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Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin were close friends

Ian Harvey
Photo of Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin at the Los Angeles premiere of the film City Lights. Einstein said Chaplin was the only person in Hollywood he wanted to meet

Einstein once said that Charlie Chaplin was the only person he’d wish to meet someday, which he did.

However, the two legends were actually close friends before their legendary joint arrival at the premiere of the film City Lights on 20 January 1931.

Introduced by Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal Studios, the two brilliant people instantly found a common language and arranged a meeting together. Charlie invited Albert and his wife Elsa to dinner at his place and that’s was the beginning of their beautiful and strong friendship.

By 1916, Chaplin was a global phenomenon. Here he shows off some of his merchandise, c.1918.

By 1916, Chaplin was a global phenomenon. Here he shows off some of his merchandise, c.1918.

Einstein was a very frequent guest at Chaplin’s residence.The very thought of the two most brilliant sitting in one room does sound quite impressive, especially because of their unknown intriguing conversations at the time.

Chaplin once said that Einstein was a very calm and pleasant person with an extraordinary intellectual energy and a highly emotional temperament. He also commented on remembering how Einstein’s wife Elsa told him about the time when Albert grasped the theory of relativity.

Supposedly, he was acting very peculiar during breakfast one morning and seemed lost in thought. After eating, he went and sat at the piano, played for about half an hour and then disappeared upstairs to study. It was another two weeks before he reemerged from his room and when he did, the theory of relativity was written down on two sheets of paper.

Einstein during his visit to the United States

Einstein during his visit to the United States

A moment that marked Chaplin and Einstein’s friendship was their joint arrival at the premiere of Chaplin’s film City Lights.

The two masterminds entered the hall together, both wearing a black tie, leading Einstein’s wife on Chaplin’s right side. As the guests applauded, an alleged conversation took place between the two:

‘What I admire most about your art” Albert Einstein said, “is its universality. You do not say a word, and yet … the world understands you”.

– It’s true reply Chaplin: “But your fame is even greater… the world admires you when nobody understands you.’

Many stories about the origins of the famous quotes said by Chaplin and Einstein at the premiere circled around. According to one of them, their conversation didn’t occur on the premiere itself but while the ‘bromance couple’ were driving around Hollywood. A crowd recognized them and started applauding, while Chaplin and Einstein exchanged the famous quotations.

However, the strongest evidence for this anecdote appeared in the memoir of Janos Plesch, saying that their quick-witted exchange actually did happen at the premiere of City Lights.

Although the premiere was supposed to be in the center of attention, the geniuses became the main subject of discussion among guests. Einstein’s biographer described their joint arrival as ‘one of the most memorable scenes in the era of celebrity.’

City Lights (1931), regarded as one of Chaplin’s finest works

City Lights (1931), regarded as one of Chaplin’s finest works

Many thought that Einstein and his wife were invited as regular guests, but word spread that Chaplin has invited them as close friends for support. He was very nervous about the film’s reception, but vainly. City Lights became one of his most famous and financially successful works. With mainly positive reviews, the film was enthusiastically accepted by the audience, earning $5 million during its initial exemption.

Read another story from us: Charlie Chaplin allegedly entered a Chaplin look-alike contest and lost

Besides the fact that silent movies were an anachronism at the time, City Lights attracted the audience even during the Great Depression and became one of Chaplin’s finest achievements, which he celebrated with his friend Albert Einstein by side.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News