Showing posts with label A Comedian Sees The World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Comedian Sees The World. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2013

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: Charlie arrives in the Netherlands en route to Berlin, March 8th, 1931

On the evening of March 8th, Charlie left England aboard the SS Prague and arrived on the continent in the Hook Of Holland (where he is pictured above)Here he boarded a train to Berlin.

In A Comedian Sees The World, Charlie fondly remembers his journey through the Dutch countryside:
Holland has a distinct character different from any other country, with its canals and windmills and stubby trees all uniformly pruned with their branches turned upward. At various stations there are for sale wooden Dutch shoes filled with chocolates and prettily tied with blue ribbons. These I purchase to send to friends.The Dutch countryside is neat and tidy. Nothing looks out of place. And what a tremendous number of cyclists along the road! Bicycles are everywhere.

Tomorrow: Charlie's overwhelming reception in Berlin.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: London, Feb. 19th, 1931

Charlie arrived in London by train and was greeted by thousands of well-wishers who were anxious to catch a glimpse of their native son.
"Why is it that London always wrings my heart? Is it the love of my people? They are my people, these Cockneys. I am one of them. As I look into their faces I see that spiritual hunger, that inner craving. Their emotions have made them inarticulate. They are only expressed by the eager clutching of my sleeve. How little must come into their lives! How appreciative they are for the trivial thing that I've done." ("A Comedian Sees The World, Part I," A Woman's Home Companion, September 1933)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas with Charlie

This is the first in a series of posts called "Christmas With Charlie" which will include stories from or about Charlie regarding the Christmas holiday. I will post one each day from now until Christmas. It's well-known that Charlie was not a fan of Christmas, although he did seem to enjoy the holiday more once he had his own children. But Christmas usually depressed him, which makes it all the more ironic that it would also be the day he died.

I thought an appropriate first installment would be Charlie's "orange" story. This incident from Charlie's childhood affected him deeply for the rest of his life. Even as an old man he would tell the story with bitterness. Below is Charlie's own recollection of the story from his travel memoir A Comedian Sees The World. During a visit to London in 1931, Charlie returned to the orphanage where the incident occurred. Walking into the dining room, Charlie found his place, the third seat at the fourth table, where he sat as a boy, and the memories of a Christmas many years before came flooding back:
How well I remember one Christmas Day sitting on that same seat, weeping copious tears. The day before I had committed some breach of the rules. As we came into the dining-room for Christmas dinner we were to be given two oranges and a bag of sweets.

I remember how excited I was awaiting my turn. How joyous and bright the oranges looked in contrast to the gray surroundings. We never saw oranges but once a year and that was at Christmas. I am speculating what I shall do with mine. I shall save the peel and the sweets I shall eat one a day. Each child is presented with his treasure as he enters the dining-room. At last it is my turn. But the man puts me aside. "Oh, no--you'll go without for what you did yesterday." And there, on that seat at the fourth table, I wept bitterly. The children were more human than the attendants were and so the little ones at our table contributed one candy apiece and made up my loss. (Charlie Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part I," A Woman's Home Companion, September 1933) 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Charlie in St. Moritz, c. 1932

In this excerpt from his travel memoir, "A Comedian Sees The World," Charlie recalls his first time skiing in St. Moritz, Switzerland during his 1931-32 world tour.

Douglas Fairbanks insisted that I be initiated into the art of skiing. I always thought it was easy, but oh, boy! I never knew how many knots I could tie myself into! For the first two hours I suffered with impediment of the legs and was continually standing on my own foot. Turning was most difficult, but this I mastered in my own fashion, deliberately sitting down and pivoting in the direction I wished to go. Sometimes, however, the sitting was not deliberate. To a beginner, skiing down a hill is very simple, especially if there are no obstacles in the way. But the problem is stopping. This is most difficult. You are instructed to assume a knock-kneed position, at the same time spread your feet apart and turn your ankles in, digging the sides of your skis into the snow. When I attempted it, I invariably went into the splits. 
To give you an idea of the enjoyment of my first day's skiing, you must imagine yourself starting slowly down a hill developing speed as you go, thrilled and exalted with a sense of your own motive power and the icy breezes blowing against your cheeks. As the speed increases, however, your exhilaration changes to a growing anxiety, especially when the hill becomes precipitous and the going increases to about fifty miles an hour. You go flying past rocks, trees and other obstacles that miraculously escape you. After such gymnastic triumphs, you accumulate confidence and go whizzing on, resolved to see it through to the bitter end. 
Then a sinister rock approaches and comes rushing at you menacingly. This time it is determined to get you. Your heart leaps into your mouth. You become philosophic. You relish the sweet memories of life before skiing. Death is contemplated. You see your skull crashed against the rock and your body flung over it like a pair of empty pants. But you are not killed. You survive. You go on living, crippled for life.
Then a miracle happens. Some metaphysical force moves the rock to compassion and lets you skim by it, and you go shooting onward, relieved. Your mind gains control of your reflexes and you make a decision to sit down, not perhaps as gently as you’d wish. So plunk!
You extricate your head from the snow. You discover you’re still conscious. You involuntarily sit up and look around for fear somebody has seen you. But a superior individual in slow tempo comes gliding up with the query, “Are you hurt?”
And you sally with a cheery, “No, not at all, thank you”.
Then you endeavor to start off again. But when the stranger’s out of sight, reason becomes the better part of valor, so you change your mind, take off your skis and call it a day.
However, dear readers, 'twas not ever thus, for later I became--but there, modesty forbids, so I shall quote from the newspaper, the South Wales Argus: "People at St. Moritz were electrified to see a small man go tearing down a steep village street at a terrific speed, to pull up suddenly at the door of his hotel. He was Charles Chaplin, film clown, says Reuter's correspondent. Perhaps there were painful memories of misadventures with the hotel revolving door that made him stop so sharply. Skiing experts declare that this dash was a very fine achievement. Charlie, in fact, is becoming an adept on skis.
The above is one of my most treasured clippings.
(Charlie Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part IV," A Woman's Home Companion, December 1934) 

With Douglas in St. Moritz, c. 1932.  There's that sweater we know and love.
Skiing with Douglas. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Boar hunting with the Duke

A page from the November 1933 issue of A Woman’s Home Companion which features the third installment of Charlie’s memoir “A Comedian Sees The World”. These illustrations depict his boar hunting adventure with the Duke of Westminster. Top left: Charlie ducks behind a car "in a jiffy" when his horse, Flossie, rears its hind legs (he was eventually given another horse). Middle: Charlie hangs on to the horse's neck for dear life when it takes off running at the sound of a bugle. Bottom: Sitting on the running board of his limo, exhausted and suffering from back pain. Right: Charlie sports his oversized gloves and jacket, which were loaned to him by the Duke because he forgot to bring his own.