Even Silent Stars Can Speak: 5 Charlie Chaplin Quotes

Wednesday, October 26 by Karen Murdock

When you think of Charlie Chaplin, you probably picture him as "The Tramp," sporting his trademark derby hat, baggy pants, cane, oversized shoes and moustache, but these Charlie Chaplin quotes reveal another side to the man famous for his penguin waddle and table ballet. Charlie Chaplin was unflinchingly honest about art and politics even when it got him into hot water and these quotes may just earn him some new admirers.   

"I have no further use for America. I wouldn't go back there if Jesus Christ was president." The name Charlie Chaplin evokes the era of silent films, but in the 1940 movie "The Great Dictator," Chaplin used his voice to speak out against the persecution of Jews under Adolf Hitler. Taking on the roles of both the fictional dictator of Tomania and a Jewish barber, Chaplin's final speech exhorts viewers to "fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security." Those words got under the skin of the anti-war Senate subcommittee on war propaganda and helped brand Chaplin a communist. Banned from the United States in 1952, Chaplin had good reason to call out the United States on its hypocrisy.

"I remain just one thing and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician." Lest you think the parade of Hollywood stars shouting atop political soapboxes is a new phenomenon, consider this Charlie Chaplin quote. Despite his image as the hapless, lovelorn "The Tramp," Chaplin was also a man of political substance. Clown or not, he used his art to fight against fascism and he endured the ire of politicians because of it, revealing them to be the real fools. Next time you fear looking like a court jester because of a controversial stance, remember this Charlie Chaplin quote and take heart: it's better to be the clown than the ringmaster running the show.

"Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is 'elephant.'" Take it from the master of pantomime: words are only as big as what you do. In fact, Chaplin remained so committed to the power of action over words that he retired his beloved "Tramp" character as soon as he started making "talkies." Next time you speak up about something, remember this Charlie Chaplin quote and think instead about what you should do and take action.

"I went into the business for the money and the art grew out of it. If people are disillusioned by that remark, I can't help it. It's the truth." This Charlie Chaplin quote reveals a refreshing bit of truth you almost never hear: artists need to make money, too. Maybe it will make you rethink those high ideals about starving for the sake of pure artistic integrity. After all, if Chaplin can go from poverty to superstardom and still give a speech like he did at the end of "The Great Dictator," money might not be all bad.

"My childhood was sad, but now I remember it with nostalgia, like a dream." Chaplin's alcoholic father died when he was just 12 years old and his mother was institutionalized more than once for psychosis. He even lived on the London streets a few times and he never forgot that horror, but he never wallowed in it either. His painful childhood explains the genesis of the "Tramp," forever trying to live above his station and bereft of love, but this Chaplin quote explains his ability to craft comedy from tragedy. Unlike some navel-gazers in Hollywood today, he dusted off his baggy trousers and waddled forward.