A man who said a lot and made us feel a lot without even saying a single word. Charlie Chaplin was one of the biggest stars Hollywood ever had since its beginning. He played a big role in Hollywood movies during the silent era of the film industry.
Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin is one of the most, if not the most, recognized faces from that era of Hollywood. With his alter ego character of the Tramp, he became an icon in his own right.
Spanning a career of over seven decades, Chaplin’s life is full of scandals, controversies, and adulation. So without wasting any more time, let’s get into it.
Before we get to know the man behind his Tramp persona, let’s get to know little details about his life.
|Born||Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr.|
16th April 1889.
|Died||25th December 1977 (aged 88)|
|Resting Place||Cimetière de Corsier-sur-Vevey, Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland|
|Occupation||Comedian, Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Composer, Producer, Editor|
|Nick Names||Charlie, The Littel Tramp, Charlot|
|Years Active||1899 – 1975|
|Charlie Chaplin Spouse||Mildred Harris (m.1918 – div.1920)|
Lita Grey (m. 1924 – div. 1927)
Paulette Goddard (m. 1936 – div. 1942)
Oona O’Neil (m. 1943)
|Charlie Chaplin Children||11, including Sydney, Charles, Michael, Geraldine, Josephine, Eugene, Christopher, and Victoria|
Early Life Of Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was born to two music hall performers Hannah Harriet Pedlingham and Charles Chaplin. After his parents separated, his mother tried to pursue her music career, but occasionally her voice would break at critical moments. That is when the stage producer saw little five-year-old Chaplin singing popular songs.
Both Charlie and his half-brother Syd Chaplin had a tough childhood as they had to live in charity homes while dealing with their mother’s insanity. In 1903, their mother was put in Cane Hill Asylum, till the year 1921, that is when Charlie moved her and took her to California.
Charlie dealt with poverty, hardship, and challenges his whole childhood. He was sent to Central London District School, and then he and his brother were sent to Norwood school for destitute children.
In his childhood, Chaplin said, “I was hardly aware of the crisis because we lived in continual crisis; and, being a boy, I dismissed our troubles with gracious forgetfulness.”
While in school, Charlie used his talents of singing and dancing to good use and was a part of the Eight Lancashire Lads clog-dancing team. With them, he toured several English music halls from the period of 1899 to 1900. At the age of 14, he left school and tried to become an actor.
He was first seen in a production of Sherlock Holmes by Charles Frohman. His role was well appreciated by critics. Then he started appearing in more plays for more than two years.
Career: Filmography Of Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s career began when he found new companies approaching him, and he went on to pursue these opportunities with his brother. The acting was for a comedy play, Repairs.
Later Chaplin joined a circus, where he created popular burlesque choreographies. By the time he became 18, he was already an established comic performer. Due to his pale and shy appearance, he quickly signed a contract with Karno. There Chaplin played the role of Jimmy the Fearless and was highly praised.
From comic plays like these, Chaplin slowly entered the film industry, with Key Studios. With them, his debut film was Making a Living; although Chaplin didn’t like the film, but was praised by critics. But for the movie Mabel’s Strange Predicament, Chaplin debuted his most popular and iconic persona of the Tramp.
For his 11th film with the production company, having clashes with the director, Charlie was almost on the verge of being removed from the contract. But however, he was granted permission to direct the next film or pay $1,500 if it flopped. But his first movie, Caught in the Rain, was a big hit.
From then on, he appeared in films like Tillie’s Punctured Romance. After this, he left Keystone and Joined Essanay Film Manufacturing Company; with them, he did movies like A Night Out, The Champion, and The Bank. By the year 1915, Chaplin became a cultural icon with his persona, the Tramp. Merchandise and comic strips were sold with his persona.
Fame & Popularity
“Chaplinitis had spread across America,” said a journalist in Motion Picture Magazine. He started getting offers from Vitagraph and Universal Fox, but the best offer came from Mutual Film. With an amount of $270,000 a year, “Chaplin at 26 years old- one of the highest paid people in the world.”
With producers Eric Campbell and Albert Austin, he made movies like The Fireman, The Floorwalker, The Count, The Vagabond, and One A.M. Then again, he did The Rink, The Pawnshop, Behind the Screen, Easy Street, The Immigrant, The Adventurer, and the Cure.
After his contract with Mutual ended, he signed a new contract with First National Exhibitor’s Circuit. With them, his first movie was A Dog’s Life, playing the character of a sad clown, then Shoulder Arms. He then created his own production company called the United Artists, feeling unhappy with First Nationals.
For United Artists, his first movie was Sunnyside, then came his longest movie to date, The Kid, which was for 68 minutes. Then came his movie The Idle Class; finally, to complete the contract with First Nationals, he released The Pilgrim and Pay Day.
Charlie Chaplin is known for a few great movies still now, such as A Woman of Paris, The Gold Rush, The Circus, and City Lights. Chaplin was great at making films based on real events, just like during the industrial revolution in America; he made Modern Times, and then during the second world war came The Great Dictator.
Chaplin’s personal was nothing less than dramatic, dealing with one controversy to another. The first incident took place when he married Mildred Harris, who was only 16 years old at the time, and claimed she was carrying his baby. But it turned out to be a false pregnancy, and Chaplin was unhappy with the marriage.
But she eventually became pregnant, but the baby died after three days, and the couple soon divorced after that. While filming The Gold Rush, he met Lita Grey, with whom he had a relationship, and was forced to marry when she got pregnant.
At the time, she was only 16 years old, and Chaplin was 35; he could have been charged with a rape case, so they got married, and the couple had two sons. Even after marriage, Chaplin had affairs, which resulted in his divorce, which was the costliest one at that time. Theirs was a bitter divorce and highly publicized.
Chaplin met his third wife, Paulette Goddard, when she was 21 years old. But their marriage didn’t last long, and the couple soon got divorced. During the 1940s, actress Joan Barry accused Chaplin that she was carrying his child and filed a suit against him for paternity.
She was already arrested twice for showing obsessive behavior towards Chaplin. An FBI investigation was also launched against him as a smear campaign. After Barry gave birth to the child, a paternity test proved that Chaplin was the father.
At this time, controversies tripled when Charlie secretly got married to Oona O’Neil, his 18-year-old protegee. She, at the time, said meeting Chaplin was “the happiest event of my life.” At the time, Chaplin wa 54 years old, the couple had eight children together and stayed married till his death.
Charlie Chaplin was surely a controversial and scandalous person, yet we can’t dismiss that fact the impact he left on the film industry. He truly was an icon then and is still an icon with his amazing on-screen persona, The Tramp.
Film critic Andres Sarris said, “Chaplin arguably the single most important artist produced by the cinema, certainly its most extraordinary performer and probably still its most universal icon.” No wonder he is the “10th Greatest Male Star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.”
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