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Charlie Chaplin had his first break with the Eight Lancashire Lads – a troupe of child performers. He then worked with the comedy impresario Fred Karno, before the Keystone Film Company spotted him in 1912. International stardom followed.
100 years on, his digressive Odysseus-esque global journey – from the drab slums of Lambeth to nubile Hollywood – is being memorialsed in the neoclassical mansion by Lake Geneva where it all ended.
Chaplin moved there in the 1950s to escape Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunt for anyone he suspected of communism. Besides his extensive body of work, museum developers are keen to stress Chaplin’s humanistic politics and social values.
Museum developer Ives Durand explained: “This museum also wants to go beyond the work he has left us, and stress another dimension. His work was both funny and touching but Chaplin was also a great humanist and his films were profoundly social. We will highlight all those characteristics, for all to see.”
Laura Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, is an artist who lives between England and Switzerland – part of her work is dedicated to her grandfather. For her, the museum is the perfect way to celebrate the “Godfather” of silent movies: “Towards the end of his life he was worried that he would be forgotten because he’d worked so hard and he had a very strong message. I think that is what he wanted the most, to be remembered and people to hear his message still today.”
The ‘Chaplin’s World’ museum in Vevey, by Lake Geneva, is scheduled to open in 2015.