Old Hollywood
Cinema
1900-1979

Nostalgia is a seductive liar - George Wildman Ball

Q: Odd that Charlie Chaplin sends his daughters to a convent. It certainly can’t be said that he has any sympathy with the Church. And why on earth does he send you to a convent?
Geraldine Chaplin: “For the discipline. My father’s fanatical about discipline. Besides I was so wild, when I was ten, that I don’t know what would have happened if the nuns hadn’t brought me up. They were strict, the nuns, as strict as father, but they were so gentle too. And then the nuns gave me something I didn’t have, they gave me religion. You see, we Chaplin kids were never baptized into any religion. That’s the way father wanted and wants it. We’d never heard any talk of God, we’d never heard a prayer and…well, now I’ll tell you a very silly, a very odd thing.
The first day I went into class, all the girls were standing up praying. I didn’t know about praying, you see, and so I thought they were reciting a lesson. But the second day they stood up again and recited the same lesson again, so I thought, that’s odd, didn’t they say the same lesson yesterday? I turned to one of the girls and asked her: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘We’re praying,’ she said. ‘Praying?’ I said. ‘Yes, praying,’ she said. “Praying to whom?” I said. ‘Praying to God,’ she said. ‘God who?’ I said.
Well, the girl looked at me in amazement and didn’t say any more. So then, when the lesson was over, I went to the nuns and asked who God was: was he the head of the school? The nuns said yes, God was also the head of the school. So then I asked the nuns if I could meet this head of the school and the nuns replied that this head of the school was very good and was taking care of me. If I spoke to Him, He would listen and… well, it was like a fairy tale only more beautiful, and I believed it…”
Q: Is it really true that until you were ten you’d never heard religion spoken of?
GC: “No. Never….my father says he’d have liked to be religious, that it would have been a great help to him, but he just can’t be. If he could, he says, he’d put more trust in people. My father is a man with no illusions, and we all grew up without any illusions - except for the early years, when we thought it was Father Christmas who brought us cookies. But by now even the youngest of the children know the cookies come from mother and father, that there is no such person as Father Christmas.”
-excerpted from 1965 interview, published in The Limelighters  (Oriana Fallaci, 1967) (photo via)

Q: Odd that Charlie Chaplin sends his daughters to a convent. It certainly can’t be said that he has any sympathy with the Church. And why on earth does he send you to a convent?

Geraldine Chaplin: “For the discipline. My father’s fanatical about discipline. Besides I was so wild, when I was ten, that I don’t know what would have happened if the nuns hadn’t brought me up. They were strict, the nuns, as strict as father, but they were so gentle too. And then the nuns gave me something I didn’t have, they gave me religion. You see, we Chaplin kids were never baptized into any religion. That’s the way father wanted and wants it. We’d never heard any talk of God, we’d never heard a prayer and…well, now I’ll tell you a very silly, a very odd thing.

The first day I went into class, all the girls were standing up praying. I didn’t know about praying, you see, and so I thought they were reciting a lesson. But the second day they stood up again and recited the same lesson again, so I thought, that’s odd, didn’t they say the same lesson yesterday? I turned to one of the girls and asked her: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘We’re praying,’ she said. ‘Praying?’ I said. ‘Yes, praying,’ she said. “Praying to whom?” I said. ‘Praying to God,’ she said. ‘God who?’ I said.

Well, the girl looked at me in amazement and didn’t say any more. So then, when the lesson was over, I went to the nuns and asked who God was: was he the head of the school? The nuns said yes, God was also the head of the school. So then I asked the nuns if I could meet this head of the school and the nuns replied that this head of the school was very good and was taking care of me. If I spoke to Him, He would listen and… well, it was like a fairy tale only more beautiful, and I believed it…”

Q: Is it really true that until you were ten you’d never heard religion spoken of?

GC: “No. Never….my father says he’d have liked to be religious, that it would have been a great help to him, but he just can’t be. If he could, he says, he’d put more trust in people. My father is a man with no illusions, and we all grew up without any illusions - except for the early years, when we thought it was Father Christmas who brought us cookies. But by now even the youngest of the children know the cookies come from mother and father, that there is no such person as Father Christmas.”

-excerpted from 1965 interview, published in The Limelighters  (Oriana Fallaci, 1967) (photo via)

Geraldine Chaplin on the set of Doctor Zhivago (1965, dir. David Lean) (via)
Geraldine Chaplin: I shall get married, certainly. Everyone in the Chaplin household gets married. But I don’t know when, I don’t know to whom. You see…for anyone like me who has witnessed a love as great and incredible as the love that has bound, binds, my father (Charlie Chaplin) and mother (Oona O’Neill)…well, you feel crushed by the fear of never finding one like it. You search for it, a love as great as the love of your father and mother, and you know very well you’ll never find it, because miracles like that only happen once in a hundred, two hundred, years. And so you feel jealous, unhappy.
You think: I’ll never have what my father and mother have had, such a miracle, such luck. My father’s had such luck in his life! He’s also had griefs, troubles, humiliations, but in the end everything turned out all right for him, everything! And he’s had fame, respect, riches, love, everything! Even love! Everything! And a child, once he’s grown up, compares himself with him…and thinks things will never turn out as well for him, he’ll never be as good…as lucky…he’ll never have so much love…Q: I’m going to ask, and I beg you to answer me sincerely because, I believe, it’s a very important question. A question that, obviously, concerns your father. This, Geraldine: are you afraid of him?Chaplin: Certainly I’m afraid of my father… Certainly. Very, very afraid. And not only because he’s so unbending, so difficult, so strict. Not only because he always turns out to be right in the end, whatever he says or does. But because… because… how can I put it… I feel this constant reproof, this constant comparison, because I feel I’m in his shadow all the time, all the time, like all of us….yes, I feel that only when I’m no longer in his shadow, when I’m no longer afraid of him, that only then will I be able to do something myself.
-1965, published in The Limelighters (Michael Joseph, 1967)Another excerpt from this interview previously posted here.

Geraldine Chaplin on the set of Doctor Zhivago (1965, dir. David Lean) (via)

Geraldine Chaplin: I shall get married, certainly. Everyone in the Chaplin household gets married. But I don’t know when, I don’t know to whom. You see…for anyone like me who has witnessed a love as great and incredible as the love that has bound, binds, my father (Charlie Chaplin) and mother (Oona O’Neill)…well, you feel crushed by the fear of never finding one like it. You search for it, a love as great as the love of your father and mother, and you know very well you’ll never find it, because miracles like that only happen once in a hundred, two hundred, years. And so you feel jealous, unhappy.

You think: I’ll never have what my father and mother have had, such a miracle, such luck. My father’s had such luck in his life! He’s also had griefs, troubles, humiliations, but in the end everything turned out all right for him, everything! And he’s had fame, respect, riches, love, everything! Even love! Everything! And a child, once he’s grown up, compares himself with him…and thinks things will never turn out as well for him, he’ll never be as good…as lucky…he’ll never have so much love…

Q: I’m going to ask, and I beg you to answer me sincerely because, I believe, it’s a very important question. A question that, obviously, concerns your father. This, Geraldine: are you afraid of him?

Chaplin: Certainly I’m afraid of my father… Certainly. Very, very afraid. And not only because he’s so unbending, so difficult, so strict. Not only because he always turns out to be right in the end, whatever he says or does. But because… because… how can I put it… I feel this constant reproof, this constant comparison, because I feel I’m in his shadow all the time, all the time, like all of us….yes, I feel that only when I’m no longer in his shadow, when I’m no longer afraid of him, that only then will I be able to do something myself.

-1965, published in The Limelighters (Michael Joseph, 1967)

Another excerpt from this interview previously posted here.