Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Oona Chaplin (May 14th, 1925 - September 27th, 1991)

The following is from a 1960 interview with Oona by Frederick Sands:
We met when I was 16, a mere child at the time, and I have been in love with him ever since. He is my world. I've never seen or lived with anything else...It started when I was recommended to him for the part of Bridget in a film Charlie planned to make, based on the play Shadow & Substance. I clutched to the substance and ran away with Charlie to get married instead. He never made the film after that. That was the beginning and the end of my film career...without a second's regret.
Laughter is one of Charlie's great gifts to me. I hadn't known it before. My childhood was not very happy. Today I am perhaps the only member of the family who thinks him really funny. The children are too intent on being funny themselves.
There is certainly no father fixation about my feeling for him. He has made me mature and I keep him young. When you are happy, you don't go in for self-analysis. He has given me a great sense of security and stability, which has nothing to do with his wealth. I could be happy in any other environment.
My security and stability with Charlie stem much for from the difference in years between us. Other young women who have married mature men will understand what I mean. Provided that the partners are suited, such a marriage is founded on a rock. Solid, and with no unpleasant surprises ahead. The man's character is formed, his life shaped. He has learned a sense of responsibility and tolerance.
I never consciously think of Charlie’s age for 364 days of the year. Only his birthday is the annual shock for me.
I consider Charlie young. I also find it most vexing to be called a schoolgirl wife. Maybe I'll be spared that remark now that I am getting some gray streaks in my hair. 
Chaplin, whose rages are notorious, has never lost his temper with his wife. 
Not once in all our years of marriage. I have learned to keep silent and let him charge ahead. Unless he asks me for a criticism I never venture an opinion. He respects my judgement, and jokes about my always being right in the long run when I disagree with him on some point. In all this I try not to get on his nerves. 
Like every couple, the Chaplins take a special delight in occasionally spending a day alone. Then Oona cooks the meal while he prepares drinks for them both and offers "awkward assistance, and flirts with me as though we had just met. 
Then with their heads bent close to each other, they toast their life together. And he makes the woman who never laughed as a child laugh again. 
That is when I know there is no difference in our ages. 

— "Charlie Chaplin's Wife (35) Describes Her Life With A Legend (71)" by Frederick Sands, Washington Post, June 19th, 1960


  1. Sweet, but really..."unless he asks for a criticism, I never venture an opinion"?

    1. I know, and "I try not to get on his nerves." I've called Oona a doormat in the past, but I think she *wanted* to be a doormat. Although, she seemed to resent it somewhat after he died.

  2. I think that is what he wanted and needed at that point - someone to just adore him, no questions asked, no challenges - and if it worked for them both, more power to them!

  3. Some women, especially old fashioned or raised with old fashioned values are very happy to take upon that roll. The roll of submissive wife. If they are happy then I don't see anything wrong with it. To each their own.. I can't see Charlie being with anyone not like that, his persona was to big and he commanded to much attention.

    1. I agree. Charlie wanted a woman who was going to put him first--and Oona did. She said herself that Charlie's needs came before the children's.But Oona knew how to deal with Charlie. When he would blow up or misbehave, she would just let it go and deal with it later. I, for one, could not be that way!