Three hundred million people watched his films. He was the first global celebrity. Beginning in 1912, he rose from extreme poverty to become the most famous movie star in just 16 years. Actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and film editor, Charlie Chaplin (also known as “The Tramp”) entertained millions with his comedic slapstick. Then he moved the world from his comedic silent films into a more satirical approach to filmmaking with the adverse rise of political and social evils of the time.
Movies such as The Great Dictator and The King of New York showed Chaplin's deep concern for the shifting wind of social malaise. He continued to act and direct throughout his long and productive 75 years. Although his life was plagued with much adversity, he overcame it to pursue and succeed at his craft. However, Chaplin's career was marred by the accusation that he sympathized with communists during the McCarthy era.
He was forced to leave the U.S. in 1952 and found a home in Switzerland, where he spent the remaining 25 years of his life overlooking the panoramic Lake Geneva. His eighteenth century, 19-room mansion also served as a place for his writing, entertaining, and filmmaking, as well as a home to raise his eight children with his beloved wife Oona.
Fast-forward to the year 2016. Chaplin's legacy is now enjoying a resurgence with a new Chaplin museum, Chaplin's World, which recently opened in his beloved Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. Three of his children — Michael, Eugene, and Victoria — engaged in the process of creating this new museum with the help of curator Yves Durand. Over a decade and $45 million dollars later, Chaplin's World is now open to the public.
The property was bought from the family in 2008 with the promise that it would be used as a museum honoring Chaplin's work. "We made an agreement, that this land and home would be for the very purpose of the museum that would be dedicated to honoring the life and work of Charlie Chaplin," stated Yves Durand in a recent visit to Vevey. "Discovering his work is also about discovering the history of the century and discovering a man that was much more than a clown, but also a man that was a humanist, a pacifist, and his very special look at society and its injustices," Durand added. The various rooms are dedicated to the scenes that he used as a filmmaker.
Visitors can interact by moving through recreated movie sets, where one can slip on a costume prop and pretend they are part of film history. Images and iconic memorabilia featuring the Tramp wearing his iconic baggy trousers, derby hat, and bamboo cane give the museum-goer the distinct feeling that Chaplin's spirit is still very alive and well in every aspect of the museum.
His lovely home also contains his personal artifacts, such as his writing desk, family dining room table, and other more whimsical touches, such as lifelike wax statues replicating Charlie himself and other friends, such as Albert Einstein, staged in comedic poses throughout the museum. A stroll around the pristine grounds also makes one realize why Chaplin loved this place and called it home for the remainder of his life. The museum also boasts a full service restaurant/café combo and a gift shop.
Called The Tramp, the museum’s eatery offers food throughout the day, beginning at 9:30 a.m. with small breakfast dishes, before transitioning to snacks later on. Come lunchtime, The Tramp also serves a full lunch menu while also featuring beautiful views of the Domaine de Ban park from the outdoor patio. At dinner, the restaurant’s offerings become the star thanks to chef Emmanuel Colier, who promises a gourmet meal highlighting local food and wine. If you haven't had enough of Chaplin yet, stop by the Laderach Chocolate Shop in Vevey for the famous chocolate version of Chaplin's little shoes.
After all this, you’ll walk away with an appreciation for the life and work of a man who overcame much to make motion picture history.