Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Travels with Charlie in 1921

I have this very old book (published in 1922) called "My Trip Abroad" by Charlie Chaplin. He wrote it in conjunction with an extended journey he made to Europe, beginning in September of 1921. It was originally published as a series of articles in a magazine, then as the book. Besides wanting to escape from the pressures of Hollywood and making films ("The Kid" was released in 1921, followed by "The Idle Class" that same year), he had an urge to revisit his boyhood neighborhoods. This is how his story begins.

"A steak-and-kidney pie, influenza, and a cablegram. There is the triple alliance that is responsible for the whole thing. Though there might have been a bit of homesickness and a desire for applause mixed up in the cycle of circumstances that started me off to Europe for a vacation.

"For seven years I have been basking in California's perpetual sunlight, a sunlight artificially enhanced by the studio Cooper-Hewitts. For seven years I have been working and thinking along in a single channel and I wanted to get away. Away from Hollywood, the cinema colony, away from scenarios, away from the celluloid smell of the studios, away from contracts, press notices, cutting rooms, crowds, bathing beauties, custard pies, big shoes, and little mustaches. I was in the atmosphere of achievement, but an achievement which, to me, was rapidly verging on stagnation.

"I wanted an emotional holiday. Perhaps I am projecting at the start a difficult condition for conception, but I assure you that even the clown has his rational moments and I needed a few.

"The triple alliance listed above came about rather simultaneously. I had finished the picture of 'The Kid' and 'The Idle Class' and was about to embark on another. The company had been engaged. Script and settings were ready. We had worked on the picture one day.

"I was feeling very tired, weak, and depressed. I had just recovered from an attack of influenza. I was in one of those 'what's the use' moods. I wanted something and didn't know what it was."

He visits a friend's house in Pasadena. Then...
"I drove back to Los Angeles. I was restless. There was a cablegram waiting for me from London. It called attention to the fact that my latest picture, 'The Kid' was about to make its appearance in London and, as it had been acclaimed my best, this was the time for me to make the trip back to my native land. A trip that I had been promising myself for years.

"What would Europe look like after the war?"

The book continues for 155 pages. And throughout, I can hear Chaplin's voice - his excitement, his occasional sadness, his personal view on famous people and places he visited. Perhaps more of his travels will be told in future posts.


  1. A nice start to your blog on one of the geniuses of film and most important people in classic Hollywood history. Continued success, and I cordially invite you and your readers to my star site, centered on someone who, legend has it, auditioned for the female lead in "The Gold Rush":


  2. I also have a first edition of this very interesting book (dictated by Charlie to Monta Bell on the train back to Hollywood)I should re-visit it, as it's a very fresh look at his visit to the U.K. Interesting to compare it with his account of the trip in 'My Autobiography'

    Great blog Gerry!