Filming Monsieur Verdoux
Charles Chaplin, without modesty, described Monsieur Verdoux as “the cleverest and most brilliant film of my career”.
He was from time to time to qualify this opinion; but Verdoux was certainly the blackest of his comedies - the story of a serial killer who ends up beheaded on the guillotine. As he had always said, comedy is never very far from tragedy and horror. “Under the proper circumstances,” he wrote, “murder can be comic”.
The idea was originally suggested by Orson Welles, as a project for a dramatised documentary on the career of the legendary French murder Henri Désiré Landru - who was executed in 1922, having murdered at least ten women, two dogs and one boy. Chaplin was so intrigued by the idea that he paid Welles $5000 for it, with the agreement that the film would carry the credit “Based on an idea by Orson Welles”. In later years Welles claimed that he had himself written a script for the film, but this is unlikely - certainly the written agreement between Chaplin and Welles makes no mention of it.