Left: Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp, his signature character who debuted in 1914. This photo was taken April 11, 1915 by P.D Jankens. Right: Publicity portrait of Charlie Chaplin, c. 1920. (Wikimedia Commons)

TRAVEL: Chaplin’s World a tribute to legendary actor’s perseverance and ingenuity

Charlie Chaplin remembered at Manoir de Ban, his Switzerland home

By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis,

Cloverdale Reporter

SWITZERLAND — At Manoir de Ban, the former home of Charlie Chaplin, documents and newspaper clippings from the 1940 McCarthy era attract my attention. Sardonically I speculate on what the legendary actor’s reaction to today’s American political climate might be.

During the McCarthy era (late 1940s to 1950s) Chaplin was one many artists labelled as Communist and interrogated. In 1952, the British-born actor’s US visa was revoked by the House Un-American Activities Committee. At the time Chaplin, 63, and his family were crossing the Atlantic to Britain for the opening of Limelight, one of his most critically acclaimed works. His response was: “I Believe in Liberty – That is All My Politics.”

This year is the 130th anniversary of Chaplin’s birth — April 16, 1889. What better reason to pause at Chaplin’s World to pay my respects to the man who persuaded the world to fall in love with a tramp.

Chaplin’s early life was the stuff of Victorian tragedies. Born into East End London poverty, he was sent to the workhouse twice by the age of nine. At 14 he was parentless due to an absentee father and a mother lost to suicide in a mental institution. Perhaps this partly explains why he was later quoted as saying, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles.” Despite all this — or perhaps because of it — his resilience, ingenuity, talent, perseverance and personality made him a world famous celebrity by 1919.

The Tramp, the silent film character with which he is synonymous, reduced audiences to tears in films like City Lights and left them laughing (and deliberating) in Modern Life. The Great Dictator, his Hitler-based anti-fascism satire, earned five Academy Award nominations. His repertoire as actor, producer, writer, director, and businessman is lengthy and legendary.

The collection at Chaplin’s World tells the story of a fascinating life.
The collection at Chaplin’s World tells the story of a fascinating life.

Courtesy of Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

Scandal erupted in 1943 when the thrice-married 54 year-old Chaplin married 18 year-old Oona O’Neill. The successful marriage produced eight children and was what Chaplin called “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Chaplin’s brother, Sidney, recommended seeking refuge in neutral Switzerland. Finding this solid two-story manor house in a perfectly stunning location was the perfect solution for the growing family and Chaplin’s ongoing work. It was his beloved home until his death on Dec 25, 1977. His response to the Congressional action was: “Whether I re-entered that unhappy country or not was of little consequence to me. I would like to have told them that the sooner I was rid of that hate-beleaguered atmosphere the better, that I was fed up of America’s insults and moral pomposity.”

In 1972 Chaplin (hesitantly) returned to the US to accept two Oscars and a thundering 12-minute standing ovation. His acceptance was gracious and very moving.

The Chaplin story is told through artifacts and letters in Manoir de Ban. Pictorial insights into family life, a mindboggling array of legendary associates (Albert Einstein was a close friend) and numerous honours and awards — including his knighthood bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975 — are attracting a new generation of movie enthusiasts.

A few steps down the gravel driveway a Chaplin’s World theatre shows Chaplin film clips and offers visitors opportunities to insert themselves into recreated film sets for souvenir selfies. Young children were clearly fascinated by Chaplin’s on-screen antics and were perfectly at home on the sets. I think Sir Charles and Lady Chaplin would be delighted.

Wandering through the manor I was aware of the peaceful expanse of lawns stretching through tall evergreens to Lake Geneva and majestic mountains beyond the long elegant windows. I could imagine why the property captivated the Chaplins.

Chaplin’s World, in Corier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, is 20 minutes by rail from Lausanne with my Swiss Travel Pass and just minutes by Post Bus from Vevey. I regretted not having more time to explore the area, but did stop to enjoy lunch at the very centrally located La Coupole.

Sir Charles and Lady Chaplin are buried side by side in the nearby Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery. I have a feeling, though, that if Sir Charles had known his final journey involved a devious detour it might have inspired another film.

On March 1, 1978, a Polish and Bulgarian duo dug up Chaplin’s coffin in a ransom attempt. Police apprehended the pair in May 1978. The coffin was discovered buried in a nearby Noville village field. It was then re-interred in the Corsier cemetery — securely protected by reinforced concrete. Switzerland remains The Tramp’s refuge.

If you go: Air Canada offers regular non-stop summer Vancouver-Zurich services. A Swiss Travel Pass makes train, bus and waterway services hassle-free right from the airport. Surf www.SBB.ch, www.MySwitzerland.com and www.ChaplinsWorld.com for detailed information.

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the founder of the Cloverdale Reporter, a Surrey-based journalist and photographer. Contact her at utravel@shaw.ca



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

White Rock waterfront strategy ‘pop-up’ session to be held tomorrow

Event to take place at museum from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

‘A labour of love’: High school turns into ‘toy shop’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau

Fraser Heights Secondary has been making toys for the non-profit for more than a decade

Oppal says Surrey mayor wrong about policing transition timeline

Chairman of committee overseeing Surrey’s transition from RCMP to city police says work won’t be done by Dec. 11

Farnworth says Surrey RCMP boss’s statement on budget should be taken ‘seriously’

Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald warned Surrey’s budget will have “detrimental effect” on policing

New date set for suspects in South Surrey Hells Angel murder

Court heard that both sides are prepared to set preliminary hearing date

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Chilliwack mom gives back to neonatal unit with Christmas stocking drive

Ashley Durance is paying it forward to other families and their babies following daughter’s NICU stay

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

Most Read