Charlie Chaplin

chaplinCharlie Chaplin (April 16, 1889 - December 25, 1977).

Charlie Chaplin, who brought laughter to millions worldwide as the silent "Little Tramp" clown, had the type of deprived childhood that one would expect to find in a Dickens novel.

He was born in East Street, Walworth, London on 16 April, 1889. Charles Spencer Chaplin was the son of a music hall singer and his wife. His parents divorced early in his life.

Charlie Chaplin's mother Hannah was the brightest spot in Charlie's childhood. Formerly an actor on stage, she had lost her ability to perform, and managed to earn a subsistence living for herself, Charlie, and Charlie's older half-brother Sidney by sewing. She was an integral part of Charlie's young life, & he credited her with much of his success.

Sadly, she slowly succumbed to mental illness, and by the time that Charlie Chaplin was 7 years old, she was confined to an asylum.

Charlie & Sidney were relegated to a workhouse (a government facility for orphaned & abandoned children) - not for the last time. After 2 months, she was released, & the family was happily reunited, for a time. In later years, she was readmitted for an 8-month stretch later, during which time Charlie Chaplin lived with his alcoholic father and stepmother, in a strained environment.

Sidney left home first, working first on a sailing ship, & later on the stage, opening the door for Charlie to follow in his footsteps later. Young Charlie Chaplin felt more alone than ever without the presence of his brother, his closest friend and confidant. There was a bright spot as well in Charlie Chaplin's 9th year - he toured with a stage company, the 8 Lancashire Lads, with a kindhearted couple who led the troupe, and gave Charlie Chaplin his first taste of stage life. He also met a young Stan Laurel as part of the troupe.

At the age of 12, Charlie Chaplin's father died quite young.

At the age of 14, Charlie Chaplin's mother is readmitted tothe asylum, while Sidney is out of town on an extended trip. Charlie provided for himself as best he can, desperate to avoid returning to the workhouse, until Sydney returns home. With Sidney's return, young Charlie Chaplin's luck begins to turn for the better. He wins a part in the stage play "Jim, A Romance of Cockney" to glowing reviews. Later he earns the part of Billy in a stage adaptation of "Sherlock Holmes," again to sterling reviews, tours with the company playing that part. The tour continues through the next year. Hannah is again released, seemingly in her right mind. All seems to be going well, until Hannah relapses, & is institutionalized for the next 7 years; Charlie Chaplin is 16 years old.

By April, at age of 25, Charlie Chaplin directs his first film, 'Twenty Minutes of Love.'
By November of that year, Charlie Chaplin left Keystone, having signed an exclusive contract for the newly formed Essanay Film Company. Sidney follows in Charlie's steps this time, & joins the Keystone company shortly before Charlie left it.

In February of 1915, Charlie Chaplin began work for Essanay, with greater control over his films than ever before - but not enough to avoid 'creative differences' with his bosses at Essanay. However, another milestone occurs at the same time - he meets Edna Purviance, who was to be his leading lady for many of his films, as well as an off-again, on-again romance.

In February of 1916, Charlie Chaplin again jumped to another film company, Mutual, where he continues to create some of his finest shorts, including The Floorwalker, The Vagabond, The Pawnshop, etc. In both his personal & professional life, his inner circle began to expand. He first hired Henry Bergman , as well as hiring Tom Harrington as his personal secretary, a position which he kept for many decades, becoming Charlie Chaplin's right-hand man in many respects. It was also at Mutual that he hired Eric Campbell, the "gentle giant" that was his on-screen nemesis & personal friend, who co-starred in 11 of his 12 Mutual films.

Desiring even more creative control, Charlie Chaplin began building his own studio in the fall of 1917, & signed with yet another studio, First National. For the first time, Charlie Chaplin had complete control over every step of his films.

Eric Campbell died in a car accident, causing Charlie Chaplin's style of comedy to change, being centered more around Charlie Chaplin himself. For First National, Charlie Chaplin continued to create classic shorts: A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms, The Bond.

In 1918, he marries for the first (but not the last) time, to Mildred Harris.

Charlie Chaplin began in his personal life a recurring, destructive pattern - he chases and frequently marries a young woman, loses interest in her being consumed by his creative energies, goes through a messy breakup (or divorce), typically impacting his professional life. Then repeats the pattern.

In November of that year, his first true love, Hetty Kelly, dies. Charlie Chaplin didn't find this out until he visited England in 1921.

1919 was a year of both great gains & losses for Charlie Chaplin. One of his most popular short films, Sunnyside, is released - demonstrating a degree of both pathos and comedy mixed together to a high degree.

Charlie Chaplin had been slowly moving the Little Tramp towards this more balanced characterization for some time.

Charlie being suffered a terrible loss, as his & Mildred's infant child is born, horribly deformed, & dies after only 3 days. Charlie Chaplin sought solace in his work, alienating his wife even more. In that same year, he formed United Artists with his closest friend Douglas Fairbanks and Fairbanks' wife, screen legend Mary Pickford - in a successful effort to keep the major studios from monopolizing and controlling all aspects of production.

The Kid was Charlie Chaplin's first full-length movie. It, more than anything else to that date, made Charlie Chaplin a living legend. It took over a year to produce, and was an incredible success for Charlie Chaplin, both financially & artistically.

He took his first vacation, returning to Europe to crowds that were beyond his wildest dreams. In a bittersweet moment, he learns of Hetty Kelly's death from her brother while in London. More cheerfully, he begins several friendships in London that become lifelong, including with the famous writer H. G. Welles. He and Sydney brought their mother, Hannah, to the States, where she lived the rest of her life, under the best medical care that Charlie's money could provide.

Returning to America, and to his work, Charlie Chaplin quickly produced his next film, The Idle Class. Charlie Chaplin began working on his next film, Pay Day, in his professional life, & meets the European actress Pola Negri, with whom he has an off-again, on-again romantic relationship that goes on for nearly a year. Over the course of that year, Charlie Chaplin releases his next film.

Film the Gold Rush was released to critical acclaim & great financial success. Some believe it's Charlie Chaplin's finest film. Ironically, there was a third birth that year that would become integral to Charlie Chaplin years later - Oona O'Nail was born.

The next year, Charlie Chaplin began work on his next film, The Circus. As John McCabe noted, The Circus was not the equal of The Gold Rush, but was a good film in its' own right - &, given the circumstances under which it was filmed.

Despite the birth of a second son, Sidney, in 1926, Charlie & Lita's marriage broke apart - bitterly, and publicly.

The divorce ended in 1927 with a record-breaking divorce settlement of $825,000. The stress was enough to permanently turn Charlie Chaplin's hair prematurely white.

In 1928, Charlie Chaplin released The Circus to popular acclaim, and also received a special Oscar for his work on the film as director, actor, producer. Sadly, this positive year was also crushingly negative, as Charlie's beloved mother died. Charlie Chaplin's life continued to be centered around his work.

City Lights, released in 1931, was Charlie Chaplin's first non-silent film. But it still was not a 'talking' picture. Charlie Chaplin included the musical soundtrack, used sound effects, but nobody spoke in the picture yet. This was a major gamble for Charlie Chaplin, since sound pictures had now become the standard. But it was a gamble that paid off handsomely. The movie was both a financial & critical success. Many believe it to be one of Charlie Chaplin's finest films
After City Lights, Charlie Chaplin took a vacation. He took vacations quite frequently, both to refresh himself & to find new ideas for his films. But this was his first extended vacation, away from creating a new movie for nearly two years.

In 1932 he met Paulette Goddard, who would costar in his next film Modern Times, Tramp's final film.

After the release of Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard were married in secret, while on vacation in the Orient. Upon his return, Charlie Chaplin began his most audacious comedy yet - The Great Dictator, making fun of Adolph Hitler.

The Great Dictator was finally released in 1940, it was a worldwide sensation.

In the same year that Charlie Chaplin began working on The Great Dictator, the House Un-American Committee begins investigating Charlie Chaplin. At first glance, there seems to be no reason for this - until the second glance. Earlier Charlie Chaplin had done his patriotic part in raising money for the war effort, alongside his long time friends Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford - raising large amounts of money for the war.

Charlie Chaplin was a lifelong pacifist, but he was also a realist who saw that the aggression of the Axis powers had to be stopped. In many ways, Charlie Chaplin was politically naive -- such as speaking at fund raisers for the Communist USSR, whom Charlie Chaplin simply saw as our allies in the fight. By suggesting that America immediately open a two front war to help our "friends" in the Soviet Union. These were some of the reasons that the government began keeping tabs on the immigrant film maker, although he worked for all of these years in America, he maintained his British citizenship, & had no intention of becoming an American citizen.

1942 Paulette Goddard divorced Charlie Chaplin, and went on to be a star in her own right. keep her out of Charlie Chaplin's life.

In 1951, Charlie Chaplin made one of his finest films, and one of his least well known -Limelight, story of a formerly great dance hall tramp clown, Calvero (portrayed by Chaplin) on a downward spiral, contrasting with a young dancer on her way to fame - into the spotlight. A funny, poignant film, it also teamed two of the great clowns of the silent era, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, for the first and only time.

Charlie Chaplin took another vacation to England, wanting to show his new wife and children his native country. Upon leaving the territorial waters of the United States of America, Charlie Chaplin received a cable, informing him that the State Department had rescinded his reentry permit - effectively locking him out of the country as an undesirable alien. There were many reasons for this - Charlie Chaplin's unorthodox political views, the false accusation that he was a Communist, & not least of all, money. There would have been an attempt by the federal government to seize Charlie Chaplin's assets, which were enormous.

His wife Oona returned to the United States, promptly took all of the liquid assets, as well as liquidating everything she could - leaving the government without a penny for its' trouble.

Charlie Chaplin was still a citizen of Great Britain, but he did not desire to live there. After the stress of the situation had been dealt with, the Chaplins relocated to Vevey, Switzerland in 1953, where they lived for the remainder of their lives together. After their death, it has been turned into an international Cjarlie Chaplin Museum.

In 1954, Oona renounced her U.S. citizenship, casting her lot with her husband.

Ironically, Charlie Chaplin was awarded World Peace Council Prize in that same year. In the next year, he resumes doing what he does best - making comedies.

His next film, A King Of New York, was a biting indictment of modern society...

Charlie Chaplin's professional pace seemed to be slowing down, to an outside observer. After all, he was now 69 years old. However, Charlie Chaplin was not finished working. He had been re-editing some of his earlier movies, & composing new music for some of them.

Charlie Chaplin was musical by nature as well as profession, and he wrote some of the most enduring melodies of the century - not least among them the song 'Smile'.

In 1959, the Chaplin Revue was released, to worldwide acclaim. Charlie Chaplin continued his work in Switzerland, writing and composing, and raising his growing brood of children.

In 1964 he published his autobiography, which he humbly titled 'My Autobiography.' It was an interesting look into the life of Charlie Chaplin, although incomplete - he mentioned his marriage to Lita Grey in only one sentence.

In 1965, death again intruded on Charlie Chaplin's family life, as his older brother Sidney died. This was a strong blow to Charlie Chaplin, second only to the loss of him mother in 1928. Sidney had been his brother, friend, companion, confidant and business manager all rolled into one.

In 1966 Charlie began work on his next, and final, movie, A Countess in Hong Kong. It was a number of firsts for Charlie Chaplin - he did not star in the film, & only had a small, Hitchcock-esque walk-on scene as a porter. Instead, he directed two of Hollywood's largest stars of the day, Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. Although an interesting idea, it was not a hit at the box office when released in 1967.

In 1968, Charlie Chaplin was now 79 years old. It's not surprising that more & more of his friends & coworkers died.

In 1972, Charlie Chaplin did something he never thought he would do -- he returned to the United States of America. He was returning to accept a lifetime achievement Academy Award. The foolishness of 20 years previous had been forgotten, and Charlie Chaplin was greeted by America with open arms. Correcting another old injustice, Charlie Chaplin's name was added again to the 'Walk of Fame' in Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin was also awarded the Golden Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival .

In 1974, Charlie Chaplin published another book, 'My Life in Pictures.' The next year, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and became Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.

In 1977, Charlie Chaplin passed away, on Christmas Day. He left behind grieving family and friends, and millions of fans worldwide.



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