Chaplin family refuse to be made Charlies over the euro

Clare Garner
Friday 10 October 1997 23:02

What does Charlie Chaplin make you think of? Comic calamities, an unsteady gait, a bumbling persona - perhaps the qualities of an ideal candidate to promote the European currency. But, as Clare Garner heard, his family have reservations.

Plans are afoot to employ the late Sir Charlie Chaplin to carry the world into the 21st century by extolling the virtues of European monetarism.

A French advertising company believes that the Little Tramp's silent humour will be the perfect way to promote the birth of the euro for a project sponsored by the European Parliament. But though four of Chaplin's eight children voted in favour, three were against and one abstained.

Christopher Chaplin, 35, the youngest, who lives in London, cannot bear the prospect of his father's creation being put to such use. "God help us if it catches on," he exclaimed yesterday. "Imagine Budget Day, or the announcement of another interest rate rise from the Bank of England. Up pops that 'little fellow' we will have come to hate and dread."

He also worries about what such a campaign would say about society. "How stupid have we become," he asks, if every piece of mildly complicated legislation needs to be explained by the "sickly sweet animated figures of our best known heroes"?

But Egon Ellenberg, of FRI Communications in Paris, can think of no one better than Charlie Chaplin to put across the Eurocurrency message. "He's from nowhere and he's from everywhere."

Mr Ellenberg hopes to make a series of 15 animated films, each 26 minutes in length and representing a different European country. The cost would be $7m, paid for by the European Parliament. The actors Peter Ustinoff and Sophia Loren have agreed to do the voice-overs, to "translate between the man in the street, ie Charlie Chaplin, and the Establishment". Although he has a majority vote from the family, he must wait until 1 January for the final go-ahead.

As the stream of requests continues - a Chaplin cartoon and a Chaplin theme park are already in the pipeline - Christopher Chaplin will try to be faithful to his father's memory. "I feel we should concentrate on safeguarding the films. It's quite a heritage ... We should treat it carefully."

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