Some of the moments I remember from Vevey had the atmosphere of something staged, real though they were.
Charlie Chaplin heading for the tennis court, wearing white flannel trousers and a tennis shirt with a collar--a white cable knit sweater dashingly slung over his back, the sleeves tied in front.
Charlie Chaplin playing tennis, racquet in his left hand, running for every ball, not liking to lose, and showing his dissatisfaction every time he lost a point, giving his all to the game, in total concentration, and never, never losing track of the score....
Charlie Chaplin sharing a bowl of peanuts with three-year-old Annette. Chaplin's face would be down over the bowl, and he would be glaring in top performance, leaving no doubt as to who would get the last peanut.
Charlie Chaplin in a long terry-cloth robe, his pure-white hair disheveled, leading a visitor at eight o'clock on a late-summer morning down his lawn to his swimming pool, all the white looking whiter in contrast to the shadows cast by the trees on the smooth green lawn.
Charlie Chaplin at the pool, saying, "I go up and down the pool once then out. I keep the water warm. It's not easy to go from a warm bed into a cold pool. I like it as long as it's warm."
Charlie Chaplin sitting in front of a big fire in the fireplace of his living room for a quick drink before dinner. Gin-and-tonic usually. "I look forward to that one drink at night," he would say....
Charlie Chaplin comforting Victoria, at the age of eleven, after she had seen "Limelight" for the first time. ("I couldn't help crying at the end, when you died," Victoria said to her father. "Oh, my dear," Chaplin said, on the verge of tears himself. "Oh, my dear. That's sweet. So sweet.")
|With the author.|
Charlie Chaplin at the piano in his living room, playing music he had composed for his pictures, humming along with his own playing, while his face expressed every emotion experienced by everybody in each picture, and simultaneously talking: "I can't play anybody's music but my own. I never took a lesson. I never even saw a piano up close until I was twenty-one. As soon as I touched the piano, I could play. The same with the violin."
Charlie Chaplin, at five o'clock in the morning, heading quietly for his study, to work alone on his autobiography, as he did every morning (In 1962, on an afternoon in early September, I sat with him on his terrace as he read parts of his book manuscript to me, the tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses a bit down on his nose, his reading dramatic to the point of melodrama, his devotion to his subject unself-conscious and complete. "I use Fowler's 'The King's English' as my guide," he told me during a breather. "I do all my own editing. I'm very particular. I like to see a clean page, with no erasures. I'm entirely self-taught.")_________________________________________________________________________________
*Ross is still alive and in 2008 interviewed Charlie's grandson, James Thiérrée.