Charlie Chaplin was one of the world’s greatest comedic filmmakers. He wrote, directed and starred in his own films during the first years of Hollywood, and mostly during the silent film era.
Chaplin was also interested in politics. During the McCarthy era he was thought to be a communist, so whilst travelling in 1952 was barred from re-entering the United States of America. His solution was to purchase a mansion overlooking Vevey, Switzerland and to live and raise his family there.
Chaplin’s World was created so that people could discover the two sides of Charlie Chaplin: the private citizen, through the manor the Chaplin family lived in, and, through the film studio, the artist who brought about a revolution to the movie industry, resulting in an invaluable cinematographic and cultural legacy.
I wasn’t meant to visit the enchanting Chaplin’s World Museum, but, due to track maintenance, could not make a planned rail trip, so, armed with my Swiss Travel Pass which allowed me free transport on Switzerland’s trains, trams, buses and boats, I travelled from Montreux to Vevey and boarded a bus which dropped me off right outside the museum.
Not knowing what to expect, I was absolutely amazed by the museum.
Firstly, I toured the manor where the Chaplin family lived. Charlie and his wife Oona had eight children (Charlie also had three children from a former marriage), and they lived at Vevey from 1953 to 1977 when Charlie died. Oona and some children continued to live there.
The manor shows the private side of Chaplin’s life and features no less than 32 realistic wax replicas of celebrities who were close friends with Chaplin. Those friends included people like Albert Einstein and Sophia Loren.
Whilst the family obviously lived in luxury, Chaplin kept mementoes that reminded him of his childhood poverty.
For me, the most exciting part of the tour was visiting the film studios, which re-create Chaplin’s life as an artist. There are life-size recreations of Chaplin’s original film sets, and visitors are encouraged to participate in scenes.
It is a tremendous experience to see how Chaplin achieved his special effects and to pose with wax characters from his films. Chaplin also pays homage to his comedy contemporaries such as Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy.
Doing the studio tour is like entering childhood again, as it is so much fun.
I had a ball at the enchanting Chaplin’s World Museum and heartily recommend a visit.
Vevey is very easy to reach from both Montreux and Lausanne.
Following my visit, I used my Swiss Travel Pass to catch the bus back down to Vevey, enjoyed a walk along the foreshore, and enjoyed a paddle steamer ride back to Montreux.
Disclosure: The author travelled to Switzerland as a guest of Swiss Tourism