon.

There is one man, however, whose home is a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word, for Charlie Chaplin rightly argues that the man whose work places him continually in the public eye can only preserve his sanity and a wholesome outlook on life by reserving for himself a refuge to which he can retire, and, for a space, be – just himself.

Chaplin’s home is neither sumptuous nor Bohemian. Everything in his surroundings testifies to his excellent natural taste. He likes quiet, restful colours, comfortable furniture meant for use, and plenty of flowers. He is a great reader. I think music is his only real hobby outside his work, and a fine concert “grand,” his cello and violin, are the only articles of luxury in Charlie “den.”

He loves Work

Chaplin is first and foremost a worker. On his desk there ere always numerous scraps of paper full of comedy inspirations in his nervous, characteristic hand, and there is a dictaphone at his bedside to record any brain-waves that “happen along” during the night.

Charlie is naively detached in his attitude towards his wealth. He hates to be bothered with money, and when travelling, his secretary settles all his bills, and merely reminds his absent-minded “boss” of a morning that he has put a few banknotes into his pocket against emergencies. On a certain occasion, one of Chaplin’s bankers sent him a hurry call, as an important investment needed his personal attention. The messenger was  sent back with the answer that Charlie was open to discuss the matter if the manager would take a walk with him in the park. “I hate banks,” was the only reason he gave, “and I hate talking to men behind desks. I guess it’s because of the memory of the time when I was a little boy and went hunting for a job.”

His Early Struggles

He loves harmless fun and a good story, but fundamentally he is a serious man, and I think the memory of his early struggles has left a mark on his soul that time will never efface. “What I need, you know,” he once said in his quaint, whimsical way, “is someone to keep me from feeling pathetic about myself; someone to say, ‘Here, you poor little devil, what business have you to feel sorry for yourself, you poor lonely child, with non one to love you, and only about one million pounds between yourself and starvation? Come, get up here and work!’ That’s what I need.”

Charlie’s warm and unspoilt nature is best show in his passionate love of little children. There is a big hotel at Pasadena, and when he takes a day off from his work, he slips down there, gathers the children around him on the sunny porch, and tells them stories. Every child loves him, for he is still a child at heart, and they just feel he is one of themselves. His weekly post runs into thousands of letters, but those he treasures most are the ones that come from his little friends, telling him about all their joys and sorrows that mean so much to every child.

The Portrait Of A Woman

To conclude. Showing some pictures one day to a friend, Chaplin came to one, a woman portrait, at which he gazed for a time with loving, tender eyes. “My mother!” he then said simply. “To her I owe everything and all that I am to-day.”

And, knowing that a great son is invariably the work of a great mother, I still like to recall that memory of little Charlie Chaplin gazing with dim eyes at his mother’s picture.

E.C. (from The Picture Show – May 3, 1919)

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