Brief audio clip from the press conference
Held the day the after the disastrous premiere of Monsieur Verdoux in NYC (where members of the audience booed and hissed at the screen), this press conference was described by George Wallach, who recorded the event for WNEW, as “more like an inquisition than a press conference.” However, Charlie was ready for them, and at the start of the interview he invited the journalists to “proceed with the butchery.”
Here are some snippets:
Question: Mr. Chaplin, according to a report from Hollywood you are a personal friend of Hanns Eisler, the composer?
Chaplin: I am. I am very proud of the fact.
Question: Are you aware of the fact that his brother is the Soviet agent, so attested by…
Chaplin: I know nothing about his brother!
Question: Do you think Mr. Eisler is a Communist?
Chaplin: I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know whether he is a Communist or not. I know he is a fine artist and a great musician and a very sympathetic friend.
Question: Would it make a difference to you if he were a Communist?
Chaplin: No, it wouldn’t.
|Charlie arrives at the Gotham Hotel for the press conference.|
Question: Now, Mr. Chaplin, the Daily Worker, October 25, 1942, reported you stated, in an address before the Artists Front to win the war, a Communist front group: “I’m not a citizen, I don’t need citizenship papers, and I’ve never had patriotism in that sense for any country, but I’m a patriot to humanity as a whole. I’m a citizen of the world. [with heavy sarcasm] If the Four Freedoms mean anything after this war, we won’t bother about whether we are citizens of one country or another. “Mr. Chaplin, the men who secured the beachheads, the men who advanced in the face of enemy fire, and the poor fellows who were drafted like myself, and their families and buddies, resent that remark. And we want to know now if you were properly quoted.
Chaplin: I don’t know why you resent that. That is a personal opinion. I am–four fifths of my family are Americans. I have four children, two of them were on those beachheads. They were with Patton’s Third Army. I am the one-fifth that isn’t a citizen. Nevertheless, I-I-I’ve done my share, and whatever I said, it is not by any means to be meant derogatory to your Catholic uh-uh-uh-GIs.
Question: It’s not the Catholic GIs, Mr. Chaplin, it’s the GIs throughout the United States!
Chaplin: Well, whatever they are, if they take exception to the fact that I am not a citizen and that I pay my taxes and that seventy percent of my revenue comes from uh-uh-uh abroad, then I apologize for paying that 100 percent on that 70 percent.
Question: I think that is a very evasive answer, Mr. Chaplin, because so do those veterans pay their taxes too!
Question: Whether their revenue comes from elsewhere or not!
Chaplin: The problem is–what is it that your are objecting to?
Question: I am objecting to your particular stand that you have no patriotic feeling about this country or any other country.
Chaplin: I think you’re…
Question: You’ve worked here, you’ve made your money here, you went around in the last war [World War I], when you should have been serving Great Britain, you were here selling bonds, so it stated in the paper that I read, and I think that you as a citizen here–or rather a resident here–taking our money should have done more!
Chaplin: [pause] Well, that’s another question of opinion and as I say I think it is rather dictatorial on your part to say as how I should apply my patriotism. I have patriotism and I had patriotism in this war and I showed it and I did a great deal for the war effort but it was never advertised. Now, whether you say that you object to me for not having patriotism is a qualified thing. I’ve been that way ever since I have been a young child. I can’t help it. I’ve traveled all over the world, and my patriotism doesn’t rest with one class. It rests with the whole world–the pity of the whole world and the common people, and that includes even those that object to my–that sort of patriotism.
Question: Mr Chaplin, do you share M. Verdoux’s conviction that our comtemporary civilization is making mass murderers of us?
Question: Would you enlarge on that a little bit? I felt in the picture that that was the most striking line and I would like to have you enlarge on that.
Chaplin: Well, all my life I have always loathed and abhorred violence. Now I think these weapons of mass destruction — I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, it’s a cliché by now — that the atomic bomb is the most horrible invention of mankind, and I think it is being proven so every moment. I think it is creating so much horror and fear that we are going to grow up a bunch of neurotics.
Question: And your line at the end of the picture — had the atomic bomb in it.
Chaplin: Well, it didn’t have the atomic bomb in it — it had weapons of destruction, and if the atomic bomb is in it, then it goes for the atomic bomb. I don’t go all the way with science.
Chaplin: I beg your pardon?
Question: What was your reaction of the reviews–the press reviews–in New York on the picture?
Chaplin: Well, the one optimistic note is that they were mixed. [laughter]
Source: Film Comment (Winter 1969)