I don’t know if it was the love for his movies or the charisma he brought into the film industry or just the sheer romance for the classics (which I inherited from my dad), that when I read the news that a Charlie Chaplin Museum, “Chaplin`s World” had opened in Vevey, in the French part of Switzerland, I decided to go.
After Charlie Chaplin presented his film, “Limelight”, on a European tour, he was denied re-entry into the US because of McCarthyism. And so, he decided to settle down in Vevey, along with his fourth and last wife Oona O’Neill Chaplin and their children. The family stayed in the Manoir du Ban in Corsier. It was in this mansion, built in the neoclassical style and set in a vast park that Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life. He died there at the age of 88 in 1977. It has now been converted into a museum.
It took us almost 2 and a half hours to reach Vevey from Winterthur by train. From the train station there is a bus which takes you directly to the Chaplin Museum.
The entrance to the Museum costs – 24CHF for adults (from 16 years) and 18CHF for children (from 6 to 15 years).
The mansion and the 14-hectare park with unobstructed views of the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) provide insight into the everyday life of the Chaplins. An exhibition hall has been built nearby as a mock-up of a Hollywood studio focusing on Chaplin’s movie work. Apparently this museum took around 15 years of planning before it came into life.
As you enter the mansion, a wax figure of Chaplin warmly welcomes you inside. A Family tree of the Chaplins and their lives are depicted on the walls. Visitors can walk throughout the huge mansion into the living room, dining room and library, where Chaplin used to write his autobiography and prepare scripts.
Chaplin’s World features (both inside the mansion and the studio) around 30 wax figures created by the Grevin wax museum in Paris. These include lifelike models of Chaplin, his wife Oona, actors and actresses from his films, and friends like Albert Einstein, as well as artists inspired by his work such as Michael Jackson, Woody Allen and Federico Fellini.
Out of all the rooms, I loved best the library (Ofcourse!). Big wooden shelves carried immense number of books. I could imagine myself sitting by the window with a beautiful view outside and enjoying a nice cup of coffee while reading. A second room next to the library was decorated with clippings about Chaplin`s achievements and stories from newspapers. It just seemed like the design of every room was thought through carefully and each furniture setting and the decorative item was handpicked with care. After walking around the mansion, we took a stroll into the beautiful garden soaking as much sun as we could.
Inside the studio, we were shown a short movie about Charlie Chaplin and glimpses of scenes from his best movies. By the end of this film, the screen opened itself for us to walk through. Walking through the 16-metre-high studio, fans can learn about Chaplin’s early humble beginnings in London and his meteoric rise to become one of the biggest names in the film industry at the age of 26. With the recreated sets and embedded film screens inside the studio, visitors can experience what it was like to stroll down “Easy Street” or be in a cabin teetering on the edge of a cliff, like in Gold Rush, or sit on the barber’s chair from “The Great Dictator” or view the restaurant where he dined in “The Immigrant”.
In a narrow room resembling a Swiss bank vault, some of the iconic objects associated with Chaplin’s work are on display, including his bowler hat and cane of his Little Tramp character, the certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth II when Chaplin was knighted in 1975 and his awards.
I think this has been one of the best experiences I have had so far in Switzerland. I was so in awe the first time that I decided to bring my parents along when they visited. And guess what, they too had a great time!