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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with Griffith, Pickford, and Fairbanks, of United Artists, 1919; left United States to visit London, reentry permit rescinded en route, 1952; moved to Vevey, on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 1953.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)

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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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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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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Chaplin, Charlie

CHAPLIN, CHARLIE

Charles Spencer ("Charlie") Chaplin (April 16, 1889–December 25, 1977), motion-picture actor, director, producer, and writer, was born in London, England, to two music-hall singers who separated soon after his birth. Chaplin experienced a difficult and often unstable childhood. A talented mimic, he began acting early, and by 1913 the successful music-hall performer signed a movie contract to work for Keystone's Mack Sennett. Chaplin quickly developed a comic persona, the Tramp, which launched him to stardom, and began to write and direct his short comedies. By 1919 he had built his own movie studio and cofounded United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. During the 1920s Chaplin shifted from two-reel shorts to feature-length films, most notably The Gold Rush (1925).

During the Depression Chaplin completed one film, City Lights (1931), and made two more, Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). City Lights was planned before the stock market crash of 1929 and is best considered Chaplin's farewell to the 1920s, particularly for its satirical portrayal of an urban millionaire who is generous when drunk but suicidal when sober.

The Depression left its imprint on both Modern Times and The Great Dictator. In 1931 and 1932 Chaplin took a fifteen-month world tour, which demonstrated his global fame and confronted him with the suffering of the Depression. Responding to calls for socially relevant works, Chaplin began work in 1933 on a project, The Masses, that was released in 1936 as Modern Times. Although it resembled earlier Chaplin features with its visual comedy, romance, and pathos, Modern Times was more topical than his previous films, alluding to the Depression in images of frantic assembly lines, closed factories, and street clashes between protesters and the police. Ideologically progressive, the film sympathized with common people like his Tramp and the gamin, and criticized authority figures like the factory owner or the policeman who kills the gamin's father. Critics and moviegoers were divided in their response to this new and more socially aware Chaplin.

Chaplin's next film, The Great Dictator, aligned itself with another progressive cause of the later Depression years: antifascism. A pointed satirical attack on fascism, the film starred Chaplin in two roles—a gentle Jewish barber and the dictator of Tomania, Adenoid Hynkel. Chaplin conceived the film in the late 1930s, halted production on it briefly when World War II erupted in 1939, then decided that even during wartime, it was important to use humor to combat what he considered to be cruel totalitarianism. The Great Dictator was Chaplin's biggest box-office success in its initial domestic release. Recognizing its popularity, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Chaplin to read the film's final speech at a presidential inaugural ball in 1941. By the end of the Depression, Chaplin was developing the reputation of a politically aware and progressive filmmaker; that reputation would later cause him problems after the Cold War set in, when he faced accusations that he was a Communist.

See Also: FASCISM; HOLLYWOOD AND THE FILM INDUSTRY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gehring, Wes D. Charlie Chaplin, a Bio-Bibliography. 1983.

Lynn, Kenneth Schuyler. Charlie Chaplin and His Times. 1997.

Lyons, Timothy J. Charles Chaplin, a Guide to References and Resources. 1979.

Maland, Charles J. Chaplin and American Culture the Evolution of a Star Image. 1989.

Robinson, David. Chaplin, His Life and Art. 1989.

Charles J. Maland

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Chaplin, Charlie

Charlie Chaplin


Personal

Born April 16, 1889, in London, England; came to United States, 1914; died December 25, 1977, in Vevey, Switzerland; son of Charles Spencer (a singer) and Hannah (a singer, pianist, and actress under stage name Lily Harley) Chaplin; married Mildred Harris, 1918 (divorced, 1920); married Lolita McMurray (an actress under stage name Lita Grey), 1924 (divorced, 1927); married Pauline Levy (an actress under stage name Paulette Godard), 1936 (divorced, 1942); married Oona O'Neill, 1943; children: Charles Spencer, Jr., Sydney Earl, Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene O'Neill, Jane, Annette-Emilie, James.




Career

Actor and vaudeville performer; screenwriter, producer, and director of motion pictures; author. Music hall performer in London, England, and provincial theatres, beginning 1898; vaudeville performer with Fred Karno troupe, 1906-14; toured United States with Karno, 1910 and 1912; Keystone Films, Hollywood, CA, under contract as actor, director, and screenwriter, 1914; actor, director, and screenwriter for Essanay Films, 1915; actor, director, and screenwriter for Mutual Films, 1916-17; actor, director, and screenwriter for First National, 1918-23; cofounder with D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks of United Artists, 1919.




Awards, Honors

Academy Award for "versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing," Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, 1929, for The Circus; Academy Award nomination for best actor, best screenplay, and best film, and New York Film Critics Circle Award for best actor (refused), all 1940, all for The Great Dictator; Academy Award nomination for best screenplay, 1947, for Monsieur Verdoux; special Academy Award, 1972, for "incalculable effect . . . in making motion pictures the art form of this century"; Academy Award for best original dramatic score, 1973, for Limelight; honorary life member award, Directors Guild of America, 1974; knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, 1975.




Writings

Charlie Chaplin's Own Story: Being the Faithful Recital of a Romantic Career, Beginning with Early Recollections of Boyhood in London and Closing with the Signing of His Latest Motion-Picture Contract, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1916.

My Trip Abroad, Harper (New York, NY), 1922. "The Great Dictator": Synopsis of the Film, Charles Chaplin Film Corp., 1941.

Les feux de la rampe (screenplay; translation of Limelight), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1953.

My Autobiography, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1964.

My Life in Pictures, Bodley Head (London, England), 1974.


SCREENPLAYS; AND ACTOR AND DIRECTOR

(Codirector with Mabel Normand) Caught in a Cabaret, Keystone Films, 1914.

Caught in the Rain, Keystone Films, 1914.

A Busy Day, Keystone Films, 1914.

Laughing Gas, Keystone Films, 1914.

The Property Man, Keystone Films, 1914.

Recreation, Keystone Films, 1914.

The Masquerader, Keystone Films, 1914.

His New Profession, Keystone Films, 1914.

The Rounders, Keystone Films, 1914.

The New Janitor, Keystone Films, 1914.

Those Love Pangs, Keystone Films, 1914.

Gentlemen of Nerve, Keystone Films, 1914.

His Musical Career, Keystone Films, 1914.

His Trysting Place, Keystone Films, 1914.

Getting Acquainted, Keystone Films, 1914.

His Prehistoric Past, Keystone Films, 1914.

His New Job, Essanay Company, 1915.

A Night Out, Essanay Company, 1915.

The Champion, Essanay Company, 1915.

In the Park, Essanay Company, 1915.

A Jitney Elopement, Essanay Company, 1915.

The Tramp, Essanay Company, 1915.

By the Sea, Essanay Company, 1915.

Work, Essanay Company, 1915.

A Woman, Essanay Company, 1915.

The Bank, Essanay Company, 1915.

Shanghaied, Essanay Company, 1915.

A Night in the Show, Essanay Company, 1915.

Charlie Chaplin's Burlesque on Carmen, Essanay Company, 1915, revised, 1916.

Police, Essanay Company, 1916.

(With Leo White) Triple Trouble, Essanay Company, 1916.

The Essanay-Chaplin Revue of 1916, (contains The Tramp, His New Job, and A Night Out), Essanay Company, 1916.

The Floorwalker, Mutual Films, 1916.

The Fireman, Mutual Films, 1916.

The Vagabond, Mutual Films, 1916.

One A.M., Mutual Films, 1916.

The Count, Mutual Films, 1916.

The Pawnshop, Mutual Films, 1916.

Behind the Screen, Mutual Films, 1916.

The Rink, Mutual Films, 1916.

Easy Street, Mutual Films, 1917.

The Cure, Mutual Films, 1917.

The Immigrant, Mutual Films, 1917.

The Adventure, Mutual Films, 1917.

A Dog's Life, First National, 1918.

Shoulder's Arms, First National, 1918.

Sunnyside, First National, 1919.

A Day's Pleasure, First National, 1919.

The Kid, First National, 1921.

The Idle Class, First National, 1921.

Pay Day, First National, 1922.

The Pilgrim, First National, 1923.

A Woman of Paris, United Artists, 1923.

The Gold Rush, United Artists, 1925.

The Circus, United Artists, 1928.

City Lights, United Artists, 1931.

Modern Times, United Artists, 1936.

The Great Dictator, United Artists, 1940.

Monsieur Verdoux, United Artists, 1947.

Limelight, United Artists, 1952.

A King in New York, Archway, 1957.

A Countess from Hong Kong, Universal, 1967.




Sidelights

Few entertainers received more recognition in their time than did Charlie Chaplin, who was lovingly known the world over as "the tramp," an impoverished yet ever-hopeful hero of more than eighty films. For over thirty years Chaplin was a major force in comedy; he wrote, directed, and acted in the vast majority of his films, most of which are now considered classics. Time contributor Ann Douglas wrote that Chaplin "was the first, and to date the last, person to control every aspect of the filmmaking process—founding his own studio, United Artists, with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D. W. Griffith, and producing, casting, directing, writing, scoring and editing the movies he starred in. In the first decades of the twentieth century, when weekly moviegoing was a national habit, Chaplin more or less invented global recognizability and helped turn an industry into an art."


Chaplin's early life was that of the struggling entertainer. Born Charles Spencer Chaplin, he was placed in an orphanage in 1894 when his parents, both hard-luck vaudeville performers, became unable to support their family of five. When he left the orphanage, Chaplin earned money as an extra in small vaudeville shows. Soon he was playing major parts in touring productions, and in 1906 he joined Fred Karno's vaudeville troup. Chaplin rose to star billing within four years as a comedian in Karno's company and one night, during a performance of A Night in an English Music Hall, his acting drew the attention of Hollywood film mogul Mack Sennett. Sennett was impressed with Chaplin's performance and offered him a weekly salary of $150 to appear in three shorts for Keystone Films. Chaplin replied by demanding $200 although Sennett's offer was twice what he was making with Karno. They eventually agreed on terms of $150 for three months and $175 for nine months thereafter.



"The Tramp" Is Born

When Chaplin arrived in Hollywood in 1914, he was given the star dressing room, the same one used previously by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and also by Sennett. But despite the star treatment, Chaplin worked only sporadically, often going an entire week with no assignments. Then one day Chaplin spied Sennett in conversation with a fellow actor. Impatient with inactivity, Chaplin persistently placed himself in Sennett's line of vision in order to gain the filmmaker's attention. Sennett eventually spotted Chaplin, though apparently unaware of the ploy, and told him to dress for a comedy sequence. As Chaplin recalled in My Autobiography, "I had no idea what make-up to put on . . . . However, on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large." After adding a small moustache to the disguise, he went to meet Sennett. "I had no idea of the character," Chaplin said. "But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born." The guise proved so successful that Chaplin was to adopt it as his exclusive on-camera garb for the next twenty years. In Variety, Chaplin biographer David Robinson stated, "There is something quite magical about that Tramp figure. There was nothing quite like him before, certainly not in films and probably not in world art. He became this universal figure that everybody in every country in the world understood, recognized and loved."


Chaplin soon found himself under the direction of Mabel Normand, a top comedy actress but a novice director. He immediately began plaguing her with countless suggestions on how to improve their film. When Normand disagreed, the confrontation resulted in Chaplin's refusal to perform in a specific
scene unless his ideas were implemented. Normand stalked off to Sennett for arbitration, and the producer's immediate reaction was to fire Chaplin. However, that very day he had received a demand from New York distributors for more Chaplin films. Sennett conferred with Chaplin and asked for his cooperation. Chaplin replied that if Sennett were to let him direct, there would be no problem. After some consternation, Sennett agreed to let Chaplin direct a film, provided he agreed to cover any financial loss.

Buoyed by the prospect of directing his own films, Chaplin returned to the set where Normand and crew waited. He immediately noticed a new attitude on Normand's part and responded by turning in a string of admirable performances. Normand and Chaplin created several successful films together, among them Caught in a Cabaret, Mabel's Busy Day, and Mabel's Married Life. However, Chaplin felt himself better suited to working under his own direction. Tillie's Punctured Romance, co-starring Normand and Chaplin and directed by Sennett in 1914, was his last film under another director. Sadly, Normand's career declined with the advent of sound.


Chaplin's contract with Keystone Films expired in 1915, whereupon he joined the Essanay Company. He made fifteen short films for Essanay, including The Tramp, "considered to be Chaplin's first masterpiece," according to Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Botham Stone. He then signed with the Mutual Film Company in 1916. There he made twelve more two-reelers, including the popular Easy Street in which Chaplin, in his tramp guise, plays a policeman who overcomes his assailant by placing his head in a gas street lamp.

Upon expiration of his agreement with Mutual Films, Chaplin signed an eight-film pact with First National Exhibitors' Circuit which netted him more than one million dollars and made him one of the highest-paid entertainers in the world. Some of Chaplin's most acclaimed films were made for First National. A Dog's Life, Shoulders Arms, and The Idle Class are all highly regarded films, as are The Pilgrim and Pay Day. But Chaplin's biggest success up to that time came with his first full-length film, The Kid. The story of a tramp's relationship with an abandoned child was much praised for its blend of humor and pathos. As Ty Burr wrote about Chaplin in Entertainment Weekly, "With 1921's huge success, The Kid, his heart-tugging became overt. Whether you appreciate Chaplin's sentimentality or not, it's clear that without it he was merely an incredibly
gifted comedian. With it, he became an allegorical figure: humanity's stand-in." Chaplin himself was so inspired by the film's popularity that after completing his contractual obligations with First National, he never again made a film of less than feature length.


With completion of The Kid, Chaplin felt drained. His divorce from his first wife coincided with the film's release, and uncertainty over the film's potential, coupled with his disintegrating marriage, forced Chaplin to take a much-needed vacation. In 1921 he went to Europe, and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Paris, Berlin, and London. "I was reluctant to leave England," Chaplin recalled. "But celebrity could give me no more. I was returning with complete satisfaction—though somewhat sad, for I was leaving behind not alone the noise of acclaim or accolades of the rich and celebrated who had entertained me, but the sincere affection and enthusiasm of the English and the French crowds that had waited to welcome me. . . . I was also leaving behind my past." He felt that a visit to his old home "had completed something within me; I was satisfied to return to California and get back to work."


Upon returning from Europe, Chaplin made three more shorts, thus ending his contract with First National. He then began working for United Artists, a releasing company he co-founded in 1919. Chaplin's first film for his own company was a marked departure from what the public had come to expect. The film was A Woman of Paris. It was not a comedy but a serious study of upper-class life in Paris. It did not star Chaplin; he made the film as a vehicle for his long time co-star Edna Purviance with the hope that she could start her own career as a "serious" actress. Although it received critical praise, the film was met with ambivalence by Chaplin's audiences and was rarely seen in the United States following its initial release.



Cinematic Masterpieces

Chaplin followed A Woman of Paris with what is generally acknowledged as his finest comedy, The Gold Rush. In the film, the tramp finds himself an unlikely participant in the Klondike gold rush, gets stranded in a cabin with two rough-necked prospectors, and courts a dance-hall girl. Released in 1925, the movie contains some of Chaplin's best-known sequences: the starving tramp dining on a leather boot, a cabin dangling precariously over a cliff, and a delirious fellow prospector imagining the tramp to be a chicken. In The Gold Rush Chaplin's
acting skills are on full display, observed a contributor in the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, who praised the subtle tone of one memorable scene: "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." The Gold Rush was the film for which Chaplin most hoped to be remembered, and in 1998 the American Film Institute selected it as one of the one hundred greatest American movies ever made.

In 1928 Chaplin made The Circus, a film in many ways reminiscent of his early two-reelers. The Circus was another success, and it earned Chaplin a special Academy Award. It took almost three years for Chaplin to make his next movie, City Lights. Like The Gold Rush, City Lights was warmly received by both critics and the public, but contains a serious
and more sentimental theme; in its pathos, it is often compared to The Kid. The movie concerns the tramp's affections for a blind girl. When he learns an operation can restore her sight, he obtains the money from a millionaire friend. Unfortunately, the police believe the tramp stole the money and he is put in prison. Upon his release, he meets the girl once again. According to Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, "The last scene of City Lights is justly famous as one of the great emotional moments in the movies; the girl, whose sight has been restored by an operation paid for by the Tramp, now sees him as a bum—but smiles at him anyway, and gives him a rose and some money, and then, touching his hands, recognizes them. 'You?' she asks on the title card. He nods, tries to smile, and asks, 'You can see now?' 'Yes,' she says, 'I can see now.' She sees, and yet still smiles at him, and accepts him."

Chaplin had taken a chance with City Lights. By the time of its release in 1931, sound had been incorporated into the movies. He chose to make City Lights as a silent picture anyway and the film proved to be one of the top box-office winners that year. With the release of Modern Times in 1936, "a fable about (among other things) automation, assembly lines and the enslaving of man by machines," according to Ebert, "he hit upon an effective way to introduce sound without disturbing his comedy of pantomime: The voices in the movie are channeled through other media. The ruthless steel tycoon talks over closed-circuit television, a crackpot inventor brings in a recorded sales pitch, and so on." Modern Times contains several of Chaplin's classic sequences, including scenes when the tramp, as an assembly-line worker, goes crazy from the monotony of the job and dives into the mechanisms of the line. After being rescued, he attempts to tighten anything which will fit his wrenches, including the buttons on a woman's dress. Despite the popularity of Modern Times, it was Chaplin's last film without spoken dialogue and, more importantly, it marked his last appearance as the tramp.

The Great Dictator was released in 1940 amid great controversy. Chaplin's first sound film was a parody of Adolf Hitler, whose tyranny Chaplin could not imagine when he began production in 1937. Nonetheless, The Great Dictator, featuring Chaplin in a dual role as dictator Adenoid Hynkel and his lookalike, a humble Jewish barber, was as popular with audiences as his previous films. It, too, contains many timeless moments: Hynkel dancing with a globe and sliding up a curtain, the barber fighting off Hynkel's henchmen, and Hynkel's confrontations with fellow dictator Napaloni. Although Chaplin received some criticism for the excessive dialogue appealing for world peace that ends the film, most critics applauded his decision to abandon the tramp character in favor of the demanding dual role.

With Monsieur Verdoux Chaplin continued the bold approach to characterization he began in The Great Dictator. The movie is a black comedy about a fashionable socialite who marries rich women and then murders them. Eventually, he is caught and put on trial. In Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin justifies the murders by rationalizing that Verdoux is no less a killer than a ruler who plunges his country into war; Verdoux suggests that these rulers cause more deaths than he has. With such a radical theme, Chaplin began to lose his following. Interestingly, the film has grown in stature over the ensuing years, and has been shown frequently at art houses and film festivals. Indeed, some critics rate Monsieur Verdoux as one of Chaplin's finest works.

Limelight proved to be an apt title for Chaplin's last film produced in the United States. The sentimental story of an aging music-hall comedian whose greatest triumph is followed by his death typified Chaplin's own feelings on life. According to a contributor in the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Limelight is "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." The film was well received by critics, who have especially praised a scene in which Chaplin and Keaton perform at a benefit show.


Controversy and Acclaim

Chaplin had little opportunity to rejoice over the reviews of Limelight. In 1952, he was vacationed in England when his personal life caught up with him. Owing to two scandalous marriages, a paternity suit, and various political stands, Chaplin was informed by the U.S. attorney general that he would have to prove his "moral worth" before he could be allowed back into the United States. Insulted, Chaplin remained in England, and later settled in Switzerland.

Now living overseas, Chaplin made two more films before he died. A King in New York was generally viewed as a swipe at McCarthyism, but lacked the subtle humor Chaplin was known for. Made in 1957, the film was not released in the United States for almost twenty years. In 1967 Chaplin directed his own screenplay, A Countess from Hong Kong, but despite commendable performances by Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, it too is regarded as an inferior film.

In 1972, Chaplin was allowed to return to the United States to accept a special Academy Award for his contributions to cinema. It was an emotional situation for the actor, who expressed himself by saying: "Words are so futile, so feeble. I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here. You're wonderful, sweet people. Thank you." In 1975 Chaplin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

According to Botham Stone, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "Chaplin's place in the history of film is an important one. He drew millions to the new art form in the early part of [the twentieth] . . . century, appealing both to the masses and to the discerning moviegoer." In Variety, Richard Schickel was asked why Chaplin's films remain popular decades after they were made. "Because they're good," Schickel responded. "At a more profound level, the Tramp is an abstract figure. No human being dresses like that. But in his abstraction he becomes universal. He becomes 'a man' who absorbs all of our humanity within that highly stylized presentation. If you look at his films, he is dealing with the most basic, wonderful human emotions."

If you enjoy the works of Charlie Chaplin

If you enjoy the works of Charlie Chaplin, you may also want to check out the following films:


Safety Last!, starring Harold Lloyd, 1923.

Duck Soup, featuring the Marx Brothers, 1933.

The Bank Dick, starring W. C. Fields, 1940.


Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Asplund, Uno, Chaplin's Films, A. S. Barnes (South Brunswick, NJ), 1976.

Bowman, W. Dodgson, Charlie Chaplin: His Life and Art, Haskell House (New York, NY), 1974.

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

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 44: American Screenwriters, Second Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Epstein, Jerry, Remembering Charlie: The Story of a Friendship, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1988.

Finke, Blythe F., Charlie Chaplin: Famous Silent Movie Actor and Comic, edited by D. Steve Rahmas, SamHar Press (Charlotteville, NY), 1973.

Flom, Eric L., Chaplin in the Sound Era: An Analysis of the Seven Talkies, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1997.

Geduld, Harry M., Charlie Chaplin's Own Story, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1985.

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

Hayes, Kevin J., Charlie Chaplin: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Huff, Theodore, Charlie Chaplin, Arno (New York, NY), 1951.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), Volume 2: Directors, 4th edition, 2000, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, 4th edition, 2000.

Jacobs, David, Chaplin: The Movies and Charlie, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1975.

Kamin, Dan, Charlie Chaplin's One-Man Show, Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.

Karney, Robyn, and Robin Cross, The Life and Times of Charlie Chaplin, Green Wood Publishing (London, England), 1992.

Katz, Ephraim, The Film Encyclopedia, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

Kerr, Walter, The Silent Clowns, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1975.

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

Maland, Charles J., Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1989.

Manvell, Roger, Chaplin, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1974.

Miller, Blair, American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons, Studios, and Terminology, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1995.

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

Mitchell, Glenn, The Chaplin Encyclopedia, Batsford (London, England), 1997.

Reeves, May and Claire Goll, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 2001.

Robinson, David, Chaplin: His Life and Art, William Collins (London, England), 1985.

Robinson, David, Chaplin: A Life in Pictures, Warner Bros., 2003.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Schickel, Richard, Schickel on Film: Encounters—Critical and Personal—with Movie Immortals, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

Schroeder, Alan, Charlie Chaplin: The Beauty of Silence, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1997.

Shipman, David, The Great Movie Stars, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1979.

Siegel, Scott, and Barbara Siegel, American Film Comedy, Prentice-Hall (New York, NY), 1994.

Turk, Ruth, Charlie Chaplin: Genius of the Silent Screen, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

Tyler, Parker, Chaplin: Last of the Clowns, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1947.

Vance, Jeffrey, Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema, Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.



PERIODICALS

American Film, September, 1984.

Atlantic Monthly, August, 1939, Alistair Cooke, "Charlie Chaplin."

Colliers, November 11, 1922.

Entertainment Weekly, September 22, 1996, Ty Burr, "Charlie Chaplin: The First Superstar," pp. 20-21.

Film Comment, winter, 1969, Terry Hickey, "Accusations against Charles Chaplin for Political and Moral Offenses"; fall, 1970; September-October, 1972 (special Chaplin issue); March-April, 1978, Richard Corliss, "Chaplin"; March-April, 1988, Robert Florey and Brian Naves, "Charlie Dearest"; March-April, 1989, Chuck Jones, "Journal"; spring, 1992, Constance Brown Kuriyama, "Chaplin's Impure Comedy"; August, 1993, Richard Combs, "Little Man, What Now?"; November-December, 1996, D. Thomajan, "Charlie Chaplin Never Called Me Pig."

Film Culture, January, 1958; spring, 1966; spring, 1972.

Film Quarterly, fall, 1959.

Films and Filming, August, 1957; September, 1958; November, 1964.

Films in Review, September, 1950, Theodore Huff, "Chaplin as Composer"; January, 1962, Jack Spears, "Chaplin Collaborators"; November, 1981, William K. Everson, "Rediscovery: 'New' Chaplin Films."

Journal of Film and Video, Volume 46, number 3, E. A. Lieberman, "Charlie the Trickster," and M. Woal and L. K. Woal, "Chaplin and the Comedy of Melodrama."

Journal of Popular Film and Television, fall, 1997, David J. Lemaster, "The Pathos of the Unconscious: Charlie Chaplin and Dreams."

Life, September 5, 1949, James Agee, "Comedy's Greatest Era"; March 17, 1952, "Chaplin at Work: He Reveals His Movie-Making Secrets"; March 10, 1967.

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

Motion Picture Classic, November, 1917, James E. Hilbert, "A Day with Charlie Chaplin on Location."

New Republic, August 23, 1922, Stark Young, "Dear Mr. Chaplin."

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

New York Times, January 25, 1931; April 9, 1989, Walter Kerr, "Spinning Reels of Memory on a Master 's Centenary"; April 14, 1989, Vincent Canby, "The Charlie Chaplin Centennial: A Genius Revisited"; March 22, 1992, Benedict Nightingale, "The Melancholy That Forged a Comic Genius"; September 27, 1992, Neal Gabler, "Film View: Chaplin Blazed the Trail, Woody Allen Follows."

Photoplay, September, 1917, Terry Ramsaye, "Chaplin—And How He Does It."

Sight and Sound, spring, 1946, Sergei Eisenstein, "Charlie the Kid"; summer, 1946, Sergei Eisenstein, "Charlie the Grown Up"; autumn, 1957; spring, 1983, Gavin Millar, "The Unknown Chaplin"; spring, 1985.

Theatre, September, 1915.

Time, June 8, 1998, Ann Douglas, "Charlie Chaplin," pp. 118-121.

U.S. News & World Report, April 24, 1989, The Arts: Funny Man of the Century, p. 16.

Variety, April 28, 2003 (special Chaplin issue).

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


ONLINE

American Film Institute,http://www.afi.com/ (October 1, 2004).

Charlie Chaplin,http://www.charliechaplin.com/ (October 1, 2004).

Roger Ebert,http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/ (January 25, 1972), review of Modern Times; (December 21, 1997), review of City Lights.

OTHER

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

Charlie: The Life and Art of Charlie Chaplin (documentary), written and directed by Richard Schickel, 2003.

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



Obituaries

PERIODICALS

New York Times, December 26, 1977; January 1, 1978, Vincent Canby, "He Took Pains to Make Us Laugh.*"

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Chaplin, Charlie

Charlie Chaplin

Born April 16, 1899

London, England

Died December 25, 1977

Vevey, Switzerland

Actor and comedian in the era of American silent films

"Even funnier than the man who has been made ridiculous is the man who, having had something funny happen to him, refuses to admit that anything out of the way has happened, and attempts to maintain his dignity."

C harlie Chaplin came to the United States as an English stage actor and became one of the world's best-known and best-loved comic actors in the early days of the U.S. film industry, a time when films were known as "silent movies" because early movies did not contain sound. Chaplin created the figure known as the Little Tramp, who appeared in nearly all of his best-known works. The Little Tramp represented the common man, the ordinary fellow who confronted a loss or setback, got up, and carried on. Even after the era of films with sound, Chaplin used his talents of pantomime, or communicating silently with only hand and body gestures, to create a worldwide audience. But Chaplin fell out of favor with many, as he became involved in a series of marriages, an incident involving child support, and suspicions that he was a communist sympathizer.

Chaplin never became an American citizen, but his great success defined American films in the days before movies had sound, and he contributed to the domination of Hollywood over the motion picture industry worldwide. He was one of the many immigrants who came to the United States to earn a fortune but kept their original nationality and left after they became successful.

A difficult childhood

Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin's childhood was extraordinarily difficult. His parents, Charles Chaplin and Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill, were both stage performers. His mother sang in comic operas under the name Lily Harley. When young Charles was just a year old, his father left the family and was seldom seen afterwards. He died in 1901. For a while after the father left, Chaplin's mother was able to support the family (Charlie Chaplin had an older half brother, Sydney), but from the time Chaplin was six, her career started declining.

Ironically, a difficult and embarrassing incident in his mother's career marked the beginning of her son's career when he was just five. Harley was on stage, trying for a high note, when her voice cracked. "I remember standing in the wings when mother's voice cracked and went into a whisper," Chaplin remembered as an adult. "The audience began to laugh and sing falsetto and to make catcalls…. I did not quite understand what was going on. But the noise increased until mother was obliged to walk off the stage…. She was very upset and argued with the stage manager who … said something about letting me go on in her place…." And so he did, bravely marching on stage and beginning to sing. Not knowing what else to do, he imitated what he had just seen—his mother's voice cracking. The audience roared with laughter.

But this early triumph did not lead directly to fame and fortune. His mother, her career finished, tried to earn a living by sewing. She spent periods of time in hospitals, forcing Chaplin to live in a series of institutions for orphans. He had only four years of formal education, and some of his experiences were brutal. On one occasion, when it was thought he might have ringworm, a highly contagious skin disease, Chaplin had his head shaved and painted with iodine, after which he was put into isolation. On another occasion, he was beaten for misbehavior.

Breaking into show business

Chaplin's older brother became a sailor, leaving his younger brother and mother to cope with living on little money. Chaplin helped earn money by joining a group that performed clog dancing (dancing while wearing heavy wooden shoes called clogs). He also worked selling newspapers, running errands for a doctor, making toys, and working for a printer. When he was not working, Chaplin called on theatrical agencies (companies that find performers for stage producers). At age twelve, he got his first break: a role in a play entitled Sherlock Holmes. Then came a number of jobs in stage comedies and a job in another play in London that later went on tour.

On one occasion, Chaplin was playing on stage in the Channel Islands, between Britain and France, where people speak a dialect (a local version) of French. Chaplin realized that his audience could not understand English and therefore did not understand his jokes. But the audience did laugh at pantomime, in which facial expressions and body movements substitute for words.

Chaplin's big breakthrough, as it turned out, was joining the Fred Karno Company, a touring theatrical group that specialized in comedic pantomime. Chaplin portrayed characters who stumble at their jobs—a pianist who loses his music, a magician who spoils his tricks—everyday characters whose misfortunes amused the audience. For Chaplin, the Karno Company was a kind of advanced education in acting that prepared him for his next career in the movies.

First films

Touring America with the company, Chaplin met a movie producer named Mack Sennett (1884–1960), who was making short comedies on film. He offered Chaplin a job making movies for $150 a week. With some reluctance, Chaplin took a chance that pantomime would work on film. His first production, Kid Auto Races at Venice, appeared in 1914.

Moving pictures—"the movies"—had become immensely popular. The first films had no sound and thus no script. Music was provided by a pianist or organist in the theater. In Sennett's early films, actors improvised, or thought up on the spot what they would do, with the intent of leading into a chase scene. Sennett later described this set-up as the essence of his comedy. So, too, did Chaplin improvise his most famous character: the Little Tramp.

The Little Tramp

The character of the Little Tramp became instantly recognizable over two decades of filmmaking. It was a character made up by Chaplin spontaneously, or on the spot, while filming Kid Auto Races at Venice. He was told to wear something amusing. He took a pair of oversized pants and size fourteen shoes, which he wore on the opposite feet; put on a coat, a collar, and a derby hat; and placed a false mustache trimmed about as wide as the head of a toothbrush under his nose. The costume on the small-statured Chaplin (he was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds) was a satire on a proper little man who has not quite arrived but acts as if he has. Shuffling with his feet nearly sideways was a touch Chaplin added that became part of the character.

In addition to acting in his movies, Chaplin also began directing them, showing other actors exactly how he wanted them to play their parts. Although Chaplin invented the Little Tramp hurriedly for a movie, as his career advanced and he became a director, there was nothing spontaneous about his comedy. Chaplin had a reputation as an exacting director, playing and replaying scenes until he had achieved just the effect he wanted, even it meant wasting vast amounts of film, which was expensive then. The essence of his comedies was to get him into trouble and then give him the chance to attempt, in a very serious way, to appear as a "normal little gentleman." Chaplin once wrote: "That is why, no matter how desperate the predicament is, I am always very much in earnest about clutching my cane, straightening my derby hat and fixing my tie, even though I have just landed on my head."

Chaplin recalled later that his inspiration came from everyday scenes he observed, scenes that his audiences could easily relate to. As he once described the process: "I watch people inside a theater to see when they laugh, I watch them everywhere to get material which they can laugh at."

Pinnacle of success

Chaplin became enormously popular around the world. One theater in New York City played nothing but Chaplin films from 1914 to 1923. He toured London and Paris and was mobbed. His comedy depended on pantomime, rather than on verbal jokes, which made his films popular even in countries where English was not spoken.

Chaplin made thirty-five short films with Sennett in a year and was paid $150 a week. He then moved to another movie company, Essanay, and made fourteen films in 1915, for which he was paid $1,250 a week. His next move was to the Mutual Company, which paid Chaplin $670,000 a year, nearly one hundred times his salary just two years earlier. Later, Chaplin earned even more money, being paid $1 million to make eight movies over eighteen months by the National film production company (eventually he made nine pictures, but it took five years).

In addition to higher pay, Chaplin also gained control over his films, serving as author and director as well as actor. At age twenty-six, he was reputed to be the world's best-paid performer.

Romances and politics

Chaplin's reputation as America's favorite funny "little guy" was diminished somewhat by a series of marriages to women much younger than he was. In 1918, at age twenty-nine, he married Mildred Harris (1901–1944), age sixteen. They were divorced in two years. In 1924, Chaplin married another sixteen-year-old, Lilita McMurray (1908–1995), an actress. Together, they had two children before they were divorced in 1927. Chaplin's second divorce generated enormous bad publicity, and in some states women's groups successfully demanded that his films be barred.

In 1936, Chaplin married another actress, Paulette Goddard (1911–1990), whom he had met when she was twenty. They were divorced six years later, in 1942, without publicity. In the meantime, Chaplin had met twenty-one-year-old aspiring actress Joan Barry (often mistakenly spelled Berry). She had a daughter and named Chaplin as the father. Chaplin was accused of taking Barry across state lines for immoral purposes, although the charge was later dropped and blood tests showed that Chaplin was not the father of Barry's daughter. Despite the negative test, Chaplin was ordered by a jury to pay Barry to support the child.

In 1943, Chaplin married again. The bride was Oona O'Neill (1925–1991), the eighteen-year-old daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953). Chaplin was fifty-four years old at the time. Despite the age difference, their marriage proved to be a happy one, and they had eight children.

Politics is no laughing matter

After World War II (1939–45), the United States experienced a wave of fear of communist influence over politics. (Communists believed in a system of government ownership of land and factories, taken by force if necessary. The government of the Soviet Union was run by a brutal communist dictator, which gave rise to fears of Americans acting secretly to impose a similar system of government in the United States.) Several minor politicians made names for themselves by seeming to hunt down secret communists in the United States.

Chaplin had earlier gained a reputation as a radical, or someone who supports extreme change, by his portrayal of a harassed factory worker in Modern Times and his portrayal of German and Italian dictators in The Great Dictator. He had also made speeches advocating more aggressive military action against Germany in World War II at a time when Germany was fighting the Soviet Union. These actions made some people think Chaplin might sympathize with communism. Of these charges, Chaplin remarked: "I want to see the return of decency and kindness. I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy."

Chaplin also became involved in U.S. politics. During the election of 1948, Chaplin protested against sending a former communist out of the country, and he once introduced former U.S. vice president Henry Wallace (1888–1965), the 1948 Progressive Party candidate for president, at a meeting. A senator from Mississippi demanded that Chaplin, who was still a British citizen, be deported for having communist sympathies, and a widely read newspaper columnist took up the cry. Chaplin, who was nearing sixty and already had a successful career behind him, took a vacation to Britain in 1952, and U.S. attorney general James P. McGranery (1895–1962) said Chaplin would not be allowed back into the United States until he proved his "moral worth."

Disgusted, Chaplin went to his estate in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life. When he was invited back to the United States to be honored for his pioneering film work, in 1972, he was no longer mentally sharp. The Little Tramp died in Switzerland on Christmas Day, 1977. Two months later, Chaplin's corpse was stolen from his grave. A ransom was demanded for the return of Chaplin's remains, but three months later, Swiss police halted the plot and recovered the body. Chaplin was laid to rest again, in a vault surrounded by cement.

—James L. Outman

For More Information

Books

Chaplin, Charles. My Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964. Reprint, Plume, 1992.

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

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

Robinson, David. Charlie Chaplin: Comic Genius. New York: Harry Abrams, 1996.

Periodicals

Burr, Ty. "Charlie Chaplin: The First Superstar." Entertainment Weekly (Fall 1996): p. 20.

"Charlie Chaplin and Oona O'Neill." People Weekly (February 12, 1996):p. 172.

Douglas, Ann. "Charlie Chaplin: The Comedian." Time (June 8, 1998):p. 118.

Weddle, David. "The Genesis of an Icon: The Creation of the Tramp." Variety (special edition on Charlie Chaplin; April 28, 2003): p. S4.

Web Sites

"Charlie Chaplin FBI File." Fade to Black Magazine.http://www.fadetoblack.com/foi/charliechaplin/bio.html (accessed on March 10, 2004).

"Comedy and Charlie Chaplin." Penn State University Integrative Arts.http://www.psu.edu/dept/inart10_110/inart10/chap.html (accessed on March 10, 2004).

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