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Chaplin Quotations


Simplicity is a difficult thing to achieve.

From an interview with Richard Meryman, 1966




Life can be wonderful if you're not afraid of it. All it needs is courage, imagination ... and a little dough.

Calvero (Charles Chaplin) says this to Terry (Claire Bloom) in Limelight (1952)




Imagination means nothing without doing.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.

From “Mr. Chaplin Answers His Critics”; The Comedian Defends His Ending of ‘The Great Dictator’ by Charles Chaplin, The New York Times, 27 October 1940.




Let us strive for the impossible. The great achievements throughout history have been the conquest of what seemed the impossible.

From “To Support the President’s Rally for a Second Front Now!”, Madison Square Park, July 22, 1942. Quoted in My Autobiography:
“Let us aim for victory in the spring. You in the factories, you in the fields, you in uniforms; you citizens of the world, let us work and fight towards that end. You, official Washington, and you, official London, let us make this our aim - victory in the spring.
If we hold this thought, work with this thought, live with this thought, it will generate a spirit that will increase our energy and quicken our drive.
Let us strive for the impossible. Remember the great achievements throughout history have been the conquest of what seemed the impossible.”




You’ll never find rainbows if you’re looking down.

From the lyrics to “Swing Little Girl”, the song at the beginning of The Circus, which Chaplin himself sang for the film’s 1969 rerelease.




A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.

From Chaplin’s My Autobiography: “The secret of Mack Sennett’s success was his enthusiasm. He was a great audience and laughed genuinely at what he thought funny. He stood and giggled until his body began to shake. This encouraged me and I began to explain the character: ‘You know this fellow is many-sided, a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. He would have you believe he is a scientist, a musician, a duke, a polo-player. However, he is not above picking up cigarette-butts or robbing a baby of its candy. And, of course, if the occasion warrants it, he will kick a lady in the rear—but only in extreme anger!’ I carried on this way for ten minutes or more, keeping Sennett in continuous chuckles. ‘All right,’ he said, ‘get on the set and see what you can do there.’”




Perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express.

From My Autobiograpy: “Schopenhauer said happiness is a negative state — but I disagree. For the last twenty years I have known what happiness means. I have the good fortune to be married to a wonderful wife. I wish I could write more about this, but it involves love, and perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express. As I live with Oona, the depth and beauty of her character are a continual revelation to me. Even as she walks ahead of me along the narrow sidewalks of Vevey with simple dignity, her neat little figure straight, her dark hair smoothed back showing a few silver threads, a sudden wave of love and admiration comes over me for all that she is — and a lump comes into my throat.”




I am a citizen of the world.

”‘Why haven’t you become a citizen?’ said another voice. ‘I see no reason to change my nationality. I consider myself a citizen of the world,’ I answered.” - Charlie Chaplin quotes this dialogue in “My Autobiography” from the press conference for Monsieur Verdoux, which took place right after its premiere in New York. Rather than directing their questions at the film itself, the hostile journalists interrogated Chaplin about his political sympathies, patriotism, tax affairs and refusal to adopt American citizenship.

Chaplin is also quoted in “My Father, Charlie Chaplin” by Charles Chaplin Jr.: “I consider myself a citizen of the world, an internationalist… I just happen to have been born in London, England. It could have been Burma or China or Timbuktu, I’d still be the way I am. I’d keep my first citizenship because, being an accident of birth, it wouldn’t have any real significance. But wherever I live I’ll conform to the rules, laws and regulations of that country.”

In a 1942 speech at “Artists’ Front to Win the War” at Carnegie Hall, Chaplin declared, “I’m not a citizen, I don’t need citizenship papers, and I’ve never had patriotism in that sense for any country, but I’m a patriot to humanity as a whole. I’m a citizen of the world. If the Four Freedoms mean anything after this war, we don’t bother about whether we are citizens of one country or another.”

And in a response to an interrogator from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1948, Chaplin said, “I consider myself as much a citizen of America as anybody else and my great love has always been here in this country […] at the same time I don’t feel I am allied to any one particular country. I feel I am a citizen of the world. I feel that when the day comes and we have the barriers down and so forth so the people come and go all around the world and be a part of any country, and I have always felt that about citizenship.”




Life is a beautiful magnificent thing, even to a jelly fish.

From a scene in Limelight




Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux.




We think too much and feel too little.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




If you're really truthful with yourself, it's a wonderful guidance.

From 1966 interview with Richard Meryman




I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table.

In response to journalist for his views on the future of mankind at his 70th birthday, April 16, 1959. “I hope we shall abolish war and settle all differences at the conference table… I hope we shall abolish all the hydrogen and atom bombs before they abolish us first.”




The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.

From My Autobiography : “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury. Each day I stepped into the Carlton was like entering a golden paradise. Being rich in London made life an exciting adventure every moment. The world was an entertainment.”




All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.

From “My Autobiography”:
“‘The public doesn’t line up outside the box-office when your name appears as they do for mine.’
‘Maybe,’ said Sennett, ‘but without the support of our organization you’d be lost.’ He warned: ‘Look what’s happening to Ford Sterling.’
This was true, for Ford had not fared very well since leaving Keystone. But I told Sennett: ‘All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.’ As a matter of fact I had made some of my most successful pictures with just about that assembly.’




I suppose that’s one of the ironies of life – doing the wrong thing at the right moment.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux.




The deeper the truth in a creative work, the longer it will live.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




What a sad business, being funny

From Limelight (1952): Terry (Claire Bloom) to Calvero (Charles Chaplin) after he tells her of his downfall in show business.




We must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.

From My Autobiography, on the creation of The Gold Rush: “In the creation of comedy, it is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule; because ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance: we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.”




Simplicity of approach is always best.

From My Autobiography: “The intellectualising of line and space, composition, tempo, etc., is all very well, but it has little to do with acting, and is liable to fall into arid dogma. Simplicity of approach is always best.”




What do you want meaning for? Life is desire, not meaning!

From a scene in Limelight




One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify.

Henri Verdoux says this to a reporter before being led to the guillotine in Monsieur Verdoux




In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




The world is not composed of heroes and villains, but of men and women with all the passions that God has given them. The ignorant condemn, but the wise pity.

Charlie Chaplin: Prefatory title to 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)




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




This is a ruthless world and one must be ruthless to cope with it.

From a scene in Monsieur Verdoux




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

Henri Verdoux (Chaplin) says this 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




Time heals, and experience teaches that the secret of happiness is in service to others.

Screen title in A Woman of Paris (1923)




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.”




[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.”




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)




Remember, you can always stoop and pick up nothing.

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




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 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.”




I hate the sight of blood, but it's in my veins.

In a scene in Limelight, Terry says to Calvero: “I thought you hated the theatre,” and Calvero replies, “I do. I also hate the sight of blood, but it’s in my veins.”




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.”




Let us fight for a new world.

From Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.




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

Calvero says this in Limelight




Beauty is the object or the consciousness which amplifies the feeling of universality in man.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




The roses you lifted to your lips ... lucky roses!

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




Men who think deeply say little in ordinary conversations.

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




I'd sooner be called a successful crook than a destitute monarch.

King Shadov (Charles Chaplin) in A King in New York (1957)




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 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.”




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

From Chaplin’s manuscript notes




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”