My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir
Charles Chaplin

By Milena Tseneva

“… Like all people I am who I am: a unique and different individual who inherited his impulses and aspirations from your ancestors; a story of dreams, desired and accumulated experience that summarizes me.”

When you find your grandmother’s treasure book in your old library, you can’t help but read it. I came across My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin on the last day of November. The Bulgarian language edition was from 1968, only 4 years after it was first published. It became a little strange to me how the book was there all the time, among the other grandmother’s books, without noticing it before. Finding it once again convinced me that there is some mysterious magic around all the books in this world and some books always find you when it’s time to read them.

I immediately began to read with trembling and remained amazed from the front pages. Charlie Chaplin talks with ease and elegance about his life in London, where he was born, about his difficult childhood, about his mother Hannah and his brother Sydney, for his father Charlie, to whom he was named. It was this first part of the book that was the most interesting, most personal, most outspoken. The misery and poverty, among whom Charlie spent the days of his childhood, shocked me. His parents divorced while he was still young, and his father, who struggles with alcohol, leaves the care of his mother Hannah’s family. She is an actress and Charlie is the first time on stage when he is five to “save” her mother, who suddenly loses her voice. That’s how it all starts…

From Fred Karno’s prestigious comedy company, with which he goes to America, through the image of the Tramp, which becomes recognizable around the world, through several unsuccessful marriages and many more films in which his undeniable magic is recognizable, My Autobiography fills the reader with sincere admiration in all its hundreds of pages.

The curiosity about the actor’s love life will not be fully satisfied because Chaplin, like a true gentleman, refuses to go into detail on this part. Except for few exceptions like Joan Barry. There are no details in other respects. Chaplin describes in exceptional details and without unnecessary modesty everything about his films. We learn more about how Chaplin built his own style, how he invented his storylines, how he chosen the actresses for the lead roles in his films. We go with him behind the scenes of his most famous films: “The Kid”, “The Gold Rush,” “City Lights”, “The Great Dictator”, “Monsieur Verdoux”, “Limelight”. Charlie is an ambitious, tireless, perfectionist to the brain of his bones.

“… Because only work could make sense of life – everything else was Chimera.”

Chaplin also reveals details about the creation of “United Artists Corporation”, which main purpose is to prevent large studios from monopolizing and controlling film production; he shares about the sudden glory he encounters, as well as his meetings with Einstein, Sartre, Picasso, Steinbeck, Gandhi, Churchill.

“What kind of people would I prefer to communicate? I guess my choice should fall on people in my own profession … No, stars among stars were emitting a little light … or warmth … “

“Wealth and glory have taught me to see the world as it is; To understand that prominent people, when one gets closer to them, have the same disadvantages as we have. “

The genius trusts us without worry about his fight against the sunset of dumb movies. We also understand more about the attempt that has been prepared against him in Japan, as well as why he suddenly becomes an enemy of America, the country in which he has worked throughout his conscious life, though he remains to the end of a British citizen.

At the finale, we see Chaplin calm and happy in Switzerland, where he lives with his last wife Una O’Neal (daughter of the American writer Eugene O’Neal) and their children.

“So, I will put an end to my odyssey. I know that time and circumstances were favorable to me. I became a favorite of people all over the world, they loved me and hated me. Yes, the world gave me the best he had, and a little of the worst. Whatever the vicissitudes of fate in my life, I think happiness and misery are accidentally like clouds in the summer … And yet my life is more exciting than ever. “

Charles ChaplinI am glad that I read My Autobiography, for me this book is a must-have, at least out of respect for Chaplin’s undeniable talent. The book is delightful, intoxicating, real, grandiose! It is unforgettable and decent, just like the genius Sir Charles Chaplin.

(c) Milena Tseneva

Order your copy online here.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books