Charlie Chaplin: a giant in film artistry, a man with a philosophical view of life — By Tapas Dey

Charlie Chaplin: a giant in film artistry, a man with a philosophical view of life — By Tapas Dey

By Tapas Dey | April 20, 2018

There was a time , specially in the early twentieth century when the very name of Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)-Charlie Spencer Chaplin , to be exact-would provoke peals of innocent laughter among film buffs.The eternal tramp ,immortalized by Chaplin,in his long series of silent films, not only entertained cinema goers but provided food for thought. There was a streak of typical fatalism in the actor-director’s world view which sounded philosophical as he meandered his way through varied experiences in his fairly long life. A lucid exposition of Chaplin’s view of life in this world is furnished by the quote from one of his many speeches :-

“We all are Tourists and

God is our Travel Agent

Who has already fixed

All our routes,


And destinations


Trust him and

Enjoy the

Trip called LIFE”

Underlying this philosophical thought Charlie Chaplin’s view of life comes out in sharp relief and on this 125th birth anniversary of this twentieth century giant this philosophical view contained in the quote above seems more relevant than ever before. Charlie’s life till teen-age was spent in London amidst grinding poverty-his father was absent and his mother reared him alone with deep affection but Charlie had never known anything remotely associated with ease and comfort since his birth in 1889 as his mother had to be admitted in a mental sanatorium with serious psychic illness.

Charlie had to move from theatre to theatre in search of work as a performing artist , specially in comic roles which he had naturally adopted during childhood from his mother’s proficiency in mimicry. Soon he started getting small roles in dramas and consciously developed his ‘Tramp’ image which made him very popular. As the next step he thought of joining cinema-silent at that time-to portray his view of life and art. At the age of 19 Charlie migrated to the United States of America (USA) on a contract with a film company and there in 1919 he launched a distribution company under the banner of ‘United Artists’ that helped him become the sole master of his films .

Gradually but almost inevitably Charlie Chaplin produced and directed a series of masterpieces which broke all records in the film market. ‘The Tramp’, ‘The Kid’, ‘Gold Rush’, ‘Modern Times’, ‘City Lights’ , ‘A woman in Paris’ and a host of others simply fascinated the film buffs and critics at the same time. But then there was a protracted period of trouble with an expensive divorce suit with his wife Oona O’neil and FBI inquiry into his alleged illicit carnal relations with a number of women.

Chaplin was forced to leave the USA and settle in Switzerland to avoid legal trouble but his immortal film ‘The Great Dictator’ , a satire on Adolf Hitler’s life and activities, gained artistic acclaim besides triggering a controversy. For the time being Chaplin’s great popularity took a beating and declined but the great man regained much of his popularity with four major works post-second world war under the titles of ‘Monsieur Verdoux’ , ‘Limelight’, ‘A king in New York’ and his last film ‘A Countess from Hongkong’-his last film. Having lived an eventful and creative life of eighty eight years Charlie Chaplin breathed his last in 1977 ,leaving a void in the artistic arena of films which is yet to be fulfilled.

Chaplin’s philosophy of art can be encapsulated in a simple quote of his : ‘I like walking in the rain , because nobody can see my tears’. Beneath the great man’s charisma and worldwide popularity, lay a pristinely simple human being with equal share of joys and tears, pain and pleasure , success and failure. A true giant of art and film in the twentieth century ! Charlie Chaplin is no more , long live Charlie Chaplin, the master of silent films.

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