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mercredi 22 décembre 2010

Three British icons of the Twentieth Century – Chaplin, Mason and Greene

Le présent article a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie. Une traduction en français sera publiée prochainement sur ce blog.

What do Charlie Chaplin (1898 – 1977) and James Mason (1909 – 1984) have in common? If you are a film aficionado, the answer might be relatively easy. For anyone who has followed the careers of British film actors, Chaplin and Mason are known to have been amongst the eminent. A little research would also reveal that they were friends.

Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE

James Mason

Chaplin began his career in the era of silent movies. His best known films may have been “The Tramp” and “Modern Times”. The theme song for the latter was “Smile”, the music of which was written by Chaplin. It has been sung by such varied singers as Elvis Costello, Nat King Cole, Barbara Streisand, Josh Groban and Michael Jackson. His brother, Germaine Jackson, sang it at Michael’s memorial service.

Among the quotations attributed to Chaplin are:

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot”
“A day without laughter is a wasted day”
“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself”

Many biographies of Chaplin have been written, both in French and English, the most recent being “Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World”, by Sid Fleischman and published by Greenwillow Books in June 2010. This biography is for children aged 9 to 12 years.

Chaplin’s own story is “My Autobiography”, written together with David Robinson and published by Penguin Classics.

The French version is “Histoire de ma vie”, éditions Robert Laffont.

For videos, photos and a quiz on Chaplin, see

James Mason had a distinguished career, acting in nearly 50 movies. One of his best known is “Lolita”, directed by Stanley Kubrik and released in 1962, based on the novel of the same name written by Vladimir Nabokov. Mason was nominated for an Oscar three times.

Mason never wrote his own biography and only one biography was written of him – “James Mason – A Personal Biography”, by Diana de Rosso, published by Queen Anne Press.  There is, however, a “bio-bibliography” of Mason – a reference book that provides comprehensive coverage of his life and career, with an annotated bibliography of works by and about him.

One of Mason’s outstanding performances was in the role of Brutus in the movie version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.  In the following video clip, he addresses the crowd to justify the assassination of Caesar.

But suppose you were asked what Charlie Chaplin, James Mason and Graham Greene (1904-1991) have in common (other than the fact that they were all British). That would be much more difficult to answer.

Graham Greene

Greene was a very distinguished author, playwright and literary critic who wrote dozens of books from 1929 until his death in 1991. They include “The Power and the Glory”,  “Our Man in Havana”, “The Quiet American” and “The Third Man”, the latter popularized by a film of that name starring Orson Wells.

There is no obvious link binding Graham Greene with Mason and Chaplin. So here is the answer: All three of these gentlemen are buried in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.


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