An autobiography written by Charlie Chaplin at 75 from memory living in exile in Switzerland after America, in its insane paranoid state banned him. I loved this book. Great, fun, insightful stories throughout. I felt like I was having a conversation with the man. Some readers are disappointed that he didn’t go into greater detail about his movies, but other books do that. He was the most popular man in the world, who basically invented or at least perfected story telling in the very first days of moviemaking, elevating the form through his innovative ideas and iconic character of The Tramp. Chaplin’s beginnings were bleak to say the least with an absent, alcoholic dad and a mom, who was committed to an asylum for the mentally ill. Before he turned 10, Chaplin was placed into workhouses twice. But Chaplin crawled out of those vividly impactful circumstances through performing on stage. Then he was discovered, made successful movies and then became rich. Everyone in the world wanted to meet Chaplin. When he traveled throngs of people greeted him at the port or train stations. His friends and acquaintances included the leaders of nations, kings and princes, Einstein, Ghandi, H.G. Wells, FDR, Churchill, William Randolph Hearst (his wife and mistress), Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, George Bernard Shaw, Walt Disney, Helen Keller, and many, many more. One minor detail that I enjoyed learning was that Orson Welles nearly talked Chaplin into starring in a Welles-written movie, ‘Monsieur Verdoux,’ (which is something Orson did … he casted Marlene Dietrich in ‘Touch of Evil.’) Little known fact, his co-stars in his last movie included Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando (‘A Countess from Hong Kong’) and Charlie Chaplin was a composer. He wrote the song, “Smile,” that was performed at Michael Jackson’s funeral.
It seems to me that Chaplin with his faults was a sensitive, thoughtful, passionate, lovely man.
There is a lot of discussion of his creative vision and his agony at the advent of talkies. He persisted to make silent movies that topped the box office and continued to expand his character. He finally made a talkie, lambasting Adolph Hitler, something no one else had the courage, at that time, to do with “The Great Dictator” and even though he was on the right side of history, the American government was not pleased with the film.
Late in his career he began speaking out on issues important to him. He held a lot of socialistic beliefs, but when he spoke out for a second front to help the Soviets against the Nazis some people mistook that support of an ally to be the support of Communism. Idiots began questioning his patriotism, wondering why he had never become an American citizen. All of which was nonsense. He had two sons fighting on the frontlines in WWII. So sadly he left and never came back, except to receive a lifetime award from the Academy Awards, where he also received a 12-minute standing ovation.