The Real Charlie Chaplin (2021) Movie Script

(gentle tinkling music)
(electricity crackling)
[Narrator] December 1916.
The Society for
Psychical Research
whose publications include
"Phantasms of The Living"
and "Human Personality and
Its Survival Of Bodily Death"
are reporting an
extraordinary phenomenon.
Mr. Charles Chaplin,
motion picture comedian,
has been cited in
hundreds of places,
(dramatic music)
From the Atlantic
to the Pacific,
from the Canadian
boundary to the Gulf,
people wait at stations
to see Mr. Chaplin.
In the same hour,
crowds are gathering at
hotels across the country.
(people chattering)
(dramatic music)
"Have you got the Chaplin-oia?"
asks one newspaper.
Others report the Chaplin Fever,
the Chaplin Craze,
runs one headline,
"Has spread across America."
(bright sprightly music)
Bootlegs, counterfeits, and
imitators flood the market.
Lookalike contests spring
up across the globe.
It's rumored that Chaplin
himself entered such a contest
and came 20th.
(bright music)
People demand to know,
"Who is the Real
Charlie Chaplin?"
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(suspenseful music)
(dark dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(suspenseful music)
(dramatic music)
(reel clicking) (dramatic music)
(bright playful music)
When we think of
Charlie Chaplin,
we picture this man.
(bright playful music)
This is the moment he first
steps on to the screen.
And he looks at us.
(bright playful music)
He reappears soon
after in other films.
Here he is again.
And here.
(bright playful music)
And he keeps looking at us.
(gentle music)
But this is not Charlie Chaplin.
This man has no name.
He has no fixed address.
No family.
(bright music)
No set point in space or time.
You can't pin him down.
(reel clicking)
(bright music)
The only constants
are the hat, the cane,
the boots and the mustache.
Sometimes just the mustache.
(gentle music)
So who is he?
(thoughtful music)
He's been called the little man.
The little fellow.
The Tramp.
He's a character played
by Charlie Chaplin.
(bright music)
(crowd cheering)
(upbeat music)
"The Tramp" will make
Chaplin more famous
than any king,
queen, or emperor.
More famous than any
philosopher, artist,
or religious figure.
Famous in a way that
no one has been before.
(pensive music)
(audience laughing)
(reel clicking)
(bright music)
Chaplin makes "The Tramp" and
"The Tramp" makes Chaplin.
You can't see one without
looking at the other.
(thoughtful music)
(reel clicking)
They tell each other's stories.
So where do we start?
Here's how Chaplin starts.
(gentle music)
1889 begins with a total
eclipse of the sun.
This year, the Eiffel
tower opens to the public.
Adolph Hitler is born.
In Kyoto, Nintendo is founded.
They make playing cards.
Electric streetlights are
being installed in London
where Jack the Ripper
remains at large.
The pizza margarita is invented.
They're still working
on the aero plane.
This is how movies look in 1889.
(film crackling)
(indistinct) 89.
[Narrator] These are
recordings of the human voice.
(man speaking indistinctly)
(birds chirping)
Of birdsong.
(birds chirping)
Of music.
(woman vocalizing)
(gentle music)
(dramatic music) (bell tolling)
Film grows up alongside Chaplin.
(people chattering)
(gentle music)
It captures the London
streets he roams as a kid.
(people chattering)
(mysterious music)
The children he plays with.
[Narrator] This is the
voice of Effie Wisdom.
(tape whirring)
(engine puttering)
(gentle music)
[Narrator] Captured on tape
when she was 92 years old.
(birds chirping)
(dog barking)
(interviewer laughs)
(birds chirping)
(audience laughing)
(gentle music)
(tape whirring)
[Narrator] It takes 12
days for the Karno Company
to cross the Atlantic.
(gentle music) (engine rumbling)
12 days in a rat
-infested cattle boat.
At first sight of land,
one young man leans
over the railing
and screams out.
(bright music)
(birds squawking) (gentle music)
(train whistling)
They embark on a grueling
tour of the continent.
Playing three shows a day.
(dramatic music)
(audience applauding)
Fred Karno's brand
of knockabout comedy
is intensely physical.
(dramatic music)
He teaches his
comics how to trip.
How to tumble, slide and fall.
How to take a punch.
How to fall down a
flight of stairs.
(audience applauding)
(audience cheering)
They're the best
in the business.
(audience cheering)
(audience applauding)
And wherever they go,
one performer stands out.
(bright music)
But his tour mates
can't work him out.
Offstage, he's quiet,
moody and reclusive.
He's usually shabby
in appearance.
Then, without warning,
he'll dress to kill.
He teaches himself the
cello, ancient Greek, yoga.
But above all he vows that
he will not return poor.
(dramatic music)
(cable car rumbling)
(bell clanging)
In California, a
fortune teller tells him
he will soon enter a new field
in which he will earn
a tremendous fortune.
(dramatic music)
They say that fortunes are
there to be made in America.
(pensive music)
The oil boom has created
millionaires overnight.
Henry Ford has devised
the modern assembly line.
And Nickelodeon's opening in
cities across the country,
showing motion picture
comedies around the clock.
(audience laughing)
(pensive music)
But Chaplin isn't
impressed by the movies.
He thinks they're a passing fad.
(bright music)
(upbeat music)
[Mack] Mr. Chaplin got
into motion pictures purely,
in my mind, by accident.
[Narrator] This is the
voice of Mack Sennett,
pioneer of movie comedy,
founder of Keystone Studios,
specialists in custard pie
warfare and high-speed chases,
the Mack Sennett Bathing
Girls, the Keystone Kops.
(upbeat music)
[Mack] I have a comedian
working for me at the time.
His name was Ford Sterling.
He was a chief of
the Keystone Kops.
[Narrator] One day
Sterling quits.
I said, "Oh, shucks".
[Narrator] Suddenly
Sennett needs a new lead.
[Mack] Right away, I
thought of a comedian
that I'd seen in an
English act called,
"A Night in the
London Music Hall."
I couldn't remember
the name at the time,
but I wired to New York to
associates to find this man.
And I said, his name is
Champion, Chaprin, or Chambers,
or something like that.
So they traced him in
and they found him in a
small town in Pennsylvania.
[Narrator] Sennett
offers him $150 a week,
three times the money
he's getting now.
He decides he'll stick
it out for a year.
(upbeat music)
[Mack] And if Ford Sterling
had continued with me,
the chances are that Chaplin
would have returned to England
and we'd have probably
missed the greatest comedian
we've ever seen.
(reel rattling)
(reel whirring)
[Narrator] This is
Chaplin telling the story
in a 1966 interview
for "Life Magazine."
[Narrator] It's one of the
only times Chaplin has allowed
a tape recorder
within these walls.
(bright music)
[Narrator] The million
dollar question.
He's been asked this countless
times by journalists.
[Narrator] And also by lawyers.
(upbeat music)
This man looks familiar.
The hat, the mustache.
But this is not Charlie Chaplin.
In the 1920s, this
man releases a series
of knockoff Chaplin films
under the name Charles Aplin.
(dramatic music)
Chaplin sues Aplin
and the trial delves
into the origins of the Tramp.
Firstly, Aplin claims he
wasn't imitating Chaplin.
He was imitating Billy West,
the famous Chaplin impersonator.
"Aplin's Chaplin isn't
Chaplin," says Aplin.
Aplin's Chaplin is an imitation
of an imitation of Chaplin.
"Besides, if anyone should
be on trial for imitation,"
says Aplin, "It's Chaplin."
Two of Chaplin's
Karno colleagues,
Fred Kitchen and Billy Ritchie,
both claim that Chaplin's Tramp
is an imitation of theirs.
"I was the first says," Ritchie,
who goes on to make a living
producing knockoff
Chaplin films.
(upbeat music)
But Aplin and Chaplin, Ritchie
and Kitchen are all following
in the wake of a great
wave of tramp comedians
(audience applauding)
who have been touring
the vaudeville circuit
since the late 19th century.
(train whining)
These comedians are
themselves inspired
by real tramps.
The drifters who crisscross
America in search of work.
(gentle music)
The homeless Chaplin grew up
with on the streets of London.
(gentle music)
These men are more
likely to see the inside
of a police cell
than a movie studio.
But in Chapman's
telling the creation
of his Tramp is spontaneous.
(camera flash popping)
(upbeat music)
[Narrator] He's just
made his screen debut,
a clear knockoff of his
predecessor Ford Sterling.
And the reviews aren't good.
(dramatic music)
(bright playful music)
[Narrator] In fact, the
shoes were Sterling's,
the trousers, Fatty Arbuckle's
and the hat belonged
to somebody's father.
The costume isn't stolen,
but it's assembled, magpie-like,
from bits of other costumes.
(dramatic music)
[Narrator] And so, we're
back here, February, 1914.
The moment he first
steps onto the screen
and looks at us.
(bright playful music)
And this time the
reviews aren't half bad.
(light upbeat music)
(gentle music)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(upbeat music)
(dramatic music)
(nightstick thudding)
(dramatic music)
(triumphant music)
(upbeat music)
(upbeat music)
(dramatic music)
(audience cheering)
(dramatic music)
(people chattering)
(gentle music)
(audience laughing)
(bright upbeat music)
[Narrator] And it's
not just New York.
(upbeat music)
Why is Chaplin fever
spreading across the world?
What is it about
this little Tramp?
(gentle pensive music)
Well, he's funny.
He can take any situation
(bright music)
and make it silly.
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(dramatic music)
(suspenseful music)
(dramatic music)
(upbeat music)
But it's more than that.
In a society sharply
defined by class,
the Tramp not only
stands up to the man.
He gives them a kick up
the arse for good measure.
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)
To the millions of migrants,
dreaming of a new life,
the Tramp is someone
without a nation.
(whistle shrilling)
(dramatic music)
Someone who has no language,
but who speaks to everyone.
(dramatic music)
And in a world divided
by bitter conflict,
the Tramp can make you laugh,
whichever side you're on.
(dramatic music)
(bright music)
The Tramp defies the
boundaries of identity.
He blurs gender and sexuality.
He upends authority and class.
(bright music)
(gentle music)
He's a nobody
and he belongs to everybody.
(gentle music)
(audience cheering)
(dramatic music)
In the work house
Chaplin dreamed
of becoming rich,
famous and beloved.
He's now the highest
paid actor in the world.
The most famous man alive.
(gentle music)
[Charlie] So all the
adulation, it's not for me.
It's for the little man.
(bright pensive music)
First impression was the eyes.
They could be so warm and so
cold in a flash of a second.
Because he was a
charmer, you know.
[Douglas] Charlie
was a great exhibitionist.
(gentle music)
(people chattering)
Very flamboyant.
He put on a great show.
(gentle music)
He loved to talk on any subject,
pretend that he was a rebel
and a radical politically.
And he had the means
of making people think
that he was a very
profound reader,
when actually I think
he read the first page
of a number of books
and made people think
he read the whole thing.
(gentle music)
[Virginia] Charlie
was always acting.
Always on show, always
the entertainer.
He didn't want people to
know the real Charlie.
(gentle music)
One's bound to be insecure
with a childhood like his.
(somber music)
[Lita] He never felt
anybody loved him.
(pensive music)
He never believed it.
He said, "Why would
anybody love me?"
(pensive music) (birds chirping)
[Eddie] I am no psychiatrist,
but it's easy to see that
still has a fear of poverty.
Don't care how
much money he has.
He still has fear of poverty.
(gentle music)
(camera shutter clicking)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
[Narrator] Within a few years,
Chaplin has built
his own studio,
founded a distribution company,
liberated himself from
dependence on financial backers.
(dramatic music)
He follows no schedule.
He doesn't even follow a script.
(reel clicking)
He starts with a vague idea
and replays it again
and again and again,
until it becomes funny.
(dramatic music) (reel whirring)
(reel whizzing)
(reel clattering)
(dramatic music)
The actors are instructed
to perform each gesture
exactly as he does
as though they are mere
extensions of his body.
Every nuance, every
glance, he makes first.
His assistant says that if
he could have done every job
on set himself, he would have.
As it is, he writes,
directs, produces,
edits, scores, and stars.
(dramatic music)
He even tries his hand
at hair and makeup.
(bright music)
Finally, when he
has total control,
he begins his most
ambitious project yet.
(gentle pensive music)
(mournful music)
(gentle pensive music)
It's the story of
an abandoned child.
Of a single mother too
poor to care for him.
(gentle pensive music)
(mournful music)
(gentle music)
(gentle peaceful music)
In another life, the boy is
headed for the workhouse.
(dramatic music)
But in this version, when
the authorities arrive
to take him away,
he's not going without a fight.
(dramatic music)
(suspenseful music)
(dramatic music)
(mournful music)
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)
(sweet gentle music)
(wind howling)
(crowd roaring) (crowd cheering)
(pensive music) (crowd cheering)
(gentle thoughtful music)
It's been eight years
since he left London.
And when he finally gets back,
he hears a familiar voice.
(somber music)
[Narrator] He finds himself
back in the attic room
of No. 3 Pownall Terrace.
Four walls that the
Chaplin family called home.
Where Chaplin's mother, Hannah,
delighted him with her
costumes and impressions.
Where she struggled to make
ends meet after her voice
and then her stage
career failed.
(somber music)
She sat at this window
and told Charlie she
could see ghosts outside
before she was dragged
off to the asylum.
(dramatic music)
And Charlie's mother
hasn't left London.
(gentle pensive music)
She's living in a nursing home.
So when Chaplin
returns to America,
he brings her with him.
(gentle music) (birds chirping)
But she teeters between worlds.
(dramatic music)
Present and past seem to blur.
When she sees her son
dressed as a tramp, she says,
"Charlie, I have to
get you a new suit."
(pensive music)
(gentle music)
Meanwhile, her son is
making a Hollywood epic.
(dramatic music)
One that takes the Tramp
to the ends of the earth.
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)
But it's themes
are closer to home.
(gentle thoughtful music)
(lively upbeat music)
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(thoughtful music)
(explosion booming)
(people chattering)
(sirens wailing)
[Man] This is a test
to see how my voice
records on the film.
(Charlie whistling)
You are now listening to
a talking, moving picture.
We believe an entirely
new art will be created.
The beginning of a new
era in motion pictures.
(people humming)
(birds chirping) (reel clicking)
Suddenly the Tramp's strength
becomes his weakness.
(distorted voices chattering)
He can't talk.
What language would he speak?
What dialect?
(distorted voices chattering)
(dramatic music)
1928 Warner axes all
its silent projects.
1929 Fox follows.
By 1930,
(lion roaring)
all the major
studios are talking.
One by one Chaplin's
contemporaries start to talk.
First, Laurel and Hardy.
My trunk is packed
and I am leaving for
South America, tonight.
[Narrator] Then Harold Lloyd.
I don't know what to say.
Well, that's nothing new, dear.
[Narrator] Then, Buster Keaton.
Well, I got a lot of
serious talking to do
and you got a lot of
serious listening to do.
[Narrator] The talky
revolution is here.
It's alive! It's alive!
[Narrator] The
public is going crazy
for anything that talks.
Wait a minute! Wait a minute!
You ain't heard nothin'.
[Narrator] But Chaplin
decides to do the unthinkable.
He'll make a silent film.
(dramatic music)
(sweet pensive music)
Like most romantic comedies,
"City Lights"
turns on a misunderstanding.
(sweet gentle music)
A blind flower girl mistakes
the Tramp for a millionaire.
(gentle music)
Simple enough on paper,
but there is no paper.
Chaplin works without a script.
And this scene is
to drive Chaplin
and everyone around him
to the edge of madness.
[Interviewer] Can you tell us
about the shooting
of that sequence?
[Virginia] Oh dear.
(dramatic music)
He'd take it over and over
and over again.
I often thought
that if he couldn't think
what he was going to do next,
he simply went on doing
the same shot over again
until he thought of it.
[Narrator] Chaplain agonizes
over this mistaken
identity scene.
It's the heart of the film.
It has to feel right.
[Virginia] He was
a perfectionist.
And to us it often seem
to be exactly the same.
When he'd finally
say "It's a take,"
we'd breathe a sigh of relief.
And then he'd say, "Well,
perhaps just one more time."
[Narrator] It's not
working. Why isn't it working?
(dramatic music)
What if the rich man
buys a flower first?
Then, no.
Maybe it's Virginia Cherrill.
[Narrator] 270 days
into the shoot.
[Virginia] Charlie fired me.
[Narrator] It's
Cherrill. She's not right.
He needs a new
flower girl and fast.
The whole thing is going to
cost a fortune to reshoot.
He hires Georgia Hale,
his leading lady
from "The Gold Rush."
[Georgia] He said,
"I'm going to redo all
of 'City Lights' with you."
I'm gonna redo
the whole thing with you.
[Narrator] But, no.
Hale's not right either.
(dramatic music)
He tests other actresses.
They're just not, maybe
Cherrill was the one.
He begs Cherrill to come back.
(dramatic music)
It's 534 days into the shoot,
but they still haven't
got the flower scene.
He shot an entire film
around the fulcrum
of this mistaken identity
and it just isn't working.
(suspenseful music)
Then it comes to him.
A slamming door.
The key to Chaplin's
defiantly silent opus
is a sound.
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(sweet gentle music)
(gentle music)
(film whirring) (gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
(pensive music)
(gentle music)
(crowd cheering)
[Narrator] At the premiere,
50,000 people turn out,
hoping to see the Tramp
and the flower girl.
And some speculate the romance
may not be confined
to the screen.
[Virginia] Many people
thought I was his girlfriend,
but I wasn't.
I was much too old.
I was 20. (laughs)
[Narrator] All four
of Chaplin's wives
were young actresses.
Three were teenagers.
I've asked the author
of this book to visit us.
Her name is Lita Grey Chaplin.
The title is "My
life With Chaplin."
[Narrator] We only have one
of Chaplin's wives on tape.
[Interviewer] Second wife
of Charlie Chaplin and-
[Narrator] 1966 she
releases her tell-all memoir.
It is a controversial
sensational book.
And here is Lita Grey Chaplin.
(audience applauding)
(upbeat music)
I'm curious, Lita,
to find out why
you would write this book.
I had a compulsion to write it.
I felt that the story
just had to be told
or rather I had
to tell the story.
I had lived so many years
with the untrue story.
You starred in one of his movies
or you appeared in
one of his movies.
[Lita] "The Kid" when
I was 12 years old.
(upbeat music)
Can I ask how old you
were when you married him
or is that a secret?
And were you then heading
for a motion picture career?
Yes, I had begun in
"The Gold Rush," but
(throat clearing) I
couldn't finish the picture.
Charlie takes two years to
make a picture, you know,
and we became involved in
the meantime in such a way
that I couldn't have
completed the picture.
[Narrator] A teenage girl
pregnant with Chaplin's child.
His first wife, Mildred Harris,
went through something similar.
She divorced Chaplin,
citing mental cruelty.
And things don't start
any better for Lita.
[Lita] We were married in Mexico
because Charlie didn't want
much said about the marriage.
He was pretty bitter
in the beginning.
On the way back on the
train, he was quite nasty.
We were standing out on the
platform between the cars
while the train was traveling.
And he said, we could just
end this whole situation
if you'd just jump.
(somber music)
[Narrator] Two years
later, Lita sues for divorce
(gentle music)
and full custody of
their two children.
It is, up to this point,
the most expensive divorce
in Hollywood's history.
The petition is so sensational
that copies of it start
selling on the street.
(thoughtful music)
Lita describes him
as a serial adulterer
who cheats openly
and compulsively.
She claims he's
paranoid and jealous.
That he flies into rages,
bugs her room,
pulls a gun on her.
She says he tried
to pressure her
into getting a
backstreet abortion.
Chaplin calls Lita a
blackmailer, a gold digger,
a little whore.
The papers label her
Chaplin's child bride,
his school girl wife.
And in a letter of support
for the genius Chaplin,
30 European
intellectuals brand her
an idiot woman, cow,
slut, vermin, parasite.
A part of the public
thought that I was wrong
in my divorce case.
That he was the poor little
mistreated, pathetic little man
with so much pathos and all.
That me and my family
were gold diggers
and all this kind of talk.
And that was, that
made me feel bad
because I knew that a
portion of the public
believed a lot because
they idolized Charlie.
(pensive music)
[Narrator] For many
years afterwards,
Lita struggles with
depression and alcohol.
(pensive music)
She tries to set the story
straight in interviews,
but the topic
frequently strays back
to the matter of
Chaplin's genius.
(thoughtful music)
Even after her death,
biographies of Chaplin
continue to characterize her
as a manipulative and
seductive teenage girl.
Chaplin, in his autobiography,
dedicates just three
sentences to Lita.
He never mentions her by name.
(gentle music) (reel whirring)
(dramatic music)
(camera shutter clicking)
(crowd cheering)
[Narrator] Lita's
story is a shocking one.
But for Chaplin it
changes nothing.
(lively upbeat music)
(crowd roaring)
(lively upbeat music)
(train chugging)
(bright music)
Plenty has changed though.
(bright upbeat music)
The optimism of the Roaring
Twenties has come crashing down
and at every stop
on Chaplin's world tour,
he sees the ravages of
the Great Depression.
Communists and fascists are
fighting in the streets.
(upbeat music) (people shouting)
Queues outside screenings
of "City Lights,"
are mistaken for bread lines.
(somber music)
(crowd shouting)
In London with Mahatma Gandhi,
he discusses
poverty, exploitation
and the misuse of the machine.
(dramatic music)
A film is taking shape
in Chaplin's head.
(dramatic music)
(bright frantic music)
(dramatic frantic music)
(bright music)
(gentle music)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic suspenseful music)
(dark dramatic music)
It's number one
at the British Box Office,
a smash in The States.
Acclaimed in the Soviet Union.
But in one country,
the film is banned outright.
(sirens wailing)
(dramatic music)
(bell ringing)
Munich, 15 years earlier.
A little man marches
down the street,
swishing at the air
with some sort of cane.
His comical appearance
attracts attention,
particularly his conspicuous
toothbrush mustache.
He looks very familiar.
"Who is this funny little
fellow?" someone asks.
He's the leader of some
fringe political group.
(dramatic music)
"Just think," remarks
Chaplin a few years later,
"He's the madman,
I'm the comic."
But it could have been
the other way around.
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
Chaplin and Hitler are born
within four days of each other.
They both grow up
adoring their mothers
and resenting their
drunken fathers.
Both have known poverty.
One plays a tramp on screen
while the other is homeless
on the streets of Vienna.
(dramatic music)
Both are driven by a passionate
intensity and ambition,
laced with self-pity.
Sound threatens Chaplin's art,
but is the making of Hitler.
(Hitler speaking in
foreign language)
[Narrator] They are
both mesmeric performers.
They know how to command a crowd
through exaggerated gestures
and heightened
emotional appeals.
Both elicit intense,
almost physical reactions
from their audiences.
Chaplin makes them laugh.
Hitler drives them
into a frenzy.
(crowd cheering)
And then of course
there's the mustache.
(suspenseful music)
But when Chaplin and
Hitler look at each other,
what do they see?
The Nazis hate Chaplin.
They label him a Jew
and use him in their
antisemitic propaganda.
(man speaking in
foreign language)
(crowd shouting)
[Narrator] Neither can escape
comparisons with the other.
And so, as Hitler
celebrates his 50th birthday
with a military
parade through Berlin,
Chaplin is working on a
script for his latest film.
(dramatic music)
He begins filming the week
Britain declares war on Germany.
In it, Chaplin collapses
the distinctions
between himself and Hitler
as the dictator Adenoid Hynkel.
(dramatic music)
(crowd cheering)
But it's also a story
of doppelgangers.
He simultaneously plays
the Jewish barber.
Before we take you down,
you'll finish this. Here!
(dramatic music) (hand slapping)
Come on. Paint that.
(paint splashing)
Why you!
(blows thudding)
- Ow!
- Hey, come here!
Chaplin, who wasn't Jewish,
has finally aligned the
Tramp with one identity.
(soldiers shouting)
A persecuted minority
facing extermination.
(ominous music)
(quiet tense music)
(crowd cheering)
(sinister music)
(somber music)
[Narrator] At the film's end,
the Tramp is mistaken
for the dictator
and forced to address the world.
(somber music)
When the greatest
comedy character
of all time finally speaks,
it's not to tell a joke.
I'm sorry, but I don't
want to be an emperor.
That's not my business.
I don't want to rule
or conquer anyone.
I should like to help
everyone, if possible.
Jew, Gentile, black men, white,
we all want to help one another.
Human beings are like that.
We want to live
by each other's happiness,
not by each other's misery.
We don't want to hate
and despise one another.
In this world
there's room for everyone
and the good earth is rich
and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be
free and beautiful,
but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men's souls,
has barricaded the
world with hate,
has goose-stepped us into
misery and bloodshed.
We have developed speed,
but we have shut ourselves in.
Machinery that gives
abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has
made us cynical,
our cleverness hard and unkind.
We think too much
and feel too little.
You, the people have the power
to make this life
free and beautiful,
to make this life
a wonderful adventure.
Then in the name of democracy,
let us use that power.
Let us all unite!
Let us fight for a new
world, a decent world,
that will give men
a chance to work,
that will give you the future
and old age a security.
By the promise of these things,
brutes have risen to power.
But they lie. They do
not fulfill that promise.
They never will!
Dictators free themselves,
but they enslave the people.
Now let us fight
to fulfill that promise.
Let us fight to free the world,
to do away with
national barriers,
to do away with greed,
with hate and intolerance.
Let us fight for
a world of reason,
a world where science
and progress will lead
to all men's happiness.
Soldiers, in the name of
democracy, let us all unite!
(crowd cheering)
(dramatic music)
[Narrator] Chaplin knows
the Tramp can't survive this.
By breaking his silence,
he's putting his
creation on the alter.
But after a quarter of a
century in the Tramp costume,
can Chaplin be sure
that he will re-emerge whole?
Can there be one
without the other?
(gentle music)
(wind howling)
It's 1947.
(camera flashes popping)
Charlie Chaplin is
holding a press conference
at the Gotham Hotel in New York.
He's about to release
his new motion picture.
His first without the Tramp.
But as he knows, no one's
here to talk about the film.
(audience applauding)
(camera bulbs popping)
(audience applauding)
(audience laughing)
(camera flash popping)
[Narrator] So, how
did we get here?
(crowd cheering)
"The Great Dictator" has
been an enormous success
and its closing speech
has made such a splash
that Chaplin is
invited to repeat it
at the inauguration of
President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
[Charlie] You, the
people, have the power
to make this life
free and beautiful,
to make this life a
wonderful adventure
that in the name of democracy,
let us use that power.
Let us all unite!
At a fundraiser for
the Russian war relief,
he's invited to speak
for four minutes.
[Charlie] We must have a unity.
[Narrator] He speaks for 40.
[Charlie] And only by
the strength of unity
can we win this war.
[Narrator] He gets carried
away, goes off script.
[Charlie] I certainly
think if that's communism,
there's a lot of people
in the United States
that'll vote for it.
[Narrator] Having waited
so long to break his silence,
Chaplin can't stop talking.
[Charlie] I just made
a speech in Chicago
and I happened to say that
while people are anticommunist,
I am going to be communistic.
(audience applauding)
We must have the full strength
from the capitalist
to the communist,
in order that we
shall achieve victory.
(audience applauding)
[Narrator] And people
are starting to listen.
(suspenseful music)
Under the orders of its
notorious director,
J. Edgar Hoover,
the FBI is engaged in
wide ranging investigation
into Chaplin's possible ties
to the international
communist movement.
(suspenseful music)
The Red Scare is underway,
(dramatic music)
from Capitol hill to Hollywood.
Communism in
reality is akin to disease
that's spread like an epidemic.
And like an epidemic,
a quarantine is necessary to
keep from infecting the state.
Actors, writers and filmmakers
are dragged
in front of the House
Activities Committee.
[Representative] Are you or
have you ever been a member
of the communist party?
[Representative] What is your
opinion regarding communism?
I feel that they really
ought to be smoked out.
If I had my way about it,
they'd all be sent
back to Russia
or some other unpleasant place.
(audience applauding)
[Narrator] 10 Are imprisoned
for refusing to testify.
Hundreds are blacklisted.
Taking down a big star would
be a major coup for Hoover
and they don't come much
bigger than Charlie Chaplin.
[Representative] Are you a
member of the communist party?
(gavel thudding)
(camera flash popping)
[Narrator] But this response
doesn't satisfy Hoover.
Through the FBI's lens,
Chaplin becomes not
only a communist,
but a foreign subversive,
a homosexual, a Jew.
It tells us a lot
more about the FBI
than it does about Chaplin.
(suspenseful music)
They're looking for dirt.
And in this department,
they have a powerful ally.
Hello everybody.
This is Hedda Hopper reporting
to you from Hollywood.
That fabulous place where
everyone wants to live,
but seldom does.
[Narrator] "Hedda Hopper's
Hollywood Gossip Column"
is read by 32 million Americans.
Work in Culver City and play.
[Narrator] She has the power
to make or break careers.
Palm Springs, the other
day I decided to get away-
[Narrator] and she
hates communists.
Saw a little bit of sunshine.
[Narrator] She tells Hoover,
I'd like to run every one of
those rats out of the country
and start with Charlie Chaplin.
(bright music)
The file shows that Hopper
and Hoover's relationship
is more or less circular.
Hopper fills her columns
with gossip about Chaplin
that's been fed
to her by the FBI.
[Hedda] Charlie Chaplin dividing
his dancing attention night
before last at the Persian Room-
[Narrator] The FBI
then quotes those columns
and its file against Chaplin.
[Hedda] In the minds of...
Charlie Chaplin is called
the debutante's delight.
[Narrator] The
machine feeds itself.
[Hedda] Regarding
communists in Hollywood.
I found much (murmuring).
[Narrator] The evidence,
however, remains circumstantial.
Until one day-
You know, there's one
man in particular-
[Narrator] Hopper finds a
young woman called Joan Barry.
(mournful music)
In 1941, Joan
arrived in Hollywood
as an aspiring young actress.
Charlie Chaplin
took an interest in her.
He said he could
make her a star.
Now she's pregnant
and she needs help.
Hopper and Hoover
sense an opportunity.
(dramatic music)
Chaplin is taken to court to
prove that he's the father.
And Hopper ensures the
whole case plays out,
week-by-week in
the tabloid press.
(dramatic music)
The prosecutor
tears into Chaplin.
He reveals that
Chaplin forced Barry
to have two backstreet abortions
and accuses him of decades
of predatory behavior.
Three grueling trials later,
a blood test suggests he
may not be the father.
(somber music)
But it's too late.
The tide has finally turned.
(mournful music)
It's a great victory for the
right wing press and the FBI.
(people chattering)
But what about Joan Barry?
Where does this leave her?
(somber music)
A few years later,
she is committed to a
psychiatric hospital.
There's no further trace of her.
And now it's open season
on Charlie Chaplin.
(presses whirring)
(people chattering)
(somber music)
(camera flashes popping)
Now that it's ended
The romance is over
The passion gone
Like the wind and the rain
Gone are the joys
Of our madness
When I dream of you
[Narrator] In the midst
of all these scandals,
he's married again.
Oona O'Neill.
(gentle music) (reel whirring)
[Geraldine] My mother was
so young when she met him.
She was 17 and he
was 52, I think.
They fell in love
and then as soon as she
turned 18, they married.
Everyone thought
that she was just a bimbo
and that she'd be gone soon.
(people chattering)
(birds chirping)
They were mad about each other.
[Eugene] The only opinion he
listened to was my mother's.
Just couldn't do nothing
without her approval.
(gentle music)
She was the sunshine.
She gave warmth.
(gentle music) (birds chirping)
(leaves rustling)
(audience cheering)
[Narrator] But his
next film, "Limelight,"
betrays an underlying anxiety.
(pensive music)
In it, he's an aging comedian.
Once renowned for playing
a beloved Tramp character
whose public
has now abandoned him.
(pensive music)
(ship horn blaring)
(people chattering)
On September 17th, 1952,
the Chaplin family
depart the United States
to attend the European premiere.
(birds squawking)
Two days into the voyage-
(dramatic music)
[Reporter] The story which
makes the most sensational news
is the departure of
Charlie Chaplin for London.
Immigration officials
are prompt to suggest
that the great comic may have
difficulty getting back here
if he wants to come.
[Reporter] The United
States Attorney General,
James P. McGranery,
heard that Chaplin had been...
Charged with making statements
that would indicate a
leering, sneering attitude
toward a country whose
gracious hospitality
has enriched him.
[Reporter] And then at
the Justice Department
decided that Chaplin could
not re-enter the country,
unless he could prove
quote "His moral worth."
(dramatic music)
(bright music)
(birds squawking)
[Narrator] This has
been years in the making.
His enemies have
tried everything.
But in the end,
they just wait until he leaves.
(dramatic music)
(train whistling)
Chaplin sells his
Hollywood studio
and retreats to Switzerland.
(dramatic music)
He moves the family
into a grand estate
ringed by the Alps.
(mournful music)
(people chattering)
[Geraldine] The sentence
I remember most, him saying.
"I'm not bitter about America."
I'm not bitter about America.
"Bitter about America?
I'm not bitter about America."
He said it so many times
one begins to wonder.
(somber music)
[Narrator] And Chaplin is
forced to adapt to his new role
as a father.
(film whirring)
[Geraldine] My father
wasn't Charlie Chaplin.
I knew they were
the same person,
but they looked nothing alike.
Except when he had an audience,
then he would become
Charlie Chaplin,
that other man, the man
that was on the screen.
(gentle music)
[Narrator] This is the
Charlie Chaplin we find
in the family's home movies.
A cheerful clown who appears
the moment the camera
starts rolling.
(gentle music)
[Jane] My one wish growing up
was to have one conversation
alone with my father.
(gentle music)
Just the two of us.
He was inaccessible
in so many ways.
Your father's working.
Don't disturb him.
He'll lose his inspiration.
Our world revolved around
my father's well being.
(gentle music)
[Michael] I was kind of
frightened of my father.
He was so powerful
in a certain way.
You couldn't argue with him
because he couldn't be wrong.
Everyone who gets
too close to him,
he'll end up suffocating.
He couldn't help it.
That's why I left home
at an early age.
And I think my sisters did too,
you know.
(pensive music)
[Narrator] Chaplin
makes two films in exile.
But neither is the comeback
he hopes for.
(somber music)
[Geraldine] He said to me,
"I was very famous."
"I used to be very famous."
It did matter to him.
Of course it mattered to him.
He needed an audience.
He was a comedian.
You need an audience.
(somber music)
[Charlie] Correction.
It strikes me that happiness
is becoming more difficult.
New paragraph.
To write a book.
A great controversy was
going on in the press, comma...
In this day and age we... comma.
Paragraph... of unconsciousness.
(gentle music)
[Narrator] In the
pages of his memoir,
Chaplin revisits, once more,
the streets he
wandered as a boy.
(gentle music)
The streets he
haunts as an old man.
(pensive music)
The streets he returned to
time and again,
as the Tramp.
His old Lambeth neighborhood,
he rebuilt it in his
Hollywood studio.
(pensive music)
(birds squawking)
The gates of Killington Park,
here Chaplin met for a
date with his first love.
It's where the Tramp
meets the flower girl.
(gentle music)
And the attic
of No. 3 Pownall Terrace.
Where young Charlie watched
his mother's health ebb away.
(pensive music)
It's the attic
room in "The Kid."
(dramatic music)
(crowd cheering)
And if Chaplin isn't
finished with the past,
the past certainly
isn't finished with him.
(upbeat music)
(people faintly singing)
When Hollywood stages a grand
reconciliation at the Oscars,
it seems like a bid to
turn back the clock.
(crowd cheering)
(people singing faintly)
(gentle music)
When he's knighted in 1975,
people are still searching for
traces of the little fellow.
[Reporter] Sir Charles
left the palace,
not with his famous cane,
but now leaning on
a thick walking stick.
He's 86 next month and
he sat in a wheelchair
as the queen dubbed him.
[Narrator] Is there anyone left
who can look at one
without seeing the other?
(gentle music)
(gentle music)
[Narrator] When you ask
for the real Charlie Chaplin,
a thousand voices reply.
[Interviewer] Take care.
(Effie laughing)
[Narrator] Some are
louder than others.
(camera flashes popping)
(people chattering)
[Narrator] Some are hidden.
Some struggle to be heard.
And others
remain silent.
(mournful music)
(gentle music)
[Geraldine] I think if anyone
could pin my father down,
could understand him
it was my mother.
My mother's voice doesn't exist.
There's nothing with her.
No recorded interviews.
(gentle music)
Certainly she kept
journals. She kept diaries.
Writing was, I think,
her way of escaping.
Writing furiously,
writing continuously.
In her last years,
she spent a lot of
time destroying,
destroying what she had written.
(gentle music)
She was probably very lonely.
I could imagine
it would be quite lonely
being the wife of
Charlie Chaplin.
(film crackling)
[Jane] That big wish that I had,
to have conversation
alone with my father.
(gentle music)
I forgot about it.
I thought, "Oh, you
know, this is ridiculous.
It's just never gonna happen."
And when I dropped it,
that's when it happened.
Conversation alone with my dad.
I had grown up with the icon.
(birds squawking)
But the man, I had no
idea who the man was.
He spoke about having
huge amounts of doubt.
He said that he had had
doubts all his life.
(gentle music)
He accomplished
his life's dream,
but I don't think he ever
really got over his doubts.
(gentle music)
(engines rumbling)
Does one ever really get
over where you come from?
I don't think it
ever leaves you.
(dramatic music)
(reel rattling)
(mournful music)
(pensive music)
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)
If you only shut your trap
I will tell you about a chap
That was broken up
against it and threadbare
He was not the kind that shirked
He was looking hard for work
But he heard the same
old story everywhere
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
keep on a-trampin'
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Nothin' doing here for you
If I catch you round again
You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on tramping
That's the best thing you can do
He walked up and down the street
Til the shoes fell off his feet
In the house he spied
a lady cooking stew
And he said, how do you do
May I chop some wood for you
What the lady told him
made him feel so blue
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
keep on a-trampin'
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Nothin' doing here for you
If I catch you round again
You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on trampin'
That's the best thing you can do
Cross the street
the sign he read
Work for Jesus, so it said
And he said, here is my chance
I'll surely try
And he kneeled upon the floor
Til his knees got rather sore
But at eating time he
heard the preacher cry
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
keep on a-trampin'
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Nothin' doing here for you
If I catch you round again
You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on trampin'
That's the best thing you can do
Down the street he met a cop
And the copper made him stop
And he asked him, when
did you blow into town
Come with me up to the judge
the judge, he said, oh fudge
Bums that have no money
needn't come around
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
keep on a-trampin'
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Nothin' doing here for you
If I catch you round again
You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on trampin'
That's the best thing you can do
Finally came the happy day
When his life did pass away
He was sure he'd go
to heaven when he died
When did he reached
the pearly gates
Saint Peter, mean old saint
Slammed the gate right in
his face and loudly cried
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
keep on a-trampin'
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Nothin' doing here for you
If I catch you round again
You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on trampin'
That's the best thing you can do
Keep on trampin'
That's the best thing you can do
(dramatic music)
(dark dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(dark dramatic music)
(dramatic music)
(gentle music)