Charles Spencer Chaplin, well known as Charlie Chaplin was a legendary comedian. He belonged to South London and his date of birth is April 16th, 1889. Besides being an actor, Chaplin was also a director, writer and music composer for the period of the silent movies era. His movies, though silent, are full of amusement and are admired even in this modern world.
Charlie faced a lot of tribulations in his childhood due to poverty. He lived with his mother, Hannah Chaplin, a vaudeville singer, and his older half brother Sydney. His father, Charles Chaplin, Sr., a vaudeville actor, left them when he found out about his wife’s affair. Charlie’s mother lost her voice while performing in a show. Charlie, who was five, knew the song and went on stage to save his mother. His marvelous performance was applauded and showered with coins. Hannah lost her job and they had to sell all their things for survival. Furthermore, in 1896, they were sent to Lambeth Workhouse. Charlie was seven, when he and his brother were admitted in Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children. Hannah was sent to Cane Hill Asylum for the treatment of syphilis. After 18 months both the brothers were sent to live with their alcoholic father and step-mother, who ill-treated the children by leaving them outside the house in the absence of their father. Finally, Charlie and his brother came back to reside with their mother who was well again.
At the age of ten Charlie’s father got him employed in The Eight Lancashire Lads, which was a clog dancing group. After two years he discontinued due to his asthma. In 1901, his father died, his bother went to work on a ship as a steward, while Charlie did odd jobs. When Charlie was fourteen he joined Blackmore’s Theatrical Agency, where he got a role of ‘Billy’ in the play Sherlock Holmes. He could not get leading roles due to his physique and Cockney accent. When he turned sixteen, he acted as a comic in a show ‘Repairs’, as a plumber’s klutzy. At last, at the age of eighteen he got a leading role as a comic in a play for Fred Karno and the Karno Troupe, but was hit by stage fright on the opening night. Hence he worked in lesser roles, still generating laughter in the flourishing sketch, ‘A Night in an English Music Hall’. In his free time he read keenly and played the violin.
Furthermore, in 1910 he went to the U.S. and performed in a number of plays, such as, Jersey City, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver, Butte, and Billings. Upon his return to London, he got distressed that his brother had married, Minnie, Charlie’s girlfriend.
When Chaplin went to U.S. for his second time he was approached by Mack Sennett, the chief of Keystone studios, and was offered $150 a week to work for him in Los Angeles. Chaplin completed his agreement with Karno and then in 1913 joined Keystone. Chaplin shot his first film, ‘Kid Auto Races’ at Venice in 1914, in which he wore a mustache of the size of a stamp, baggy pants, tight coat, bowler hat, and large shoes. This was the birth of his first and the most liked character, ‘The tramp’, swaggering around with his stick. Charlie was able to invent new ideas as a tramp; he could act as a lonesome imaginer, a grand instrumentalist, a humorous cartoon of Adolf Hitler, or a kicker of authorities in the back. All of his movies were not a hit then because of lack of direction, so he sought permission from Sennett to direct his own movies.
He directed his first movie, ‘Caught in the Rain’ in 1914 in which he acted as a tipsy hotel visitor. The overwhelmed Sennett increased his salary by $25 for each direction. His movie, ‘The Tramp’ was also a sensation. He completed 35 films for Keystone and was offered more money by Essenay Studios, where he finished 15 films. Later he joined Mutual, a Wall Street-backed production company who paid him $10,000 weekly along with bonuses. He made 12 films and earned $670,000, becoming the most paid comedian in the whole world.
During the 1917 and 1918 Charlie signed a contract of one million dollars with First National Pictures, Inc. He built a film studio on Sunset Blvd, and Sydney took care of his monetary dealings. Here he created many hit dramas and movies, such as; A Dog’s Life (1918), The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952). Later on, in the year 1919, Chaplin along with artists Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith formed the United Artist film distribution company.
Among the greatest success of Chaplin were ‘The Great Dictator’ and ‘The Gold Rush’. In the Great Dictator he played the role of a Jewish barber, which was very much different from the character of the Tramp, yet was considered controversial. Moreover, ‘The Gold Rush (1925)’ was Chaplin’s most remarkable and sensational movie which he also rejuvenated with sound effects later in 1942. He played the character of the Tramp in this movie and portrays the time of hunger in the 19th Century. He got inspirations for the film from the three dimensional pictures of ‘Klondike Gold Rush (1896)’ and by reading a book, ‘Donner Party Disaster (1846)’. The main shooting of the movie took place in the Hollywood studios, where a very small mountain was formed with all the special effects that were required for the film. Two scenes of the movie were a great hit, one where Chaplin boils his shoe and munches it up as if it were very delicious, and the other where he imagines of inviting a pretty girl to a dinner party and puts on a show of dancing legs produced with two forks and rolls. These two scenes were well liked by the spectators and wanted to watch the scenes repeatedly.
In the 1920s sound was added to movies, therefore, Charlie started composing music for all his films. His theme song, ‘Smile’ for his film, ‘Modern Times’ became a hit also and in 1954 was played on billboard charts.
When Chaplin was denied entry to U.S. though he stayed there for many decades but never applied for citizenship, he developed a film ‘A King in New York (1957) based on his experiences. An Academy Award was presented to him in 1972 for “his incalculable effect in making motion pictures the art form of the century.” In 1973 he was awarded the Oscar and allowed entry in the U.S. for his film ‘Limelight (1952)’. He was made Sir Charlie Chaplin, in 1975 after the Queen of England knighted him for his uphill struggle towards entertainment.
Chaplin married and divorced three women paying large amounts of Alimony, had a number of affairs when finally he married Oona O’Neil at the age of fifty four. They had eight children. Chaplin died a natural death in the year 1977 at the age of 88, in his family home in Vevey and was buried in Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery, Switzerland.
Schwartz, Shelly.” Charlie Chaplin”. About.com. 2012. Web. 13th Sept. 2012.
Charlie Chaplin. Web. 13th Sept. 2012.