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Memory and legacy of Charlie Chaplin will live on in new museum

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A woman looks at a wall of pictures after a rib - bon-cutting ceremony for Chaplin’s World in Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland. Many of Charlie Chaplin’s children and grandchildren were on hand for the cere - mony on April 16, which was Chaplin’s birthday.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A wax figure of the actor, film - maker and composer. Chaplin lived the last 25 years of his life in the mansion that now houses the museum

GENEVA >> As Charlie Chaplin finished out his long life on his bucolic Swiss estate, the former silent-film star worried about drifting into oblivion, his connoisseurs say.

Little chance of that. The legacy of the Hollywood legend behind “The Dictator” and “Modern Times” lives on today in the minds of stars like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr., in Broadway plays and in the general cultural consciousness. But he never had a bricks-and-mortar museum honoring his life and achievements.

That changes today with the public opening of Chaplin’s World, a multimillion-dollar project in the Swiss village of Corsier-sur-Vevey. Its director-general says the museum is the first of its kind in the world to honor Chaplin, and has added value because it’s at a place he called home for years.

The “Manoir de Ban” is where Chaplin lived his last 25 years, raising children, writing music and movie scripts, and contemplating his legacy far from the glare of the Hollywood spotlight. Visitors can see his trademark bowler hat and cane, a replica studio, black-and-white photographs from his career, and the bedroom where he died at age 88 in 1977.

Working with Paris’ Grevin museum, which is known for its wax figures, managers have displayed a number of figures of Chaplin as well as friends like Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill on the green 35-acre grounds along Lake Geneva, said Jean-Pierre Pigeon, the Swiss-Canadian director of Chaplin’s World.

“He was not just resting here, he was working. He was part of the region,” said Pigeon. “He was able to live a normal life here. He found the right life-work balance here in Switzerland. In England he was really poor, in the United States he was really successful in his career and moneywise, but his real happiness was here for 25 years.”

About two dozen of his children and grandchildren were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, which was Chaplin’s birthday.

Organizers are hoping for more than 300,000 visits per year, Pigeon said, boosted by a nearby chocolate factory and a medieval castle.

What would the famed English-born actor and director think about Chaplin’s World?

“I think his first reaction would probably be ‘Oooh!’” Pigeon said with a chuckle. “But there was one thing he was scared of: being forgotten. So this is a good way to broaden his notoriety.”

“A place where people can laugh and get emotion: That’s what he would have wanted,” Pigeon said.

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  • Thought Chaplin’s grave is located in a lake front park in the town of Montreux, Switzerland close the Castle of Chillion and near where David Niven’s grave is located in Chateau-dOex where we were billeted back in 1986 on our 2 weeks vacation. We had an 8-day 1st class rail pass and visited all of the major cities in Switzereland.

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