Un roman de Charlie Chaplin a été édité pour la première fois par la Cinémathèque de Bologne, à l’occasion des 100 ans de la naissance du personnage de Charlot. Ce livre, Footlights, est le seul que Charlie Chaplin ait écrit.
Comment cela se fait-il que ce manuscrit ait été mis de côté pendant autant d’années est une chose, mais représente-t-il quelque chose d’exceptionnel, hormis le nom de son auteur? On connaît le génie de Chaplin, pour le cinéma. le jeu, la scénarisation d’idées à mettre en images. On connaît aussi sa musique parfaitement sirupeuse, mais agréable à entendre. Le ton Chaplin se retrouvera-t-il dans ces pages inédites?
Pour s’en donner une idée rapide, voici le seul extrait lisible sur le net, en anglais…
‘The audience? … why do you hate them? »
He smiled wistfully. « Because I’m old and embittered, I suppose. »
She shook her head without taking her eyes from him. « You’re not old, and I’m sure you’re not embittered – You like people too much. »
« Individually, yes, » he answered, « there’s greatness in everyone. But the audience – they are what they are – a motley confusion of cross purposes. A great star once … hissed off the stage, and then I realized, that could happen to me. You know, as a comedian gets older and loses his exuberance, he has to think analytically about his work – that is, if he wants to continue in the funny business … And about the audience, then I began to fear them … ruthless, unpredictable … like a monster without a head; you never know which way it’s going to turn – it can be prodded in any direction … That’s why I had to take a drink before I could face them. It got to be torture every performance. I never really liked drink, but I couldn’t be funny without it, and the more I drank, » he shrugged. » … well, it became a vicious circle. »
« What happened? »
« A nervous breakdown. I almost died. »
« And you’re still drinking? »
« Occasionally, when I think of things. » He smiled, « The wrong things, I suppose. However, I’ve talked enough about myself. What would you like for breakfast? »
« What a sad business, being funny, » she said thoughtfully.
The table was laid and now he was ready to cook breakfast. He stood a moment, deep in thought. « But it has its compensations … It’s a great thrill to hear an audience laugh. Now let me see, » he said, opening the door of the larder, « We have eggs, salmon, sardines … » He snapped his fingers. « That’s broken my dream! I dreamt we were doing an act together! That’s the trouble, I get wonderful ideas in my dreams, but when I awake, I forget them. This morning I found myself shaking with laughter. Then I got up and rushed to the desk and wrote five pages of screams. Then I awoke and found I hadn’t written a line. »
« Frustrating! »
« Yes, I could make a comeback, if I could only remember my dreams. I’ve got to work – not alone for the money, it’ll be good for my soul. »
« I wish I could help. »
« I know I’m funny, » he said emphatically, « but the managers think I’m through … a has-been. God! It would be wonderful to make them eat their words. That’s what I hate about getting old – the contempt and indifference they show you.
« They think I’m useless … a has-been. That’s why it would be wonderful to make a comeback! … I mean sensational! To rock them with laughter like I used to … to hear that roar go up … waves of laughter coming at you, lifting you off your feet … what a tonic! You want to laugh with them, but you hold back and laugh inside … God, there’s nothing like it! » He paused. « As much as I hate those lousy – I love to hear them laugh! »
• From Footlights by Charles Chaplin © 2014 The Roy Export Company Establishment, published by Cineteca di Bologna