Web Desk: In 1930-31, Charlie Chaplin met Albert Einstein during Einstein’s second trip to America. He was invited to lecture at the California Institute of Technology.
That time, the physicist was known to be a massive movie buff, and the head of Universal Studios, Carl Laemmle, invited him to Hollywood to watch ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.
After watching it, he asked the studio head to introduce him to Charlie Chaplin.
The scientist and the comedy star then met at Universal Studios. They both had lunch together.
Later, Chaplin wrote in the autobiography of his early impressions of Einstein, “He looked the typical Alpine German in the nicest sense, jovial and friendly. And although his manner was calm and gentle, I felt it concealed a highly emotional temperament, and that from this source came his extraordinary intellectual energy.”
According to Chaplin’s autobiography, it was during the tour that Einstein’s wife Elsa bustled over, took him aside, and invited herself and her husband to Chaplin’s house. Chaplin was only too happy to oblige. He arranged an intimate dinner, at which Elsa regaled him with the story of when Einstein came up with his world-changing theory, sometime around 1915. She revealed that one morning, when she asked Einstein why he had barely touched his breakfast, he replied, “Darling, I have a wonderful idea.” The scientist proceeded to sit and play the piano, stopping occasionally to take notes. Elsa could bear the suspense no longer and asked her husband to reveal all, but he said he needed to figure it out a bit more and soon retreated to his room. Einstein stayed in his room for two weeks, taking all his meals there, until he finally emerged, pale and tired, with his theory of general relativity written on two sheets of paper. He presented these to Elsa with a simple “That’s it.”
Einstein and Chaplin remained in touch after that. The actor invited Einstein as a special guest for his next premiere.
When Einstein came to California again in the winter of 1932-33, Chaplin decided to throw a dinner party in his honor. The comedian planned to introduce him to the great media mogul William Randolph Hearst, with high hopes of glittering conversation and witty repartee. Unfortunately, Einstein was not in the mood to explain his complicated theory to a non-academic audience, and Hearst, seemingly tongue-tied, took to playing with his dessert. An awkward silence fell across the table, which was finally broken when Hearst’s mistress, the comedy actress Marion Davies, entwined her fingers in Einstein’s famously unruly mop and quipped “Why don’t you get your hair cut?”