Christmas with Charlie: Vol. 11

Excerpt from Moments With Chaplin by Lillian Ross:

The Chaplins were faithful with their Christmas cards, which always included a conventional family photograph of one kind or another, usually taken in their living room or on the lawn in front of their house. The children would be lined up in order of age. In the photographs, Chaplin didn’t kid around; he always looked strictly the head of the family. There is just a hint of a departure from that role in the Christmas photograph taken in 1964, the year “My Autobiography” was published. It shows the clan reading the book, three members holding copies of the British edition and each of the others holding an edition published in a different country (Two-year-old Christopher, bare-legged with white socks and black patent leather shoes, has “Chaplin: Mit Liv.”) Chaplin in this photograph wears an expression of fake, overdone concentration.


The next year, the family is shown standing ankle-deep in snow, with everybody wearing a parka and ski pants–everybody except Chaplin himself, who has on a dark double-breasted overcoat, a dark suit, a white shirt, a dark necktie, and a black fedora. He is standing straight, head up, grinning proudly, hands in his overcoat pockets.

 The 1968 card bears the inscription, in Oona’s handwriting, “25th Wedding Anniversary,” and it shows the family, gathered on and around the living room sofa, everybody, including Chaplin, looking self-conscious, giving the obligatory anniversary smile.

The photograph for Christmas, 1976, shows Chaplin and Oona seated in a golf cart, useful for getting around large lawns, and surrounded by their children and, by then, grandchildren. 

The Christmas card for 1977 arrived just before Christmas Day, which was the day Charlie Chaplin died. The photograph is of Charlie Chaplin alone, and taken on April 16, 1977, his last birthday–his eighty-eighth. He is sitting in a chair and is wearing a dark suit over a baby-blue cashmere sweater. The white collar of his shirt comes down over the sweater, and there is a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket. His white hair is sparser but still full and is combed neatly from a side part. His left hand is raised–a bit of the blue sweater showing at the wrist–and is held in midair to a position over his heart, in the classic gesture of the actor.

1 Comment

  1. In the Fall of 1977, the residents of the Delancey Street Foundation rented a projector and a few of Mr. Chaplin's silent films. After viewing the movies, the residents composed a letter to Mr. Chaplin expressing their love for him and his films. That December Mr. Chaplin sent a card with a photo of himself in a wheelchair and his wife Oona standing next to him in front of a huge, beautifully decorated tree. He passed that Christmas day. I have searched and can not find a copy of that photo on-line. Could it be that he sent a one of a kind photo the the Delancey Street residents that December?

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