Lonely Planet Writer

Museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin’s work opens in Switzerland

At a time when fame can last for as little as 15 minutes, Charlie Chaplin’s enduring legacy is confirmed with a new museum opening in Switzerland dedicated to his work.

Charlie Chaplin, the 'Little Tramp' of the silent movie era, has had a museum spread over 30 acres mounted to remember his work
Charlie Chaplin, the ‘Little Tramp’ of the silent movie era, has had a museum spread over 30 acres mounted to remember his work Image by Insomnia Cured Here / CC BY 2.0

Almost 40 years after his death and 80 years since the halcyon days of silent movies, the ‘Little Tramp’ still has remarkable drawing power for the current generation.  The Daily Telegraph reports that a museum sprawling across more than 30 acres on the Vaudois Riviera is being devoted totally to the man who only needed a cane and a bowler hat to make previous generations laugh out loud. The cultural centre is pledging various exhibitions about the comic genius including film presentations, festivals and a graphic art gallery.

Millions of gallons of water floods Sunset Boulevard after pipe bursts. Image by Alistair McMillan / CC BY-SA 2.0
Chaplin at 28 years old was able to build his own studio on Sunset Boulevard and control what was filmed Image by Alistair McMillan / CC BY-SA 2.0 Image by Alistair McMillan / CC BY-SA 2.0

The star, born in England 127 years ago, is to the performing arts what Shakespeare was to the written word. He reinvented film concepts and by 28 was so popular that he had the wherewithal to build his own studio off Sunset Boulevard. That way he controlled virtually every level of film production, from writing and directing to producing and editing.

Chaplin always fought for the rights of the little fellow in life, something that endeared him to his audiences
Chaplin always fought for the rights of the little guy in life, something that endeared him to his audiences Image by Dennis Amith / CC BY 2.0

A creative one-off, it was his popularity in front of the camera that made him the most beloved screen character of the silent era. Throughout the bleak Depression years in the USA, he offered hope and was a champion for the underdog in life. The renowned critic James Agee explained that pre-Chaplin, audiences were happy to hear a couples of gags per comedy. “He got laughs every second,” he added. However it was also the soul of his character that is responsible for Chaplin’s enduring appeal. He constantly looked out for the little guy and was particularly attuned to social injustice.