|Charlie Chaplin, born in Walworth, London, in 1889, spent most of his working life in the USA until 1952 when, during the McCarthy communist witch hunts, his US visa was revoked. Forced to sell up in Hollywood he had to find another country to live in. Switzerland appealed because of, he is quoted as saying, “the beautiful mountains, peace, solitude, and the favourable tax regime “. Deciding to buy a neoclassical house in Corsier- sur-Vevey, built in 1840, and known as Manoir de Ban, Chaplin lived there with his wife Oona, eight children, and nineteen staff, until his death in 1977.
It was this house we visited on 19 October, accompanied by an excellent tour guide who imbued us with so many facts and figures that we have all become experts ready to appear on Mastermind. The layout of many of the rooms lie untouched and the original furniture remains, as Oona left them, upon her death in 1991. Left also are many mementoes of what family life was like, including photographs and home cine films of the children playing in the garden, family barbeques, and Charlie Chaplin comedy antics.
Preceding the house visit, we watched a kaleidoscopic history of Chaplin’s greatest movies in a purpose-built movie theatre attached to the reception area and gift shop. After the performance ended the curtain rose and a typical 1920’s New York City street suddenly appeared, which we were invited to walk down. Narrow streets led into film studios, and scenes from films such as The Circus, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, and City Lights.
It was gratifying to have a large group of BRA members representing all regions, bar Ticino due to distance, attend this event. It is customarily for me to receive some complaints, recommendations as to ways to improve a BRA event (which, I hasten to add, are warmly welcomed). However, this time I received nothing but praise, not only for the quality of the food in the restaurant and the friendly service but for the entertainment value of the museum, the movies, and the exhibits. All your comments have been passed onto Mr. Pigeon, the Director of Charlie Chaplin’s World, who, incidentally, is French Canadian, and whom, you never know, I may persuade to enroll as a BRA member.
If the objective of this depository of treasured mementoes is to reveal that Charlie Chaplin’s life work was to clothe pathos, hypocrisy, and cruelty in slapstick, then that has been achieved.