Charlie Chaplin? Nigel Bruce? Claire Bloom? Austin Kleon? Apocryphal?
Charlie Chaplin has received credit for this insight. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: Charlie Chaplin created the story and screenplay of the 1952 movie “Limelight”. He played the starring role of a fading comedian named Calvero. An impresario decided to produce a gala benefit to honor Calvero. Many popular entertainers agreed to appear in the show. The following dialog between Calvero and the promoter occurred in the dressing room before the event. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1952, Movie: Limelight, Director: Charles Chaplin, Original Story and Screenplay: Charles Chaplin, (Quotation spoken at 1 hour 55 minutes of 2 hours 17 minutes), (Viewed via Amazon Prime Video on August 14, 2022) [/ref]
Postant (Nigel Bruce): Every star in the business is appearing.
Calvero (Charles Chaplin): It’ll be something following all this talent.
Postant (Nigel Bruce): Don’t you worry. Tonight you’re gonna make them all look like a bunch of amateurs.
Calvero (Charles Chaplin): That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1975 the book “My Life in Pictures” by Charles Chaplin appeared. A section displayed fifteen images from “Limelight”. The quotation occurred within a caption:[ref] 1975, My Life in Pictures by Charles Chaplin, Designed by David King, Chapter: The Later Years, Quote Page 301, Grosset & Dunlap, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
‘That’s all any of us are — amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else. What a sad business this is — being funny.’
Interestingly, the third sentence above was spoken during a separate scene in the film. Calvero discussed his dependence on alcohol to facilitate a performance. The ballet dancer Terry played by Claire Bloom delivered the line:[ref] 1952, Movie: Limelight, Director: Charles Chaplin, Original Story and Screenplay: Charles Chaplin, (Quotation spoken at 0 hours 39 minutes of 2 hours 17 minutes), (Viewed via Amazon Prime Video on August 14, 2022) [/ref]
Terry (Claire Bloom): What a sad business, being funny.
Calvero (Charles Chaplin): Very sad if they won’t laugh. But it’s a thrill when they do. To look out there and see them all laughing, to hear that roar go up, waves of laughter coming at you.
In 1994 the line under examination appeared in the compilation “Film Quotations: 11,000 Lines Spoken on Screen”:[ref] 1994, Film Quotations: 11,000 Lines Spoken on Screen, Arranged by Subject, and Indexed, Compiled by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn W. Nowlan, Topic: Amateurs, Quotation Number 223, Quote Page 14, Column 2, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
“That’s all we are — amateurs; we don’t live long enough to be anything else.” Charles Chaplin replies when an impresario tells him that he will make all the other performers at a vaudeville show look like amateurs. Limelight (1952, United Artists).
In 2014 the artist Austin Kleon highlighted the quotation while crediting Chaplin in “Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered”.[ref] 2014, Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon, Chapter 1: You Don’t Have To Be a Genius, Quote Page 14, Workman Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
In conclusion, Charlie Chaplin deserves credit for this quotation. He wrote the screenplay for the 1952 film “Limelight”, and he delivered the line.
Image Notes: Illustration of complicated lens reflection symbolizing fame from geralt at Pixabay. Image has been resized.