Chaplin, Charlie
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Chaplin, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)

CHAPLIN, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)



Nationality: British. Born: Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, 16 April 1889. Family: Married 1) Mildred Harris, 1918 (divorced 1920); 2) Lita Grey, 1924 (divorced 1927), two sons; 3) Paulette Goddard, 1936 (divorced 1941); 4) Oona O'Neill, 1943, eight children. Career: Music-Hall Performer in London and provincial theatres, from 1898; engaged by Fred Karno troupe, 1907; toured United States with Karno, 1910 and 1912; signed to Keystone and moved to Hollywood, 1913; after acting in eleven Keystone comedies, began directing (thirty-five films for Keystone), 1914; signed with Essanay (fourteen films), 1915; signed with Mutual (eleven films), 1916; signed with First National (nine films), 1917; joint-founder, with Griffith, Pickford, and Fairbanks, of United Artists, 1919; left United States to visit London, reentry permit rescinded en route, 1952; moved to Vevey, on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 1953. Awards: Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for The Great Dictator, 1940 (award refused); Honorary Oscar, "for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of the country," 1971; Medallion Award, Writers Guild of America, 1971; Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score (shared) for Limelight, 1972; Knighted, 1975. Died: In Vevey, 25 December 1977.


Films as Director, Actor and Scriptwriter:

1914

Caught in a Cabaret (Jazz Waiter; Faking with Society) (co-d, co-sc); Caught in the Rain (Who Got Stung?; At It Again); A Busy Day (Lady Charlie; Militant Suffragette); The Fatal Mallet (The Pile Driver; The Rival Suitors; Hit Him Again) (co-d, co-sc); Her Friend the Bandit (Mabel's Flirtation; A Thief Catcher) (co-d, co-sc); Mabel's Busy Day (Charlie and the Sausages; Love and Lunch; Hot Dogs) (co-d, co-sc); Mabel's Married Life (When You're Married; The Squarehead) (co-d, co-sc); Laughing Gas (Tuning His Ivories; The Dentist); The Property Man (Getting His Goat; The Roustabout; Vamping Venus); The Face on the Bar-Room Floor (The Ham Artist); Recreation (Spring Fever); The Masquerader (Putting One Over; The Female Impersonator); His New Profession (The Good-for-Nothing; Helping Himself); The Rounders (Two of a Kind; Oh, What a Night!); The New Janitor (The Porter; The Blundering Boob); Those Love Pangs (The Rival Mashers; Busted Hearts); Dough and Dynamite (The Doughnut Designer; The Cook); Gentlemen of Nerve (Some Nerve; Charlie at the Races); His Musical Career (The Piano Movers; Musical Tramps); His Trysting Place (Family Home); Getting Acquainted (A Fair Exchange; Hullo Everybody); His Prehistoric Past (A Dream; King Charlie; The Caveman)

1915

(for Essanay): His New Job; A Night Out (Champagne Charlie); The Champion (Battling Charlie); In the Park (Charlie on the Spree); A Jitney Elopement (Married in Haste); The Tramp (Charlie the Hobo); By the Sea (Charlie's Day Out); Work (The Paper Hanger; The Plumber); A Woman (The Perfect Lady); The Bank; Shanghaied (Charlie the Sailor; Charlie on the Ocean); A Night in the Show

1916

(for Essanay): Carmen (Charlie Chaplin's Burlesque on Carmen); Police! (Charlie the Burglar); (for Mutual): The Floorwalker (The Store); The Fireman; The Vagabond; One A.M.; The Count; The Pawnshop; Behind the Screen; The Rink

1917

(for Mutual): Easy Street; The Cure; The Immigrant; The Adventurer

1918

(for First National): A Dog's Life; (for Liberty Loan Committee): The Bond; Triple Trouble (compiled from 1915 footage plus additional non-Chaplin film by Essanay after he left); (for First National): Shoulder Arms

1919

(for First National): Sunnyside; A Day's Pleasure

1921

The Kid ; (+ pr); The Idle Class (+ pr)

1922

Pay Day (+ pr); Nice and Friendly (+ pr) (made privately and unreleased)

1923

The Pilgrim (+ pr); A Woman of Paris (+ pr)

1925

The Gold Rush (+ pr, narration, mus for sound reissue)

1926

A Woman of the Sea (The Sea Gull) (von Sternberg) (unreleased) (pr, d additional scenes)

1927

The Circus (+ pr, mus, song for sound reissue)

1931

City Lights (+ pr, mus)

1936

Modern Times (+ pr, mus)

1940

The Great Dictator (+ pr, mus)

1947

Monsieur Verdoux (+ pr, mus)

1952

Limelight (+ pr, mus, co-choreographer)

1957

A King in New York (+ pr, mus)

1959

The Chaplin Revue (+ pr, mus) (comprising A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms, and The Pilgrim, with commentary and music)

1967

A Countess from Hong Kong (+ mus)



Other Films:

1914

Making a Living (A Busted Johnny; Troubles; Doing His Best) (Lehrman) (role as reporter); Kid Auto Races at Venice (The Kid Auto Race) (Lehrman) (role as Charlie); Mabel's Strange Predicament (Hotel Mixup) (Lehrman and Sennett) (role as Charlie); Between Showers (The Flirts; Charlie and the Umbrella; In Wrong) (Lehrman) (role as Charlie); A Film Johnnie (Movie Nut; Million Dollar Job; Charlie at the Studio) (Sennett) (role as Charlie); Tango Tangles (Charlie's Recreation; Music Hall) (Sennett) (role as Charlie); His Favorite Pastime (The Bonehead; His Reckless Fling) (Nichols) (role as Charlie); Cruel, Cruel Love (Sennett) (role as Charlie); The Star Boarder (The Hash-House Hero) (Sennett) (role as Charlie); Mabel at the Wheel (His Dare-devil Queen; Hot Finish) (Normand and Sennett) (role as Charlie); Twenty Minutes of Love (He Loved Her So; Cops and Watches) (Sennett) (role as Charlie, + sc); The KnockOut (Counted Out; The Pugilist) (Arbuckle) (role as Charlie); Tillie's Punctured Romance (Tillie's Nightmare; For the Love of Tillie; Marie's Millions) (Sennett) (role as Charlie); His Regeneration (Anderson) (guest appearance)

1921

The Nut (Reed) (guest appearance)

1923

Souls for Sale (Hughes) (guest appearance)

1928

Show People (King Vidor) (guest appearance)

Publications


By CHAPLIN: books—

Charlie Chaplin's Own Story, Indianapolis, 1916.

My Trip Abroad, New York, 1922.

My Autobiography, London, 1964.

My Life in Pictures, London, 1974.


By CHAPLIN: articles—

Interview with Margaret Hinxman, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1957.

Interview with Richard Merryman, in Life (New York), 10 March 1967.

"Charles Chaplin parle," interviews excerpted by C. Gauteur, in Image et Son (Paris), November 1972.

"Chaplin est mort, vive Charlot!," interview with Philippe Soupault, text by Chaplin from 1921, and round-table discussion, in Ecran (Paris), March 1978.

"The INS interview with Chaplin," edited by Charles J. Maland, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 14, no. 4, 1986.

On CHAPLIN: books—

Delluc, Louis, Charlot, Paris, 1921.

Tyler, Parker, Chaplin, Last of the Clowns, New York, 1947.

Huff, Theodore, Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1951.

Bessy, Maurice, and Robert Florey, Monsieur Chaplin ou le rire dansla nuit, Paris, 1952.

Payne, Robert, The Great God Pan: A Biography of the Tramp Playedby Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1952.

Sadoul, Georges, Vie de Charlot, Paris, 1952; published as Vie deCharlot: Charles Spencer Chaplin, ses films et son temps, Paris, 1978.

Mitry, Jean, Charlot et la "fabulation" chaplinesque, Paris, 1957.

McDonald, Gerald, and others, The Films of Charlie Chaplin, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1965.

Martin, Marcel, Charlie Chaplin, Paris, 1966; 3rd edition, Paris, 1983.

Brownlow, Kevin, The Parade's Gone By, London, 1968.

McCaffrey, Donald, Four Great Comedians: Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton,Langdon, London, 1968.

Quigly, Isabel, Charlie Chaplin: Early Comedies, London, 1968.

Leprohon, Pierre, Charles Chaplin, Paris, 1970.

McCaffrey, Donald, editor, Focus on Chaplin, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.

Mitry, Jean, Tout Chaplin: Tous les films, par le texte, par le gag etpar l'image, Paris, 1972.

Mast, Gerald, The Comic Mind, New York, 1973.

Manvell, Roger, Chaplin, Boston, 1974.

Lyons, T.J., Charles Chaplin—A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, 1977.

Sobel, Raoul, and David Francis, Chaplin, Genesis of a Clown, London, 1977.

McCabe, John, Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1978.

Nysenholc, Adolphe, L'Age d'or du comique: sémiologie de Charlot, Brussels, 1979.

Eisenstein, Sergei, Film Essays and a Lecture, edited by Jay Leyda, Princeton, New Jersey, 1982.

Gehring, Wes D., Charlie Chaplin: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, Connecticut, 1983.

Robinson, David, Chaplin: The Mirror of Opinion, London, 1983.

Kamin, Dan, Charlie Chaplin's One-Man Show, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1984.

Smith, Julian, Chaplin, Boston, 1984.

Geduld, Harry M., Charlie Chaplin's Own Story, Bloomington, Indiana, 1985.

Robinson, David, Chaplin: His Life and Art, London, 1985.

Geduld, Harry M., Chapliniana 1: The Keystone Films, Bloomington, Indiana, 1987.

Mitry, Jean, Tout Chaplin: L'Oeuvre complète presentée par le texteet par l'image, Paris, 1987.

Saint-Martin, Catherine, Charlot/Chaplin; ou, La Conscience dumythe, Paris, 1987.

Epstein, Jerry, Remembering Charlie: The Story of a Friendship, London, 1988.

Schickel, Richard, Schickel on Film: Encounters—Critical andPersonal—with Movie Immortals, New York, 1989.

Silver, Charles, Charlie Chaplin: An Appreciation, New York, 1989.

Maland, Charles J., Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution ofa Star, 1990.

Karney, Robyn, and Robin Cross, The Life and Times of CharlieChaplin, London, 1992.

MacCann, Richard Dyer, editor, The Silent Comedians (vol. 4 of American Movies: The First Thirty Years), Metuchen, New Jersey, 1993.

Hale, Georgia, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups, edited by Heather Kierman, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1995.

Milton, Joyce, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1996.

Mitchell, Glenn, The Chaplin Encyclopedia, London, 1997.

Flom, Eric L., Chaplin in the Sound Era: An Analysis of the SevenTalkies, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1997.


On CHAPLIN: articles—

Churchill, Winston, "Everybody's Language," in Collier's (New York), 26 October 1935.

Eisenstein, Sergei, "Charlie the Kid," and "Charlie the Grown Up," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring and Summer 1946.

Huff, Theodore, "Chaplin as Composer," in Films in Review (New York), September 1950.

Hickey, Terry, "Accusations against Charles Chaplin for Political and Moral Offenses," in Film Comment (New York), Winter 1969.

Lyons, T.J., "Roland H. Totheroh Interviewed: Chaplin Films," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1972.

"Chaplin Issue" of Film Comment (New York), September/October 1972.

"Chaplin Issue" of Positif (Paris), July/August 1973.

Cott, J., "The Limits of Silent Film Comedy," in Literature/FilmQuarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Spring 1975.

Adorno, Theodor, "Quel giorno che Chaplin mi fece l'imitazione," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), July-August 1976.

"Chaplin Issue" of Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), March 1978.

Corliss, Richard, "Chaplin," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1978.

"Pour saluter Charlot," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 May 1978.

"Chaplin Issue" of University Film Association Journal (Houston), no.1, 1979.

Sato, Tadao, "The Comedy of Ozu and Chaplin—a Study in Contrast," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), no.2, 1979.

"Dossier: Charles Chaplin et l'opinion publique," in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1981.

Ingrao, P., "Chaplin: The Antagonism of the Comic Hero," in FilmQuarterly (Los Angeles), Fall 1981.

Everson, William K., "Rediscovery: 'New' Chaplin Films," in Filmsin Review (New York), November 1981.

Manning, H., and T.J. Lyons, "Charlie Chaplin's Early Life: Fact and Fiction," in Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (Abingdon, Oxon), March 1983.

Balio, Tino, "Charles Chaplin, homme d'affaires: Un artiste associé," in Filméchange (Paris), Spring 1983.

Millar, Gavin, "The Unknown Chaplin," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1983.

Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), nos. 98–106, August 1983-April 1984.

Slide, Anthony, "The American Press and Public vs. Charles Spencer Chaplin," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 13, no. 4, 1984.

Maland, Charles J., "The Millionaire Tramp," in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Spring-Summer 1984.

Jaffe, I.S., "Chaplin's Labor of Performance: The Circus and Limelight," and R.L. Liebman, "Rabbis or Rakes, Schlemiels or Supermen? Jewish Identity in Charles Chaplin, Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), July 1984.

"Chaplin Section" of American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1984.

Naremore, J., "Film and the Performance Frame," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Winter 1984–85.

Maland, Charles J., "A Documentary Note on Charlie Chaplin's Politics," in Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (Abingdon, Oxon), vol. 5, no.2, 1985.

Heurtebise, "On First Looking into Chaplin's Humor," in Sight andSound (London), Spring 1985.

Davis, D. William, "A Tale of Two Movies: Charlie Chaplin, United Artists, and the Red Scare," in Cinema Journal (Champaigne, Illinois), Fall 1987.

Florey, Robert, with Brian Naves, "Charlie Dearest," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1988.

Kuriyama, Constance Brown, "Chaplin's Impure Comedy: The Art of Survival," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Spring 1992.

Nightingale, B., "The Melancholy That Forged a Comic Genius," in New York Times, 22 March 1992.

Bloom, Claire, "Charles the Great," in Vogue, December 1992.

Ivor, Davis, "Chaplin," in Los Angeles Magazine, December 1992.

Combs, Richard, "Little Man, What Now?" in Film Comment (New York), August 1993.

Lieberman, E.A., "Charlie the Trickster," Journal of film and Video (Atlanta, Georgia), vol. 46, no. 3, 1994.

Siegel, Scott, and Barbara Siegel, "Charlie Chaplin," in AmericanFilm Comedy, New York, 1994.

Woal, M., and L.K. Woal, "Chaplin and the Comedy of Melodrama," Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta, Georgia), vol. 46, no. 3, 1994.

Frumkes, Roy, "Chaplin on Laser Disc," in Films in Review (New York), February 1994.

Maland, C., "How Much Chaplin Appears in Chaplin?," Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 25, no. 1, 1995.

Codelli, Lorenzo, editor, "Forgotten Laughter: A Symposium on American Silent Comedy," in The Journal of Film History:Griffithiana (Italy/United States), May 1995.

Thomajan, D. "Charlie Chaplin Never Called Me Pig," Film Comment (New York), no. 32, November/December 1996.

Weisman, S.M. "Charlie Chaplin's Film Heroines," Film History (London), vol. 8, no. 4, 1996.

Lemaster, David J. "The Pathos of the Unconscious: Charlie Chaplin and Dreams," Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington D.C.), vol. 25, no. 3, Fall 1997.


On CHAPLIN: films—

Carlson, Wallace, Introducing Charlie Chaplin, 1915.

Abramson, Hans, "Upptäckten (Discovery)" episode of Stimulantia, Sweden, 1967.

Becker, Vernon, The Funniest Man in the World, 1967.

Hurwitz, Harry, Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times, for TV, 1967 (also released as The Eternal Tramp).


* * *

Charles Chaplin was the first and the greatest international star of the American silent comic cinema. He was also the twentieth century's first media "superstar," the first artistic creator and popularized creature of our global culture. His face, onscreen antics, and offscreen scandals were disseminated around the globe by new media which knew no geographical or linguistic boundaries. But more than this, Chaplin was the first acknowledged artistic genius of the cinema, recognized as such by a young and influential generation of writers and artists whose number included George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Bertolt Brecht, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and the surrealist painters and poets of both Paris and Berlin. Chaplin may be the one cinema artist who might truly be called a seminal figure of the century—if only because of his influence on virtually every other recognized seminal figure of the century.

Chaplin was born in London into a theatrical family; his mother and father alternated between periods of separation and union, activities onstage and difficulties offstage (his father was an alcoholic, his mother fell victim to insanity). The young Chaplin spent his early life on the London streets and in a London workhouse, but by the age of eight he was earning his living on the stage.

Chaplin's career, like that of Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel, indicates that gifted physical comedians often develop their talents as children (as do concert pianists and ballet dancers) or never really develop them at all. By the time he was twenty years old, Chaplin had become the star attraction of the Fred Karno Pantomime Troupe, an internationally acclaimed English music-hall act, and it was on his second tour of America that a representative of the Keystone comedy film company (either Mack Sennett, comedienne Mabel Normand, or co-owner Charles Bauman) saw Chaplin. In 1913 he was offered a job at Keystone. Chaplin went to work at the Keystone lot in Burbank, California, in January of 1914. To some extent, the story of Chaplin's popular success and artistic evolution is evident from even a cursory examination of the sheer volume of Chaplin's works (and the compensation he received). In 1914 at Keystone, Chaplin appeared in thirty-five one- and two-reel films (as well as the six-reeler Tillie's Punctured Romance), about half of which he directed himself, for the yearly salary of $7,800. The following year, Chaplin made fourteen one- and two-reel films for the Essanay Film Company—all of which he wrote and directed himself—for a salary of $67,000. In 1916–17, Chaplin wrote, directed and starred in twelve two-reel films for the Mutual Film company, and then signed a million-dollar contract with First National Corporation to write, direct, produce, and star in twelve more two-reel films. The contract allowed him to build his own studio, which he alone used until 1952 (it is now the studio for A&M Records), but his developing artistic consciousness kept him from completing the contract until 1923 with nine films of lengths ranging from two to six reels. Finally, in 1919, Chaplin became one of the founders of United Artists (along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith), through which Chaplin released eight feature films, made between 1923 and 1952, after which he sold his interest in the company.

In his early one- and two-reel films Chaplin evolved the comic tools and means that would lead to his future success. His character of the Tramp, the "little fellow," a figure invariably garbed with derby, cane, floppy shoes, baggy pants, and tight jacket, debuted in his second Keystone film, Kid Auto Races at Venice. Because the tramp was a little guy, he made an easy target for the larger and tougher characters who loomed over him, but his quick thinking, agile body, and surprising ingenuity in converting ordinary objects into extraordinary physical allies helped him more than hold his own in a big, mean world. Although he was capable of lechery (The Masquerader, Dough and Dynamite) he could also selflessly aid the innocent woman under attack (The New Janitor, The Tramp, The Bank). Although he deserved her affection as a reward, he was frequently rejected for his social or sexual inadequacies (The Tramp, The Bank, The Vagabond, The Adventurer). Many of his early films combined his dexterous games with physical objects with deliberate attempts at emotional pathos (The Tramp, The Vagabond, The Pawnshop) or with social commentary on the corruption of the police, the brutality of the slums, or the selfishness of the rich (Police, Easy Street, The Adventurer).

Prior to Chaplin, no one had demonstrated that physical comedy could be simultaneously hilariously funny, emotionally passionate, and pointedly intellectual. While his cinema technique tended to be invisible—emphasizing the actor and his actions—he gradually evolved a principle of cinema based on framing: finding the exact way to frame a shot to reveal its motion and meaning completely, thus avoiding disturbing cuts.

Chaplin's later films evolved and featured increasingly complicated or ironic situations in which to explore the Tramp's character and the moral paradoxes of his existence. His friend and ally is a mongrel dog in A Dog's Life; he becomes a doughboy in Shoulder Arms; acquires a child in The Kid; becomes a preacher in The Pilgrim; and explores the decadent Parisian high life in A Woman of Paris, a comedy-melodrama of subtle visual techniques in which the Tramp does not appear. Chaplin's four feature films between 1925 and 1936 might be called his "marriage group," in which he explores the circumstances by which the tramp might acquire a sexual-romantic mate. In The Gold Rush the Tramp succeeds in winning the dance-hall gal who previously rejected him, because she now appreciates his kindness and his new-found wealth. The happy ending is as improbable as the Tramp's sudden riches—perhaps a comment that kindness helps but money gets the girl. But in The Circus, Charlie turns his beloved over to the romantic high-wire daredevil Rex; the girl rejects him not because of Charlie's kindness or poverty but because he cannot fulfill the woman's image of male sexual attractiveness. City Lights builds upon this problem as it rises to a final question, deliberately and poignantly left unanswered: can the blind flower seller, whose vision has been restored by Charlie's kindness, love him for his kindness alone since her vision now reveals him to look so painfully different from the rich and handsome man she imagined and expected? And in Modern Times, Charlie successfully finds a mate, a social outcast and child of nature like himself; unfortunately, their marriage can find no sanctification or existence within contemporary industrial society. So the two of them take to the road together, walking away from society toward who knows where—the Tramp's final departure from the Chaplin world.

Although both City Lights and Modern Times used orchestral music and cleverly comic sound effects (especially Modern Times), Chaplin's final three American films were talking films—The Great Dictator, in which Chaplin burlesques Hitler and Nazism, Monsieur Verdoux, in which Chaplin portrays a dapper mass murderer, and Limelight, Chaplin's nostalgic farewell to the silent art of pantomime which nurtured him. In this film, in which Buster Keaton also plays a major role, Chaplin bids farewell not only to a dead movie tradition—silent comedy—but to a two-hundred-year tradition of physical comedy on both stage and screen, the tradition out of which both Keaton and Chaplin came, which would produce no clowns of the future.

Chaplin's later years were scarred by personal and political difficulties produced by his many marriages and divorces, his supposed sexual philanderings, his difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service, his outspoken defence of liberal political causes, and his refusal to become an American citizen. Although he was never called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Chaplin's films were picketed and boycotted by right-wing activist groups. When Chaplin left for a trip abroad in 1952, the State Department summarily revoked his automatic re-entry permit. Chaplin sent his young wife Oona O'Neill, daughter of the playwright Eugene O'Neill, back to America to settle their business affairs.

Chaplin established his family in Switzerland and conveyed his outrage against his former country by not returning to America for twenty years and by refusing to let any of his films circulate in America for two decades. In 1957 he made a very uneven, often embarrassing satire of American democracy, A King in New York. This film, like A Countess from Hong Kong, made ten years later, was a commercial and artistic disappointment, perhaps in part because Chaplin was cut off from the familiar studio, the experienced production team, and the painstakingly slow production methods he had been using for over three decades. In 1971 he enjoyed a triumphant return to Hollywood to accept an honorary Academy Award for a lifetime of cinematic achievement.

—Gerald Mast

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"Chaplin, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chaplin, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)

CHAPLIN, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)



Nationality: British. Born: Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England, 16 April 1889. Family: Married 1) Mildred Harris, 1918 (divorced 1920); 2) Lita Grey, 1924 (divorced 1927), two sons; 3) Paulette Goddard, 1936 (divorced 1941); 4) Oona O'Neill, 1943, eight children. Career: At age nine, followed the careers of his parents, Charles and Hannah Chaplin, as a music hall performer; 1903–06—appeared as the youth Billy in the stage play Sherlock Holmes; 1907—hired for the Fred Karno troupe; 1913—signed by Mack Sennett for Keystone studios after second Karno tour of the United States; moved to Hollywood; 1914—first film, Making a Living, followed by 34 more films that same year; 1915—left Keystone to write, direct, and act in 14 films for Essanay Films; 1916—moved to Mutual Films to create 12 films through 1917; 1918–23—produced seven shorts and one feature, The Kid (1921), for First National; 1919—co-founder with D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks of United Artists; 1923—first film for United Artists, A Woman of Paris; 1952—visited London; political pressure forced cancellation of his reentry permit to return to the United States; 1953—moved to Vevey, on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Awards: Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for The Great Dictator, 1940; Foreign Language Press Critics designate Limelight as best film, 1953; Honorary Oscar, "for the incalcuable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century," 1971; Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score (shared), for Limelight, 1972 (film first released in 1952, but had not been shown in Los Angeles until 1972); Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival, 1972; Knighted, 1975. Died: In Vevey, Switzerland, 25 December 1977.


Films as Actor:


(shorts for Keystone Film Company; role as Charlie unless otherwise noted)

1914

Making a Living (A Busted Johnny; Troubles; Doing His Best) (Lehrman) (as reporter); Kid Auto Races at Venice (The Kid Auto Race) (Lehrman); Mabel's Strange Predicament (Hotel Mixup) (Lehrman and Sennett); Between Showers (The Flirts; Charlie and the Umbrella; In Wrong) (Lehrman); A Film Johnnie (Movie Nut; Million Dollar Job; Charlie at the Studio) (Sennett); Tango Tangles (Charlie's Recreation; Music Hall) (Sennett); His Favorite Pastime (The Bonehead; His Reckless Fling) (Nichols); Cruel, Cruel Love (Sennett); The Star Boarder (The Hash-House Hero) (Sennett); Mabel at the Wheel (His Daredevil Queen; Hot Finish) (Norman and Sennett); Twenty Minutes of Love (He Loved Her So; Cops and Watches) (Sennett) (as Charlie, + sc); The Knockout (Counted Out; The Pugilist) (Arbuckle); Tillie's Punctured Romance (Tillie's Nightmare; For the Love of Tillie; Marie's Millions) (Sennett—feature)


(other films)

1914

His Regeneration (Anderson) (guest appearance)

1921

The Nut (Reed) (guest appearance)

1923

Souls for Sale (Hughes) (guest appearance)

1928

Show People (King Vidor) (guest appearance)



Films as Actor, Director, and Scriptwriter:


(shorts for Keystone Film Company)

1914

Caught in a Cabaret (Jazz Waiter; Faking with Society) (co-d, co-sc); Caught in the Rain (At It Again; Who Got Stung?); A Busy Day (Lady Charlie; Militant Suffragette); The Fatal Mallet (The Pile Driver; The Rival Suitors; Hit Him Again) (co-d, co-sc); Her Friend the Bandit (Mabel's Flirtation; A Thief Catcher) (co-d with Normand, co-sc); Mabel's Busy Day (Charlie and the Sausages; Love and Lunch; Hot Dogs) (co-d with Normand, co-sc); Mabel's Married Life (When You're Married; The Squarehead) (co-d with Normand); Laughing Gas (Tuning His Ivories; The Dentist); The Property Man (Getting His Goat; The Roustabout; Vamping Venus); The Face on the Bar-Room Floor (The Ham Artist); Recreation (Spring Fever); The Masquerader (Putting One Over; The Female Impersonator); His New Profession (The Good-for-Nothing; Helping Himself); The Rounder (Two of a Kind; The Love Thief; Oh, What a Night!); The New Janitor (The Porter; The Blundering Boob); Those Love Pangs (The Rival Mashers; Busted Hearts); Dough and Dynamite (The Doughnut Designer; The Cook); Gentlemen of Nerve (Some Nerve; Charlie at the Races); His Musical Career (The Piano Movers; Musical Tramps); His Trysting Place (Family Home); Getting Acquainted (A Fair Exchange; Hullo Everybody); His Prehistoric Past (A Dream; King Charlie; The Caveman)


(shorts, two-reelers unless noted otherwise, for Essanay Company)

1915

His New Job; A Night Out (Champagne Charlie); The Champion (Battling Charlie); In the Park (Charlie on the Spree) (one reel); A Jitney Elopement (Married in Haste); The Tramp (Charlie the Hobo); By the Sea (Charlie's Day Out) (one reel); Work (The Paper Hanger; The Plumber); A Woman (The Perfect Lady); The Bank; Shanghaied (Charlie the Sailor; Charlie on the Ocean); A Night in the Show

1916

Carmen (Charlie Chaplin's Burlesque on Carmen); Police! (Charlie the Burglar)


(two-reelers for Mutual Films)

1916

The Floorwalker (The Store); The Fireman; The Vagabond; One A.M.; The Count; The Pawnshop; Behind the Screen; The Rink

1917

Easy Street; The Cure; The Immigrant; The Adventurer

1918

Triple Trouble (an Essanay compilation release of 1915 Chaplin footage plus non-Chaplin footage)


(for First National Film Company)

1918

A Dog's Life (three reels); The Bond (half-reel for Liberty Loan Committee); Shoulder Arms (three reels)

1919

Sunnyside (three reels); A Day's Pleasure (two reels)

1921

The Kid (+ pr); The Idle Class (two reels) (+ pr)

1922

Pay Day (two reels) (+ pr); Nice and Friendly (+ pr) (made privately and unreleased)

1923

The Pilgrim (four reels) (+ pr)


(features for United Artists Company)

1923

A Woman of Paris (+ pr)

1925

The Gold Rush (+ pr, narration, mus for sound reissue)

1928

The Circus (+ pr, mus, song for sound reissue)

1931

City Lights (+ pr, mus)

1936

Modern Times (+ pr, mus)

1940

The Great Dictator (+ pr, mus)

1947

Monsieur Verdoux (+ pr, mus)

1952

Limelight (+ pr, co-mus, co-choreographer)


(feature for Attic-Archway Company)

1957

A King in New York (+ pr, mus)


(feature for Universal)

1967

A Countess from Hong Kong (+ mus)

Publications


By CHAPLIN: books—

Charlie Chaplin's Own Story, Indianapolis, 1916.

My Trip Abroad, New York, 1922.

A Comedian Sees the World, New York, 1933.

My Autobiography, London, 1964.

My Life in Pictures, London, 1974.


By CHAPLIN: articles—

"How I Made My Success," in The Theatre (New York), September 1915.

"What People Laugh At," in American Magazine (New York), 1918.

"In Defense of Myself," in Colliers (New York), 11 November 1922.

"Pantomime and Comedy," in New York Times, 25 January 1931.

Interview with Margaret Hinxman, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1957.

Interview with Richard Merryman, in Life (New York), 10 March 1967.

"The INS Interview with Chaplin," edited by Charles J. Maland, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 14, no. 4, 1986.

On CHAPLIN: books—

Delluc, Louis, Charlie Chaplin, Paris, 1921; translation by Hamish Miles, London, 1922.

Tyler, Parker, Chaplin, the Last of the Clowns, New York, 1947.

Cotes, Peter, and Thelma Niklaus, The Little Fellow: The Life and Works of Charles Spencer Chaplin, London, 1951, reprinted, New York, 1965.

Huff, Theodore, Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1951.

Payne, Robert, The Great God Pan: A Biography of the Tramp Played by Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1952.

Minney, R. J., Chaplin, the Immortal Tramp, London, 1954.

McDonald, Gerald D., Michael Conway, and Mark Ricci, editors, The Films of Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1965.

Martin, Marcel, Charlie Chaplin, Paris, 1966; 3rd ed., Paris, 1983.

McCaffrey, Donald W., Four Great Comedians: Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Langdon, New York, 1968.

Quigley, Isabel, Charlie Chaplin: Early Comedies, London, 1968.

Leprohon, Pierre, Charles Chaplin, Paris, 1970.

McCaffrey, Donald W., editor, Focus on Chaplin, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.

Manvell, Roger, Chaplin, Boston, 1974.

Lyons, T. J., compiler, Charles Chaplin—A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, 1977.

Sobel, Raoul, and David Francis, Chaplin, Genesis of a Clown, London, 1977.

McCabe, John, Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1978.

Gehring, Wes D., Charlie Chaplin: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, Connecticut, 1983.

Kamin, Dan, Charlie Chaplin's One-Man Show, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1984.

Smith, Julian, Chaplin, Boston, 1984.

Robinson, David, Chaplin: His Life and Art, London, 1985.

Geduld, Harry W., Chapliniana I: The Keystone Films, Bloomington, Indiana, 1987.

Epstein, Jerry, Remembering Charlie: A Pictorial Biography, Garden City, New York, 1989.

Silver, Charles, Charlie Chaplin: An Appreciation, New York, 1989.

Maland, Charles J., Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star, 1990.

Karney, Robyn, and Robin Cross, The Life and Times of Charlie Chaplin, London, 1992.

MacCann, Richard Dyer, editor, The Silent Comedians (vol. 4 of American Movies: The First Thirty Years), Metuchen, New Jersey, 1993.

Hale, Georgia, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups, edited by Heather Kierman, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1995.

Milton, Joyce, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, New York, 1996.

Mitchell, Glenn, The Chaplin Encyclopedia, London, 1997.

Flom, Eric L., Chaplin in the Sound Era: An Analysis of the Seven Talkies, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1997.


On CHAPLIN: articles—

Ramsaye, Terry, "Chaplin—And How He Does It," in Photoplay (New York), September 1917.

Hilbert, James E., "A Day with Charlie Chaplin on Location," in Motion Picture Classic (New York), November 1917.

Young, Stark, "Dear Mr. Chaplin," in New Republic (New York), 23 August 1922.

Carr, Harry, "Chaplin vs. Lloyd, a Comparison," in Motion Picture Magazine (New York), November 1922.

Seldes, Gilbert, "'I Am Here Today': Charlie Chaplin," in The 7 Lively Arts, New York, 1924; reprinted, 1957.

Cooke, Alistair, "Charlie Chaplin," in Atlantic Monthly (New York), August 1939.

Agee, James, "Comedy's Greatest Era," in Life (New York), 5 September 1949.

"Chaplin at Work: He Reveals His Movie-Making Secrets," in Life (New York), 17 March 1952.

Montgomery, John, "Chaplin—The Perfect Clown," in Comedy Films, London, 1954.

Spears, Jack, "Chaplin Collaborators," in Films in Review (New York), January 1962.

Brownlow, Kevin, "Chaplin," in The Parade's Gone By . . ., New York, 1968.

"Chaplin" issue of Film Comment (New York), September/October 1972.

Mast, Gerald, "Chaplin and Keaton" (part III), in The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies, New York, 1973.

Schickel, Richard, "A Chaplin Overview," in The National Society of Film Critics on Movie Comedy, edited by Stuart Byron and Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1977.

Obituary in New York Times, 26 December 1977.

Canby, Vincent, "He Took Pains to Make Us Laugh," in New York Times, 1 January 1978.

Corliss, Richard, "Chaplin," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1978.

"Chaplin" issue of University Film Association Journal (Houston), no. 1, 1979.

Everson, William K., "Rediscovery: 'New' Chaplin Films," in Films in Review (New York), November 1981.

Millar, Gavin, "The Unknown Chaplin," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1983.

"Chaplin" section of American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1984.

Winokur, Mark, "Modern Times and the Comedy of Transformation," in Film/Literature Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 15, no. 3, 1987.

Maland, Charles J., "From The Kid to The Gold Rush," in Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of the Star Image, Princeton, New Jersey, 1989.

Jones, Chuck, "Journal" (on Chaplin), in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1989.

Kerr, Walter, "Spinning Reels of Memory on a Master's Centenary," in New York Times, 9 April 1989.

Canby, Vincent, "The Charlie Chaplin Centennial: A Genius Revisited," in New York Times, 14 April 1989.

Nightingale, Benedict, "The Melancholy that Forged a Comic Genius," in New York Times, 22 March 1992.

Gabler, Neal, "Film View: Chaplin Blazed the Trail, Woody Allen Follows," in New York Times, 27 September 1992.

Lieberman, E.A., "Charlie the Trickster," Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta, Georgia), vol. 46, no. 3, 1994.

Siegel, Scott, and Barbara Siegel, "Charlie Chaplin," in American Film Comedy, New York, 1994.

Woal, M., and L.K. Woal, "Chaplin and the Comedy of Melodrama," Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta, Georgia), vol. 46, no. 3, 1994.

Frumkes, Roy, "Chaplin on Laser Disc," in Films in Review (New York), February 1994.

Maland, C., "How Much Chaplin Appears in Chaplin?," Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 25, no. 1, 1995.

Miller, Blair, "Charles Spencer 'Charlie' Chaplin," in American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons, Studios, and Terminology, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1995.

Codelli, Lorenzo, editor, "Forgotten Laughter: A Symposium on American Silent Comedy," in The Journal of Film History: Griffithiana (Italy/United States), May 1995.

Milton, J. "In the Mail: Un-American Activities?," New Yorker (New York), 23 September 1996.

Thomajan, D. "Charlie Chaplin Never Called Me Pig," Film Comment (New York), no. 32, November/December 1996.

Weisman, S.M. "Charlie Chaplin's Film Heroines," Film History (London), vol. 8, no. 4, 1996.

Lemaster, David J. "The Pathos of the Unconscious: Charlie Chaplin and Dreams," Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington D.C.), vol. 25, no. 3, Fall 1997.


On CHAPLIN: films—

Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times, documentary directed by Harry Hurwitz, 1972.

Unknown Chaplin, television documentary directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, 1983.

Young Charlie Chaplin, television film biography directed by Baz Taylor, 1989.

Chaplin, film biography directed by Richard Attenborough, 1992.


* * *

It took only a very busy year of acting and directing short films for Charles Chaplin to launch his own career and alter the format of the Mack Sennett comic film. While the famous comedian owed much to the Sennett tradition—the story material and plotting, the techniques of the medium, and the comic vigor—he had his own contribution to make to the comic film. The more subtle humor of this English music hall entertainer was thwarted by the fast pace and farcical plotting of many of the Sennett one- and two-reel comedies.

Chaplin's fame emerged with the development of the little tramp character as early as 1914 when he co-starred with Mabel Normand for Keystone studio and producer Mack Sennett. When he left Sennett's company to work for Essanay and Mutual studios he added finishing touches to the tramp character so that it became a marvelous comic portrait for all times. At the same time, from 1915 to 1917 Chaplin came very close to perfection in the construction of the two-reel humorous film, especially with The Cure and Easy Street in 1917. But the most important aspect of his work was not structure, it was the heights he brought to his acting skills.

The quality of Chaplin's acting as it relates to the total work and his fellow players surfaced in these early works. The Cure and Easy Street, for example, illustrate how he achieved a balanced enactment with his casts. Although he is the leading figure, there are convincing performances by all of the supporting players so that the works display theatrical unity. From the documentary on the working method of Chaplin, 1983's Unknown Chaplin, featuring a number of outtakes from the comedian's The Cure, we now know he often acted out a number of roles which would later be played by other members of his cast. From the evidence in this documentary, extensive rehearsal by all cast members proved Chaplin demanded the devotion of those who worked with him on his films. With all the repetition of one scene it is a wonder the acting did not become stale, flat, and mechanical. But the comedian's portraits emerged fresh, providing a first-time illusion. Especially noteworthy in The Cure is Chaplin's portrayal of an alcoholic who has arrived at a mineral springs hotel for a cure. Gone from his portrayal is the broad, staggering stereotype of the Sennett comedies. He teeters and leans aslant as his locomotion becomes comically askew. And, of course, his mind also reveals it is askew. When he is pushed into the gym to receive physical therapy he sees the masseur as an attacker and strikes the pose of a wrestler. He then begins a series of moves to avoid what he thinks is an opponent. The comedian handles this pantomime adroitly with the grace of a dancer. It is little wonder then that W. C. Fields is reported to have declared in a fit of jealousy: "The son of a bitch is a ballet dancer!"

When Chaplin moved to the feature length film with The Kid in 1921, the richness of his character and acting sprang forth. A greater range of humor was finally achieved because the feature allowed the actor the total dimension of the little tramp. While his two-reelers often moved in the rapid, farcical, slapstick style of Mack Sennett, his full-length films explored the spectrum of his little man-child clown. The quiet, personal moments of the social outcast blossomed, and what critics called "Chaplin's pathos" was born. The little tramp raises a foundling to have many of the awry social values of a social outcast—providing the viewer with some understanding of survival necessities. The kid breaks windows with a pocketful of rocks as the little tramp follows behind as a glazer who repairs the damage for a fee. When an orphanage official takes the kid away in a truck, the tramp pursues and stops the abduction. In an emotional embrace of his adopted son, Chaplin underplays the joy of the moment in a powerful shot of the scene. It may not be what has been called "pathos"—more like sympathy—nevertheless, this shows the essence of a subtle tone without moving to sentimentality.

Other examples of the range of Chaplin's acting deftness display his skill. Critics often point to turns of Chaplin's innovation, such as the oceanic roll dance when he entertains a guest with a routine that shows his head hovering over rolls on forks executing a ballet—an unusual bit in The Gold Rush. There are also more subtle scenes such as one when the little fellow is starving in a remote cabin in Alaska. With delicate, facile pantomime the hollow-eyed, comic hero eyes the stub of a candle. Sadly, the little tramp picks it up and nibbles it with rabbit bites—as if the candle were a piece of carrot or celery. And with a deft touch that again shows Chaplin's genius, he sprinkles salt on the morsel of wax, finds that it tastes better, and pops it into his mouth. With such actions a new depth in comic character was added, a dimension that was to make Chaplin the darling of the critics.

Evaluators of the comedian's work have been most generous in the hundreds of articles published and more than 25 major books solely devoted to his life and films. Sometimes critics believe comedy films do not receive recognition for social significance and employ sweeping symbols and allusions to elevate them. Theodore Huff, usually detached and low-key in his 1951 work, Charlie Chaplin, writes that the comedian has become "a symbol of the age, the twentieth-century Everyman." In The Little Fellow, Peter Cotes and Thelma Niklaus try to give the comedian the position of the champion of the poor and oppressed by stating: "He and Dickens are of the same stock, filled with the same humanism, the same passionate pity for the underdog, the same blaze of anger against persecution, exploitation, and injustice." Such statements strain credulity because the majority of evaluators see Modern Times and The Great Dictator as designed or intended to be satires but end up being lampoons. By far the most rhapsodic commentary comes from Robert Payne who uses the pretentious title The Great God Pan for a biography of Chaplin. He writes: "Far more than Sir Galahad, he [Chaplin] represents the heroic figure of the man pure and undefiled."

These three statements by writers of major works in the early 1950s use allusions that touch upon themes and not the acting, which was the major quality that places Chaplin as the leading king of comedy of the 1920s. For subtle nuances in humor he is the champion. Both Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton were his equal in the broad, athletic comic moments, but only in a few flickering moments in their features did these two rival the master. Much of this early affection for Chaplin resulted from the continued showing of his films and the fact that much of the work of Keaton did not see the light until the 1960s. Since then, 8 studies of Lloyd and 11 evaluations of Keaton focused on the life and films of these two comedians.

One of the most neglected of the kings of silent screen comedy, Harry Langdon, was the one actor most often compared with Chaplin's character—because Langdon employed a tramplike and child-man person. Nevertheless, Langdon's character falls into the class of "dumb" clowns—low mental ability. Most of the humor of his best films, The Strong Man and Long Pants, directed by Frank Capra, springs from a childlike man who is lost in a sophisticated world. Much of the complicated world is a wonder to this wide-eyed person who tries to figure out things that baffle him, like a four year old. Also, Langdon's character does not have the joy and enthusiasm that Chaplin exhibits in his relationship with another person, as in The Kid with his child and in Modern Times with a girlfriend waif.

The type of enthusiasm and joy Chaplin gave to his character is another distinguishing feature. Granted, Harold Lloyd possessed it—like the boy-next-door—but Chaplin had it in the manner of the child in slums who finds a quarter. As critics have pointed out, Chaplin followed in the tradition of the commedia dell'arte. He combined many characteristics of the sad and joyful clowns as he acted in various scenes of his movies. He almost seemed to be the reincarnation of the famous nineteenth-century French clown, Jean-Gaspard Debureau, a renowned Pierrot, blended with all the rollicking good spirit of the Clown created by the English music hall's favorite comedian, Grimaldi.

—Donald W. McCaffrey

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"Chaplin, (Sir) Charles (Charlie)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Charles Spencer Chaplin

Charles Spencer Chaplin

The film actor, director, and writer Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977) was one of the most original creators in the history of the cinema. His remarkable portrayal of "the tramp"—a sympathetic comic character in ill-fitting clothes and a trademark mustache—won admiration from international audiences.

Charlie Chaplin was born in a poor district of London on April 16, 1889. His mother, a talented singer, spent most of her life in and out of mental hospitals; his father was a fairly successful vaudevillian until he began drinking. After his parents separated, Charlie and his half brother, Sidney, spent most of their childhood in the Lambeth Workhouse. Barely able to read and write, Chaplin left school to tour with a group of clog dancers. Later he had the lead in a comedy act; by the age of 19 he had become one of the most popular music-hall performers in England.

Arrived in the United States

In 1910 Chaplin went to the United States to tour in A Night in an English Music Hall and was chosen by film maker Mack Sennett to appear in the silent Keystone comedy series. In these early movies (Making a Living, Tillie's Punctured Romance), Chaplin made the transition from a comedian of overdrawn theatrics to one of cinematic delicacy and choreographic precision. He created the role of the tramp, a masterful comic conception, notable, as George Bernard Shaw remarked, for its combination of "noble melancholy and impish humour."

Appearing in over 30 short films, Chaplin realized that the breakneck speed of Sennett's productions was hindering his personal talents. He left to work at the Essanay Studios. Outstanding during this period were His New Job, The Tramp, and The Champion, notable for their comic pathos and leisurely exploration of character. More realistic and satiric were his 1917 films for the Mutual Company: One A.M., The Pilgrim, The Cure, Easy Street, and The Immigrant. In 1918 Chaplin built his own studio and signed a $1,000,000 contract with National Films, producing such silent-screen classics as A Dog's Life, comparing the life of a dog with that of a tramp, Shoulder Arms, a satire on World War I, and The Kid a touching vignette of slum life.

In 1923 Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford formed United Artists to produce feature-length movies of high quality. A Woman of Paris (1923), a psychological drama, was followed by two of Chaplin's funniest films, The Gold Rush (1925) and The Circus (1928). Chaplin directed City Lights (1931), a beautifully lyrical, Depression tale about the tramp's friendship with a drunken millionaire and a blind flower girl, considered by many critics his finest work. His only concession to the new sound medium occurred in the hilarious scene in which the tramp hiccoughs with a tin whistle in his windpipe while trying to listen politely to a concert. The pathos of the closing scene, in which the flower girl, who has just regained her sight (thanks to the tramp) sees him for the first time, is described by James Agee (1958): "She has imagined and anticipated him as princely, to say the least; and it has never seriously occurred to him that he is inadequate. She recognizes who he must be by his shy, confident, shining joy as he comes silent toward her. And he recognizes himself for the first time, through the terrible changes in her face. The camera just exchanges a few quiet close-ups of the emotions which shift and intensify in each face. It is enough to shrivel the heart to see, and it is the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in the movies."

Modern Times (1936), a savagely hilarious farce on the cruelty, hypocrisy, and greed of modern industrialism, contains some of the funniest sight gags and comic sequences in film history, the most famous being the tramp's battle with an eating machine gone berserk. Chaplin's burlesque of Hitler (as the character Hynkel) in The Great Dictator (1940), although a devastating satire, loses impact in retrospect. The last film using the tramp, it contains an epilogue in which Chaplin pleads for love and freedom.

It was with these more complex productions of the 1930s and 1940s that Chaplin achieved true greatness as film director and satirist. Monsieur Verdoux, brilliantly directed by Chaplin in 1947 (and subsequently condemned by the American Legion of Decency), is one of the subtlest and most compelling moral statements ever put on the screen. Long before European film makers taught audiences to appreciate the role of the writer-director, Chaplin revealed the astonishing breadth of his talents by functioning as such in his productions.

Political Views Stir Trouble

The love showered upon Chaplin in the early years of his career was more than equaled by the vilification directed toward him during the 1940s and early 1950s. The American public was outraged by the outspoken quality of his political views, the turbulence of his personal life, and the sarcastic, often bitter, element expressed in his art. An avowed socialist and atheist, Chaplin expressed a hatred for right-wing dictatorship which made him politically suspect during the early days of the cold war. This hostility was compounded when he released his version of the Bluebeard theme, Monsieur Verdoux. With its brilliantly sustained parallels between mass murder and capitalistic exploitation, the film is, as Agee said, "the greatest of talking comedies though so cold and savage that it had to find its audience in grimly experienced Europe."

During the next 5 years Chaplin devoted himself to Limelight (1952), a strongly autobiographical work with a gentle lyricism and sad dignity, in sharp contrast to the mordant pessimism of Monsieur Verdoux. "I was optimistic and still not convinced," he wrote, "that I had completely lost the affection of the American people, that they could be so politically conscious or so humorless as to boycott anyone that could amuse them." Further tarnishing Chaplin's image was a much-publicized paternity suit brought against him. Although Chaplin proved he was not the child's father, the reaction to the charges was overwhelmingly negative.

On vacation in Europe in 1952, Chaplin was notified by the U.S. attorney general that his reentry into the United States would be challenged. The charge was moral turpitude and political unreliability. Chaplin, who had never become a United States citizen, sold all his American possessions and settled in Geneva, Switzerland, with his fourth wife, Oona O'Neill, daughter of the American playwright Eugene O'Neill, and their children.

In 1957 Chaplin visited England to direct The King in New York a satire on American institutions, which was never shown in the United States. My Autobiography, published in 1964, is a long, detailed account that descends from a vivid, Dickensian mode to endless self apologies and name-dropping. Such an error, wrote John Mason Brown, "is only a proof of his modesty. He forgets that one of the biggest names he has to drop is Charlie Chaplin." Chaplin's 1967 film, A Countess from Hong Kong, was considered disastrous by most critics.

Return to the U.S.

By the 1970s times had changed, and Chaplin was again recognized for his rich contribution to film making. He returned to the United States in 1972, where he was honored by major tributes in New York City and Hollywood, including receiving an honorary Academy Award. In 1975, he became Sir Charles Chaplin after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Two years later, on December 25, 1977, Chaplin died in his sleep in Switzerland.

In all his work Chaplin consistently displayed emotional expressiveness, physical grace, and intellectual vision characteristic of the finest actors. The classical austerity and deceptive simplicity of his directorial style (emulated by Ingmar Bergman and others) has not been surpassed. A film about Chaplin's life, titled Chaplin was released in 1992.

Chaplin's most conspicuous deficiencies as an artist were attributable more to personal limitations than to aesthetic insensitivity. His occasional sentimentality represented an attempt to conceal deep bitterness; his frequently irritating tendency to idealize the female sex betrayed, as critic Andrew Sarris noted, the mark of the confirmed misogynist. Chaplin was a lovable but unloving figure—a fascinating, elusive, and difficult human being.

Further Reading

Chaplin, Charlie, My Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, 1964

Kerr, Walter, The Silent Clowns, Alfred A. Knopf, 1975

Robinson, David Chaplin: His Life and Art, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1985 □

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Chaplin, Charlie

Charlie Chaplin

Born: April 16, 1889
London, England
Died: December 25, 1977
Vevey, Switzerland

English actor, director, and writer

The film actor, director, and writer Charlie Chaplin was one of the most original creators in the history of movies. His performances as "the tramp"a sympathetic comic character with ill-fitting clothes and a mustachewon admiration from audiences across the world.

Rough childhood

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in a poor district of London, England, on April 16, 1889. His mother, Hannah Hill Chaplin, a talented singer, actress, and piano player, spent most of her life in and out of mental hospitals; his father, Charles Spencer Chaplin Sr. was a fairly successful singer until he began drinking. After his parents separated, Charlie and his half-brother, Sidney, spent most of their childhood in orphanages, where they often went hungry and were beaten if they misbehaved. Barely able to read and write, Chaplin left school to tour with a group of comic entertainers. Later he starred in a comedy act. By the age of nineteen he had become one of the most popular music-hall performers in England.

Arrives in the United States

In 1910 Chaplin went to the United States to tour in A Night in an English Music Hall. He was chosen by filmmaker Mack Sennett (18841960) to appear in the silent Keystone comedy series. In these early movies (Making a Living, Tillie's Punctured Romance ), Chaplin changed his style. He stopped overacting and became more delicate and precise in his movements. He created the role of "the tramp."

Appearing in over thirty short films, Chaplin realized that the speed and craziness of Sennett's productions was holding back his personal talents. He left to work at the Essanay Studios. Some of his films during this period were His New Job, The Tramp, and The Champion, notable for their comic and sympathetic moments. His 1917 films for the Mutual Company, including One a.m., The Pilgrim, The Cure, Easy Street, and The Immigrant, displayed sharper humor. In 1918 Chaplin built his own studio and signed a million-dollar contract with National Films, producing silent-screen classics such as A Dog's Life, comparing the life of a dog with that of a tramp; Shoulder Arms, which poked fun at World War I (191418); and The Kid, a touching story of slum life.

Established star

In 1923 Chaplin, D. W. Griffith (18751948), Douglas Fairbanks (18831937), and Mary Pickford (18931979) formed United Artists (UA) to produce high-quality feature-length movies. A Woman of Paris (1923), a drama, was followed by two of Chaplin's funniest films, The Gold Rush (1925) and The Circus (1928). Chaplin directed City Lights (1931), a beautiful tale about the tramp's friendship with a drunken millionaire and a blind flower girl. Many critics consider it his finest work. Although movies had made the change over to sound, City Lights was silent except for one scene in which the tramp hic-cups with a tin whistle in his throat while trying to listen politely to a concert.

Modern Times (1936), a farce (broad comedy with an unbelievable plot) about the cruelty and greed of modern industry, contains some of the funniest gags and comic sequences in film history, the most famous being the tramp's battle with an eating machine gone crazy. Chaplin's character of Hynkel in The Great Dictator (1940) is a powerful satire (the use of humor to criticize a person or institution) of German military leader Adolf Hitler (18891945). It was the last film using the tramp, and ends with Chaplin pleading for love and freedom.

It was with these more involved productions of the 1930s and 1940s that Chaplin achieved true greatness as a film director. Monsieur Verdoux, directed by Chaplin in 1947 (and condemned by the American Legion of Decency), is one of the strongest moral statements ever put on the screen. Long before European filmmakers taught audiences to appreciate the role of the writer and director, Chaplin revealed his many talents by handling both roles in his productions.

Political views stir trouble

The love showered upon Chaplin in the early years of his career was more than equaled by the anger directed toward him during the 1940s and early 1950s. The American public was outraged by the outspoken quality of his political views, the problems in his personal life, and the often bitter elements expressed in his art. A socialist (one who believes all people should have equal ownership in the production of goods and services) and an atheist (one who denies the existence of God), Chaplin expressed a hatred for dictatorship (government in which power is held by one person or a single small group). This made people suspicious of him. This feeling increased when he released Monsieur Verdoux, in which he showed that mass murder and the abuse of workers in an attempt to increase business profits were similar. Critics praised the film, but it was more popular with European audiences than those in America.

During the next five years Chaplin devoted himself to Limelight (1952), a gentle and sometimes sad work based in part on his own life. It was much different from Monsieur Verdoux. "I was still not convinced," Chaplin wrote, "that I had completely lost the affection of the American people, that they could be so politically conscious or so humorless as to boycott [refuse to pay attention to] anyone that could amuse them." Further hurting Chaplin's image was a much-publicized lawsuit brought against him by a woman who claimed he was the father of her child. Although Chaplin proved he was not the child's father, reaction to the charges turned many people against him.

While on vacation in Europe in 1952, Chaplin was notified by the U.S. attorney general that his reentry into the United States would be challenged. He was charged with committing immoral acts and being politically suspicious. Chaplin, who had never become a United States citizen, sold all of his American possessions and settled in Geneva, Switzerland, with his fourth wife, Oona O'Neill, daughter of the American playwright Eugene O'Neill (18881953), and their children. In 1957 Chaplin visited England to direct The King in New York, which was never shown in the United States. My Autobiography (the story of his own life) was published in 1964. Most critics considered Chaplin's 1967 film, A Countess from Hong Kong, a disaster.

Return to the United States

By the 1970s times had changed, and Chaplin was again recognized for his rich contribution to film. He returned to the United States in 1972, where he was honored by major tributes in New York City and Hollywood, California, including receiving a special Academy Award. In 1975 he became Sir Charles Chaplin after Queen Elizabeth II (1926) of England knighted him. Two years later, on December 25, 1977, Chaplin died in his sleep in Switzerland.

All of Chaplin's works display the physical grace, ability to express feeling, and intellectual vision possessed by the finest actors. A film about Chaplin's life, titled Chaplin, was released in 1992.

For More Information

Chaplin, Charlie. Charlie Chaplin's Own Story. Edited by Harry M. Geduld. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Chaplin, Charlie. My Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1964. Reprint, New York: Plume, 1992.

Hale, Georgia. Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.

Lynn, Kenneth S. Charlie Chaplin and His Times. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Milton, Joyce. Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Schroeder, Alan. Charlie Chaplin: The Beauty of Silence. New York: Franklin Watts, 1997.

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Chaplin, Charlie

Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin), 1889–1977, English film actor, director, producer, writer, and composer, b. London. Chaplin began on the music-hall stage and then joined a pantomime troupe. While on tour in the United States, he was recruited by Mack Sennett. Chaplin merged physical grace, disrespect for authority, and sentimentality into a highly individual character he created for the Keystone Company. In appearance, his Little Tramp wore a gentlemen's derby, cane, and neatly kept moustache with baggy trousers and oversized shoes. He affected a unique, bow-legged dance-walk. Chaplin skipped from one studio to another in search of greater control over his work, finally cofounding United Artists in 1919 with D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford.

Chaplin's features include The Kid (1920), The Gold Rush (1924), The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952). He enjoyed immense worldwide popularity, though this was tempered by his refusal to use sound until 1940. His political sympathies and various personal scandals contributed to his declining popularity. In 1952, he was barred on political grounds from re-entering the United States and lived thereafter in Switzerland. In 1975 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. His fourth wife was Oona O'Neill, the daughter of Eugene O'Neill. He won an Academy Award in 1972 for his score to Limelight.

See his My Trip Abroad (1922) and autobiography (1964); biographies by C. Chaplin, Jr. (1960), P. Tyler (1947, repr. 1972), and P. Ackroyd (2014); G. D. McDonald et al., The Films of Charlie Chaplin (1965); K. S. Lynn, Charlie Chaplin and His Times (1997); J. Vance, Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema (2003).

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Chaplin, Charles

Chaplin, Charles (1889–1977). Film actor and director. London-born of music-hall performers, with a wretched childhood as the family lost everything, Chaplin learned vaudeville techniques with the Fred Karno Company before being signed by the Keystone Company (Hollywood) in 1913. After an unpropitious start, he gained fame in silent films through portrayal of a baggy-trousered, moustachioed tramp, softening the original character with sentiment and pathos (The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights), so charming audiences. His rapid rise was due partly to the emergence of the star system but he contributed creatively if egotistically to cinema art: directing was merely an extension of his power as actor. He made few films after the introduction of sound, but received a special Academy Award in 1972 and was knighted (1975). Chaplin's personal life was frequently stormy, and he left America in 1952 because of political hostility and moral disapproval, to settle permanently in Switzerland.

A. S. Hargreaves

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JOHN CANNON. "Chaplin, Charles." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chaplin, Charlie

Chaplin, Charlie ( Sir Charles Spencer) (1889–1977) English actor and film-maker, often considered the greatest silent film comedian. In his short films, such as The Immigrant (1917) and A Dog's Life (1918), he developed his famous character; a jaunty, wistful figure of pathos in baggy trousers and bowler hat, with a cane and a moustache. His films include The Kid (1920), The Gold Rush (1924), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952). He was attacked for his liberal politics, and in 1952 left the USA to live in Switzerland. In 1972, he returned to Hollywood to accept an honorary Oscar.

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