Chaplin & Churchill first met in 1929 at a party at Marion Davies’ beach house in Santa Monica & took an immediate liking to one another. A couple of days later, Charlie invited Churchill and his entourage to his Hollywood studio where they were treated to a screening of Shoulder Arms and toured the set of City Lights. “You could not help liking him,” Churchill told his wife, Clementine, in a letter, “He is a marvelous comedian–bolshy in politics–delightful in conversation.” 1
Charlie remembered Churchill as a charming man with a “direct, unassuming manner. He has a slight lisp when he talks and a stoop in his carriage like Napoleon. You feel immediately a dynamic force–a man with a thirst for accomplishment. He is a wonderful talker and will rattle off brilliant epigrams. Besides being a statesman he is a great writer and an excellent painter. 2
Although they rarely saw eye to eye on politics, the two men discussed many things at Chartwell, including Charlie’s interest in making a film about Napoleon. “You must do it,” Churchill said. “Apart from the drama, think of its possibilities for humor. Napoleon in his bathtub arguing with his imperious brother who’s all dressed up, bedecked in gold braid, and using this opportunity to place Napoleon in a position of inferiority. But Napoleon, in his rage, deliberately splashes water over his brother’s fine uniform and he has to exit ignominiously from him. This is not alone clever psychology. It is action and fun.” 3
|With Churchill & his family at Chartwell in Westerham, Kent, Sept. 19th, 1931.
L-R: Tom Mitford, Churchill, 2nd Lord Birkenhead, Clementine Churchill,
Diana Churchill, Randolph Churchill, and Charlie.
Next on Charlie’s itinerary: A meeting with Gandhi.
* Charlie first visited Chartwell in February 1931 with his friend, Ralph Barton, who had accompanied him on his voyage to England. Barton had become obsessed about his ex-wife Carlotta Monterey’s marriage to Eugene O’Neill and Charlie hoped the trip abroad would lift his friend’s spirits. Not long after their arrival, Barton began acting strangely. Charlie noticed he had cut the wires to the clocks in the room, and Carlyle Robinson had even seen him holding a pistol. A few days after the City Lights premiere in London on Feb. 27th, Barton announced he was returning to the States. On May 19th he killed himself in his New York apartment. Charlie received word of his friend’s suicide while he was in the south of France.
2 Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World, Part II,” A Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1933