“A Charlie Chaplin the world has yet to know”

In 1919, Chaplin’s British publicist, Elsie Codd, wrote the following impression of him after a dinner at his home:

He and his wife [Mildred Harris] had entertained a few friends, and after dinner we adjourned to the music-room, with its quiet, intimate atmosphere of shaded lights.

In one corner stood a magnificent concert grand. Charlie loves music. It seems to be the natural outlet for his restless, eager spirit, and whenever I have seen him in that room, sooner or later he invariably responds to the lure of the instrument.

 On this particular evening he sat there for nearly an hour, playing snatches from “Butterfly,” “Carmen” and the “ Valse Triste,” improvising sad, wistful little melodies of his own, and trying some new records on the pianola.

“And this is my favourite,” he said, having after a long search at last discovered one he particularly wanted to try.

I glanced at the title. It was the celebrated theme with variations from one of Haydn’s string quartettes, the melody to which we English have learnt to sing the hymn, “Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him.”

“I remember I used to think it the most beautiful thing on earth when I sang it as a little boy at Sunday school,” Charlie said. “But now it seems wonderful things to me. I seem to see a whole Russian army on a great wide plain, thousands and thousands of them as far as the eye can reach. They are all kneeling in prayer, and the priest passes slowly down their ranks and blesses them with the sacred icon in his hands.”

And as I watched him lose himself and all sense of his surroundings in the beauty of that music, I realised that this was a Charlie Chaplin the world has yet to know. (Pictures & Picturegoer, Oct. 1919)

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