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Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comedian actor and film director. Chaplin became one of the most famous actors as well as a notable filmmaker, composer and musician in the early to mid Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. He was famous also for his great sense of humor and slapstick comedy skills.

Chaplin acted in, directed, scripted, produced and eventually scored his own films as one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent-film era. Chaplin himself was heavily influenced by a predecessor, the French silent movie comedian Max Linder, to whom he dedicated one of his films. His working life in entertainment spanned over 75 years, from the Victorian stage and the Music Hall in the United Kingdom as a child performer almost until his death at the age of 88. His high-profile public and private life encompassed both adulation and controversy. With Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith, Chaplin co-founded United Artists in 1919.

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Chaplin the 10th greatest male actor of all time. In 2008, Martin Sieff in a review of the book Chaplin: A Life, writes: "Chaplin was not just 'big', he was gigantic. In 1915, he burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through WWI. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler, he stayed on the job. It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most". George Bernard Shaw, having in mind the peerless quality of Chaplin's work and that he performed virtually every role in creating his films – actor, director, producer, scriptwriter, musical scores etc., called Chaplin "the only genius to come out of the movie industry".

Early life

Chaplin c.
1910s
Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on 16 April 1889, in East Street, Walworthmarker, Londonmarker, Englandmarker. His parents were both entertainers in the music hall tradition; his father, Charles Spencer Chaplin Sr, was a vocalist and an actor and his mother, Hannah Chaplin, a singer and an actress. They separated before Charlie was three. He learned singing from his parents. The 1891 census shows that his mother lived with Charlie and his older half-brother Sydney on Barlow Street, Walworth.

As a small child, Chaplin also lived with his mother in various addresses in and around Kennington Roadmarker in Lambethmarker, including 3 Pownall Terrace, Chester Street and 39 Methley Street. His mother and maternal grandmother were from the Smith family of Romanichals, a fact of which he was extremely proud, though he described it in his autobiography as "the skeleton in our family cupboard". Chaplin's father, Charles Chaplin Sr., was an alcoholic and had little contact with his son, though Chaplin and his half-brother briefly lived with their father and his mistress, Louise, at 287 Kennington Road where a plaque now commemorates the fact. The half-brothers lived there while their mentally ill mother resided at Cane Hillmarker Asylum at Coulsdonmarker. Chaplin's father's mistress sent the boy to Archbishop Temples Boys School. His father died of alcoholism when Charlie was twelve in 1901. As of the 1901 Census, Charles resided at 94 Ferndale Road, Lambethmarker, with The Eight Lancashire Lads, led by John William Jackson (the 17 year old son of one of the founders).

A larynx condition ended the singing career of Chaplin's mother. Hannah's first crisis came in 1894 when she was performing at The Canteen, a theatre in Aldershotmarker. The theatre was mainly frequented by rioters and soldiers. Hannah was badly injured by the objects the audience threw at her and she was booed off the stage. Backstage, she cried and argued with her manager. Meanwhile, the five-year old Chaplin went on stage alone and sang a well-known tune at that time, "Jack Jones".

After Chaplin's mother (who went by the stage name Lilly Harley) was again admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum, her son was left in the workhouse at Lambeth in south London, moving after several weeks to the Central London District School for paupers in Hanwellmarker. The young Chaplin brothers forged a close relationship in order to survive. They gravitated to the Music Hall while still very young, and both of them proved to have considerable natural stage talent. Chaplin's early years of desperate poverty were a great influence on his characters. Themes in his films in later years would re-visit the scenes of his childhood deprivation in Lambeth.

Chaplin's mother died in 1928 in Hollywood, seven years after having been brought to the U.S. by her sons. Unknown to Charlie and Sydney until years later, they had a half-brother through their mother. The boy, Wheeler Dryden, was raised abroad by his father but later connected with the rest of the family and went to work for Chaplin at his Hollywoodmarker studio.

America

Making a Living (1914), Chaplin's film debut


Chaplin first toured Americamarker with the Fred Karno troupe from 1910 to 1912. Karno is his fraternal brother in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F). After five months back in England, he returned to the U.S. for a second tour, arriving with the Karno Troupe on 2 October 1912. In the Karno Company was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, who would later become known as Stan Laurel. Chaplin and Laurel shared a room in a boarding house. Stan Laurel returned to England but Chaplin remained in the United States. In late 1913, Chaplin's act with the Karno Troupe was seen by Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Minta Durfee, and Fatty Arbuckle. Sennett hired him for his studio, the Keystone Film Company as a replacement for Ford Sterling. Unfortunately, Chaplin had considerable initial difficulty adjusting to the demands of film acting and his performance suffered for it. After Chaplin's first film appearance, Making a Living was filmed, Sennett felt he had made a costly mistake. Most agree it was Normand who persuaded him to give Chaplin another chance.

Chaplin was given over to Normand, who directed and wrote a handful of his earliest films. Chaplin did not enjoy being directed by a woman, and the two often disagreed. Eventually, the two worked out their differences and remained friends long after Chaplin left Keystone. The Tramp debuted during the silent film era in the Keystone comedy Kid Auto Races at Venice (released on February 7, 1914). Chaplin, with his Little Tramp character, quickly became the most popular star in Keystone director Mack Sennett's company of players. Chaplin continued to play the Tramp through dozens of short films and, later, feature-length productions (in only a handful of other productions did he play characters other than the Tramp).

The Tramp was closely identified with the silent era, and was considered an international character; when the sound era began in the late 1920s, Chaplin refused to make a talkie featuring the character. The 1931 production City Lights featured no dialogue. Chaplin officially retired the character in the film Modern Times (released February 5, 1936), which appropriately ended with the Tramp walking down an endless highway toward the horizon. The film was only a partial talkie and is often called the last silent film. The Tramp remains silent until near the end of the film when, for the first time, his voice is finally heard, albeit only as part of a French/Italian-derived gibberish song. This allowed the Tramp to finally be given a voice but not tarnish his association with the silent era.

In The Great Dictator, Chaplin's first film after Modern Times, Chaplin plays the dual role of a Hitler-esque dictator, and a Jewish Barber. Although Chaplin emphatically stated that the barber was not The Tramp, he retains the Tramp's moustache, hat, and general appearance. Despite a few silent scenes, the barber speaks throughout the film (using Chaplin's own British accent), including the passionate plea for peace that has been widely interpreted as Chaplin speaking as himself.

Two films Chaplin made in 1915, The Tramp and The Bank, created the characteristics of his screen persona. While in the end the Tramp manages to shake off his disappointment and resume his carefree ways, “the pathos lies in The Tramp's hope for a more permanent transformation through love, and his failure to achieve this.” (Article 21, pg 112)

Mack Sennett did not warm to Chaplin right away, and Chaplin believed Sennett intended to fire him following a disagreement with Normand. However, Chaplin's pictures were soon a success, and he became one of the biggest stars at Keystone.

Pioneering film artist and global celebrity

Chaplin in character in the 1910s
Chaplin's earliest films were made for Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios, where he developed his tramp character and very quickly learned the art and craft of film making. The public first saw the tramp when Chaplin, age 24, appeared in his second film to be released (7 February 1914), Kid Auto Races at Venice.

However, he had devised the tramp costume for a film produced a few days earlier but released later (9 February 1914), Mabel's Strange Predicament. Mack Sennett had requested that Chaplin "get into a comedy make-up". As Chaplin recalled in his autobiography:

"I had no idea what makeup to put on.
I did not like my get-up as the press reporter [in Making a Living].
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 to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large.
I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression.
I had no idea of the character.
But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was.
I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born."


"Fatty" Arbuckle contributed his father-in-law's derby and his own pants (of generous proportions). Chester Conklin provided the little cutaway tailcoat, and Ford Sterling the size-14 shoes, which were so big, Chaplin had to wear each on the wrong foot to keep them on. He devised the moustache from a bit of crepe hair belonging to Mack Swain. The only thing Chaplin himself owned was the whangee cane. Chaplin's tramp character would immediately gain enormous popularity among cinema audiences.

Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914): Chaplin's second film and the debut of his "tramp" costume
Chaplin's early Keystones use the standard Mack Sennett formula of extreme physical comedy and exaggerated gestures. Chaplin's pantomime was subtler, more suitable to romantic and domestic farces than to the usual Keystone chases and mob scenes. The visual gags were pure Keystone, however; the tramp character would aggressively assault his enemies with kicks and bricks. Moviegoers loved this cheerfully earthy new comedian, even though critics warned that his antics bordered on vulgarity. Chaplin was soon entrusted with directing and editing his own films. He made 34 shorts for Sennett during his first year in pictures, as well as the landmark comedy feature Tillie's Punctured Romance.

Chaplin's principal character was "The Tramp" (known as "Charlot" in France, and the French-speaking world, Italymarker, Spainmarker, Andorramarker, Portugalmarker, Greecemarker, Romaniamarker and Turkeymarker, "Carlitos" in Brazilmarker and Argentinamarker, and "Vagabond" in Germany). "The Tramp" is a vagrant with the refined manners, clothes, and dignity of a gentleman. The character wears a tight coat, oversized trousers and shoes, and a derby; carries a bamboo cane; and has a signature toothbrush moustache.The Tramp character was featured in the first movie trailer to be exhibited in a U.S. movie theater, a slide promotion developed by Nils Granlund, advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theater chain, and shown at the Loew's Seventh Avenue Theatre in Harlem in 1914.In 1915, Chaplin signed a much more favorable contract with Essanay Studiosmarker, and further developed his cinematic skills, adding new levels of depth and pathos to the Keystone-style slapstick. Most of the Essanay films were more ambitious, running twice as long as the average Keystone comedy. Chaplin also developed his own stock company, including ingénue Edna Purviance and comic villains Leo White and Bud Jamison.

As immigrant groups arrived in waves to America silent movies were able to cross all the barriers of language, and spoke to every level of the American Tower of Babel, precisely because they were silent. Chaplin was emerging as the supreme exponent of silent movies, an emigrant himself from London. Chaplin's Tramp enacted the difficulties and humiliations of the immigrant underdog, the constant struggle at the bottom of the American heap and yet he triumphed over adversity without ever rising to the top, and thereby stayed in touch with his audience. Chaplin's films were also deliciously subversive. The bumbling officials enabled the immigrants to laugh at those they feared.

In 1916, the Mutual Film Corporation paid Chaplin US$670,000 to produce a dozen two-reel comedies. He was given near complete artistic control, and produced twelve films over an eighteen-month period that rank among the most influential comedy films in cinema. Practically every Mutual comedy is a classic: Easy Street, One AM, The Pawnshop, and The Adventurer are perhaps the best known. Edna Purviance remained the leading lady, and Chaplin added Eric Campbell, Henry Bergman, and Albert Austin to his stock company; Campbell, a Gilbert and Sullivan veteran, provided superb villainy, and second bananas Bergman and Austin would remain with Chaplin for decades. Chaplin regarded the Mutual period as the happiest of his career, although he also had concerns that the films during that time were becoming formulaic owing to the stringent production schedule his contract required. Upon the U.S. entering World War I, Chaplin became a spokesman for Liberty Bonds with his close friend Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

Most of the Chaplin films in circulation date from his Keystone, Essanay, and Mutual periods. After Chaplin assumed control of his productions in 1918 (and kept exhibitors and audiences waiting for them), entrepreneurs serviced the demand for Chaplin by bringing back his older comedies. The films were recut, retitled, and reissued again and again, first for theatres, then for the home-movie market, and in recent years, for home video. Even Essanay was guilty of this practice, fashioning "new" Chaplin comedies from old film clips and out-takes. The twelve Mutual comedies were revamped as sound movies in 1933, when producer Amadee J. Van Beuren added new orchestral scores and sound effects. A listing of the dozens of Chaplin films and alternate versions can be found in the Ted Okuda-David Maska book Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp. Efforts to produce definitive versions of Chaplin's pre-1918 short films have been underway in recent years; all twelve Mutual films were restored in 1975 by archivist David Shepard and Blackhawk Films, and new restorations with even more footage were released on DVD in 2006.

Filmmaking techniques

Chaplin never spoke more than cursorily about his filmmaking methods, claiming such a thing would be tantamount to a magician spoiling his own illusion. In fact, until he began making spoken dialogue films with The Great Dictator in 1940, Chaplin never shot from a completed script. The method he developed, once his Essanay contract gave him the freedom to write for and direct himself, was to start from a vague premise — for example "Charlie enters a health spa" or "Charlie works in a pawn shop." Chaplin then had sets constructed and worked with his stock company to improvise gags and "business" around them, almost always working the ideas out on film. As ideas were accepted and discarded, a narrative structure would emerge, frequently requiring Chaplin to reshoot an already-completed scene that might have otherwise contradicted the story. Chaplin's unique filmaking techniques became known only after his death, when his rare surviving outakes and cut sequences were carefully examined in the 1983 British documentary Unknown Chaplin.

This is one reason why Chaplin took so much longer to complete his films than did his rivals. In addition, Chaplin was an incredibly exacting director, showing his actors exactly how he wanted them to perform and shooting scores of takes until he had the shot he wanted. (Animator Chuck Jones, who lived near Charlie Chaplin's Lone Star studio as a boy, remembered his father saying he watched Chaplin shoot a scene more than a hundred times until he was satisfied with it.) This combination of story improvisation and relentless perfectionism—which resulted in days of effort and thousands of feet of film being wasted, all at enormous expense—often proved very taxing for Chaplin, who in frustration would often lash out at his actors and crew, keep them waiting idly for hours or, in extreme cases, shutting down production altogether.

Creative control

Charlie Chaplin Studios, 1922
At the conclusion of the Mutual contract in 1917, Chaplin signed a contract with First National to produce eight two-reel films. First National financed and distributed these pictures (1918-23) but otherwise gave him complete creative control over production which he could perform at a more relaxed pace that allowed him to focus on quality. Chaplin built his own Hollywood studio and using his independence, created a remarkable, timeless body of work that remains entertaining and influential. Although First National expected Chaplin to deliver short comedies like the celebrated Mutuals, Chaplin ambitiously expanded most of his personal projects into longer, feature-length films, including Shoulder Arms (1918), The Pilgrim (1923) and the feature-length classic The Kid (1921).

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the United Artists film distribution company with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith, all of whom were seeking to escape the growing power consolidation of film distributors and financiers in the developing Hollywood studio system. This move, along with complete control of his film production through his studio, assured Chaplin's independence as a film-maker. He served on the board of UA until the early 1950s.

All Chaplin's United Artists pictures were of feature length, beginning with the atypical drama in which Chaplin had only a brief cameo role, A Woman of Paris (1923). This was followed by the classic comedies The Gold Rush (1925) and The Circus (1928).

World premiere of Modern Times (1936), New York
After the arrival of sound films, Chaplin made The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), as well as Modern Times (1936) before he committed to sound. These were essentially silent films scored with his own music and sound effects. City Lights contained arguably his most perfect balance of comedy and sentimentality. Of the final scene, critic James Agee wrote in Life magazine in 1949 that it was the "greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid".

Chaplin's dialogue films made in Hollywood were The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952).

While Modern Times (1936) is a non-talkie, it does contain talk—usually coming from inanimate objects such as a radio or a TV monitor. This was done to help 1930s audiences, who were out of the habit of watching silent films, adjust to not hearing dialogue. Modern Times was the first film where Chaplin's voice is heard (in the nonsense song at the end, being both written and performed by Chaplin). However, for most viewers it is still considered a silent film—and the end of an era.

Although "talkies" became the dominant mode of movie making soon after they were introduced in 1927, Chaplin resisted making such a film all through the 1930s. He considered cinema essentially a pantomimic art. He said: "Action is more generally understood than words. Like Chinese symbolism, it will mean different things according to its scenic connotation. Listen to a description of some unfamiliar object — an African warthog, for example; then look at a picture of the animal and see how surprised you are". Time Magazine, 9 February 1931

It is a tribute to Chaplin's versatility that he also has one film credit for choreography for the 1952 film Limelight, and another as a singer for the title music of The Circus (1928). The best known of several songs he composed are "Smile", composed for the film Modern Times (1936) and given lyrics to help promote a 1950s revival of the film, famously covered by Nat King Cole. "This Is My Song" from Chaplin's last film, "A Countess From Hong Kong," was a number one hit in several different languages in the 1960s (most notably the version by Petula Clark and discovery of an unreleased version in the 1990s recorded in 1967 by Judith Durham of The Seekers), and Chaplin's theme from Limelight was a hit in the 1950s under the title "Eternally." Chaplin's score to Limelight won an Academy Award in 1972; a delay in the film premiering in Los Angeles made it eligible decades after it was filmed. Chaplin also wrote scores for his earlier silent films when they were re-released in the sound era, notably The Kid for its 1971 re-release.


The Great Dictator

Chaplin's first dialogue picture, The Great Dictator (1940), was an act of defiance against German dictator Adolf Hitler and Nazism, filmed and released in the United States one year before the U.S. abandoned its policy of neutrality to enter World War II. Chaplin played the role of "Adenoid Hynkel", Dictator of Tomania, clearly modeled on Hitler. The film also showcased comedian Jack Oakie as "Benzino Napaloni", dictator of Bacteria. The Napaloni character was clearly a jab at Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Fascism.

Paulette Goddard filmed with Chaplin again, depicting a woman in the ghetto. The film was seen as an act of courage in the political environment of the time, both for its ridicule of Nazism and for the portrayal of overt Jewish characters and the depiction of their persecution. Chaplin played both the role of Adenoid Hynkel and also that of a look-alike Jewish barber persecuted by the Nazis, who physically resembles Chaplin's Tramp character. At the conclusion, the two characters Chaplin portrayed swapped positions through a complex plot, and he dropped out of his comic character to address the audience directly in a speech.

He was nominated for Academy awards for Best Picture , Original Screenplay and Best Actor in The Great Dictator.

Politics

Chaplin's political sympathies always lay with the left. His politics seem moderate by some contemporary standards, but in the 1940s his views (in conjunction with his influence, fame, and status in the United States as a resident foreigner) were seen by many as communistic . His silent films made prior to the Great Depression typically did not contain overt political themes or messages, apart from the Tramp's plight in poverty and his run-ins with the law, but his 1930s films were more openly political. Modern Times depicts workers and poor people in dismal conditions. The final dramatic speech in The Great Dictator, which was critical of following patriotic nationalism without question, and his vocal public support for the opening of a second European front in 1942 to assist the Soviet Unionmarker in World War II were controversial. In at least one of those speeches, according to a contemporary account in the Daily Worker, he intimated that Communism might sweep the world after World War II and equated it with human progress .

Apart from the controversial 1942 speeches, Chaplin declined to support the war effort as he had done for the First World War which led to public anger, although his two sons saw service in the Army in Europe. For most of World War II he was fighting serious criminal and civil charges related to his involvement with actress Joan Barry (see below). After the war, the critical view towards capitalism in his 1947 black comedy, Monsieur Verdoux led to increased hostility , with the film being the subject of protests in many U.S. cities . As a result, Chaplin's final American film, Limelight, was less political and more autobiographical in nature. His following European-made film, A King in New York (1957), satirized the political persecution and paranoia that had forced him to leave the U.S. five years earlier. After this film, Chaplin lost interest in making overt political statements, later saying that comedians and clowns should be "above politics" .

McCarthy era

Although Chaplin had his major successes in the United States and was a resident from 1914 to 1953, he always maintained a neutral nationalistic stance. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of "un-American activities" as a suspected communist and J. Edgar Hoover, who had instructed the FBImarker to keep extensive secret files on him, tried to end his United States residency. FBI pressure on Chaplin grew after his 1942 campaign for a second European front in the war and reached a critical level in the late 1940s, when Congressional figures threatened to call him as a witness in hearings. This was never done, probably from fear of Chaplin's ability to lampoon the investigators.

In 1952, Chaplin left the US for what was intended as a brief trip home to the United Kingdom for the London premiere of Limelight. Hoover learned of the trip and negotiated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to revoke Chaplin's re-entry permit, exiling Chaplin so he could not return for his alleged political leanings. Chaplin decided not to re-enter the United States, writing; ".....Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States."

Chaplin then made his home in Veveymarker, Switzerlandmarker. He briefly and triumphantly returned to the United States in April 1972, with his wife, to receive an Honorary Oscar, and also to discuss how his films would be re-released and marketed.


Academy Awards

Chaplin won one Oscar for the Academy Award for Original Music Score, and was given two honorary Academy Awards.

Competitive awards

In 1972, Chaplin won an Oscar for the Best Music in an Original Dramatic Score for the 1952 film Limelight which also was a great hit, which co-starred Claire Bloom. The film also features an appearance with Buster Keaton, which was the only time the two great comedians ever appeared together. Due to Chaplin's political difficulties, the film did not play a one-week theatrical engagement in Los Angeles when it was first produced. This criterion for nomination was unfulfilled until 1972.

Chaplin was also nominated for Best Comedy Director for The Circus in 1929, for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay (although the Academy no longer lists these nominations in their official records because he received a Special Award instead of being included in the final voting for the competitive ones), Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for The Great Dictator in 1940, and again for Best Original Screenplay for Monsieur Verdoux in 1948. During his active years as a filmmaker, Chaplin expressed disdain for the Academy Awards; his son Charles Jr wrote that Chaplin invoked the ire of the Academy in the 1930s by jokingly using his 1929 Oscar as a doorstop. This may help explain why City Lights and Modern Times, considered by several polls to be two of the greatest of all motion pictures, were not nominated for a single Academy Award.

Honorary awards

When the first Oscars were awarded on 16 May 1929, the voting audit procedures that now exist had not yet been put into place, and the categories were still very fluid. Chaplin had originally been nominated for both Best Actor and Best Comedy Directing for his movie The Circus, but his name was withdrawn and the Academy decided to give him a special award "for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus" instead. The other film to receive a special award that year was The Jazz Singer.

Chaplin's second honorary award came forty-four years later in 1972, and was for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century". He came out of his exile to accept his award, and received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history, lasting a full five minutes.

Final works

Chaplin's final two films were made in London: A King in New York (1957) in which he starred, wrote, directed and produced; and A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), which he directed, produced, and wrote. The latter film stars Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, and Chaplin made his final on-screen appearance in a brief cameo role as a seasick steward. He also composed the music for both films with the theme song from A Countess From Hong Kong, "This is My Song," reaching number one in the UK as sung by Petula Clark. Chaplin also compiled a film The Chaplin Revue from three First National films A Dog's Life (1918), Shoulder Arms (1918) and The Pilgrim (1923) for which he composed the music and recorded an introductory narration. As well as directing these final films, Chaplin also wrote My Autobiography, between 1959 and 1963, which was published in 1964.

In his pictorial autobiography My Life In Pictures, published in 1974, Chaplin indicated that he had written a screenplay for his daughter, Victoria; entitled The Freak, the film would have cast her as an angel. According to Chaplin, a script was completed and pre-production rehearsals had begun on the film (the book includes a photograph of Victoria in costume), but were halted when Victoria married. "I mean to make it some day," Chaplin wrote. However, his health declined steadily in the 1970s which hampered all hopes of the film ever being produced.

From 1969 until 1976, Chaplin wrote original music compositions and scores for his silent pictures and re-released them. He composed the scores of all his First National shorts: The Idle Class in 1971 (paired with The Kid for re-release in 1972), A Day's Pleasure in 1973, Pay Day in 1972, Sunnyside in 1974, and of his feature length films firstly The Circus in 1969 and The Kid in 1971. Chaplin worked with music associate Eric James whilst composing all his scores.

Chaplin's last completed work was the score for his 1923 film A Woman of Paris, which was completed in 1976, by which time Chaplin was extremely frail, even finding communication difficult.

Relationships with women, marriages and children

Hetty Kelly

Hetty Kelly was Chaplin's "true" first love, a dancer with whom he "instantly" fell in love when she was fifteen and almost married when he was nineteen, in 1908. It is said Chaplin fell madly in love with her and asked her to marry him. When she refused, Chaplin suggested it would be best if they did not see each other again; he was reportedly crushed when she agreed. Years later, her memory would remain an obsession with Chaplin. He was devastated in 1921 when he learned that she had died of influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Edna Purviance



Chaplin and his first major leading lady after Mabel Normand, Edna Purviance, were involved in a close romantic relationship during the production of his Essanay and Mutual films in 1916–1917. The romance seems to have ended by 1918, and Chaplin's marriage to Mildred Harris in late 1918 ended any possibility of reconciliation. Purviance would continue as leading lady in Chaplin's films until 1923, and would remain on Chaplin's payroll until her death in 1958. She and Chaplin spoke warmly of one another for the rest of their lives.

Mildred Harris



On 23 October 1918, Chaplin, age 29, married the popular child-actress, Mildred Harris, who was 16. They had one son, Norman Spencer Chaplin, born on 7 July 1919, who died three days later and is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood California. Chaplin separated from Harris by late 1919, moving back into the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The couple divorced in November 1920, with Harris getting some of their community property and a US$100,000 settlement. Chaplin admitted that he "was not in love, now that [he] was married [he] wanted to be and wanted the marriage to be a success." During the divorce, Chaplin claimed Harris had an affair with noted actress of the time Alla Nazimova, rumored to be fond of seducing young actresses.

Pola Negri

Chaplin was involved in a very public relationship and engagement to the Polish actress Pola Negri in 1922–23, after she arrived in Hollywood to star in films. The stormy on-off engagement was halted after about nine months, but in many ways it foreshadowed the modern stereotypes of Hollywood star relationships. Chaplin's public involvement with Negri was unique in his public life. By comparison he strove to keep his other romances during this period very discreet and private (usually without success). Many biographers have concluded the affair with Negri was largely for publicity purposes.

Marion Davies

In 1924, during the time he was involved with the underage Lita Grey, Chaplin was rumored to have had a fling with actress Marion Davies, companion of William Randolph Hearst. Davies and Chaplin were both present on Hearst's yacht the weekend preceding the mysterious death of Thomas Harper Ince. Charlie allegedly tried to persuade Marion to leave Hearst and remain with him, but she refused and stayed by Hearst's side until his death in 1951. Chaplin made a rare cameo appearance in Davies' 1928 film Show People, and by some accounts supposedly continued an affair with her until 1931.

Lita Grey

Chaplin first met Lita Grey during the filming of The Kid. Three years later, at age 35, he became involved with the then 16-year-old Grey during preparations for The Gold Rush in which she was to star as the female lead. They married on 26 November 1924, after she became pregnant (a development that resulted in her being removed from the cast of the film). They had two sons, the actors Charles Chaplin, Jr. (1925–1968) and Sydney Earle Chaplin (1926–2009). The marriage was a disaster, with the couple hopelessly mismatched. The couple divorced on 22 August 1927. Their extraordinarily bitter divorce had Chaplin paying Grey a then-record-breaking US$825,000 settlement, on top of almost one million dollars in legal costs. The stress of the sensational divorce, compounded by a federal tax dispute, allegedly turned his hair white. The Chaplin biographer Joyce Milton asserted in Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin that the Grey-Chaplin marriage was the inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov's 1950s novel Lolita.

Merna Kennedy

Lita Grey's friend, Merna Kennedy was a dancer who Chaplin hired as the lead actress in The Circus (1928). It is rumored that the two had an affair during shooting. Grey used the rumored infidelity in her divorce proceedings.

Georgia Hale

Grey's replacement on The Gold Rush was Georgia Hale. In the documentary series, Unknown Chaplin, (directed and written by film historians Kevin Brownlow and David Gill), Hale, in a 1980s interview states that she had idolized Chaplin since childhood and that the then-19-year-old actress and Chaplin began an affair that continued for several years, which she details in her memoir, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups. During production of Chaplin's film City Lights in 1929-30, Hale, who by then was Chaplin's closest companion, was called in to replace Virginia Cherrill as the flower girl. Seven minutes of test footage survives from this recasting, and is included on the 2003 DVD release of the film, but economics forced Chaplin to rehire Cherrill. In discussing the situation in Unknown Chaplin, Hale states that her relationship with Chaplin was as strong as ever during filming. Their romance apparently ended sometime after Chaplin's return from his world tour in 1933.

Louise Brooks

Then a chorine in the Ziegfeld Follies, Louise Brooks met Chaplin when he came to New York for the opening there of The Gold Rush. For two months in the summer of 1925, they cavorted together at the Ritz, and with film financier A.C. Blumenthal and Brooks' fellow Ziegfeld girl Peggy Fears in Blumenthal's penthouse suite at the Ambassador Hotel. Brooks was with Chaplin when he spent four hours watching a musician torture a violin in a Lower East Sidemarker restaurant, an act he would recreate in Limelight.

May Reeves

May Reeves was originally hired to be Chaplin's secretary on his 1931-1932 extended trip to Europe, dealing mostly with reading his personal correspondence. She worked only one morning, and then was introduced to Chaplin, who was instantly infatuated with her. May became his constant companion and lover on the trip, much to the disgust of Chaplin's brother, Syd. After Reeves also became involved with Syd, Chaplin ended the relationship and she left his entourage. Reeves chronicled her short time with Chaplin in her book, "The Intimate Charlie Chaplin".

Paulette Juliet Goddard

Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard were involved in a romantic and professional relationship between 1932 and 1940, with Goddard living with Chaplin in his Beverly Hills home for most of this time.

Chaplin "discovered" Goddard and gave her starring roles in Modern Times and The Great Dictator. Refusal to clarify their marital status is often claimed to have eliminated Goddard from final consideration for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. After the relationship ended in 1940, Chaplin and Goddard made public statements that they had been secretly married in 1936; but these claims were likely a mutual effort to prevent any lasting damage to Goddard's career. In any case, their relationship ended amicably in 1942, with Goddard being granted a settlement. Goddard went on to a major career in films at Paramount in the 1940s, working several times with Cecil B. DeMille. Like Chaplin, she lived her later life in Switzerland, dying in 1990.

Joan Barry

In 1942 Chaplin had a brief affair with Joan Barry (1920-1996), whom he was considering for a starring role in a proposed film, but the relationship ended when she began harassing him and displaying signs of severe mental illness (not unlike his mother). Chaplin's brief involvement with Barry proved to be a nightmare for him. After having a child, she filed a paternity suit against him in 1943. Although blood tests proved Chaplin was not the father of Barry's child, Barry's attorney, Joseph Scott, convinced the court that the tests were inadmissible as evidence, and Chaplin was ordered to support the child. The injustice of the ruling later led to a change in California law to allow blood tests as evidence. Federal prosecutors also brought Mann Act charges against Chaplin related to Barry in 1944, of which he was acquitted. Chaplin's public image in America was gravely damaged by these sensational trials. Barry was institutionalized in 1953 after she was found walking the streets barefoot, carrying a pair of baby sandals and a child's ring, and murmuring: "This is magic".

Oona O'Neill

During Chaplin's legal trouble over the Barry affair, he met Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill, and married her on 16 June 1943. He was fifty-four; she had just turned eighteen. The marriage produced eight children; their last child, Christopher, was born when Chaplin was 73 years old. Oona survived Chaplin by fourteen years, and died from pancreatic cancer in 1991.

Children

Child Birth Death Mother
Norman Spencer Chaplin 7 July 1919 10 July 1919 Mildred Harris
Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. 5 May 1925 20 March 1968 Lita Grey
Sydney Earle Chaplin 31 March 1926 3 March 2009
Geraldine Leigh Chaplin 1 August 1944 Oona O'Neill
Michael John Chaplin 7 March 1946
Josephine Hannah Chaplin 28 March 1949
Victoria Chaplin 19 May 1951
Eugene Anthony Chaplin 23 August 1953
Jane Cecil Chaplin 23 May 1957
Annette Emily Chaplin 3 December 1959
Christopher James Chaplin 6 July 1962


Knighthood

Chaplin was named in the New Year's Honours List in 1975. On 4 March, he was knighted at age eighty-five as a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. The honor was first proposed in 1931, but was not carried through due to lingering controversy over Chaplin's failure to serve in the First World War. Knighthood was proposed again in 1956, but was vetoed by the then Conservative government for fears of damage to relations with the United States at the height of the Cold War and planned invasion of Suez of that year.

Death

Chaplin's robust health began to slowly fail in the late 1960s, after the completion of his final film A Countess from Hong Kong, and more rapidly after he received his Academy Award in 1972. By 1977 he had difficulty communicating, and began using a wheelchair. He died in his sleep in Veveymarker, Switzerlandmarker on Christmas Day 1977. He was interred in Corsier-Sur-Veveymarker Cemetery, Vaudmarker, Switzerlandmarker. On 1 March 1978, his corpse was stolen by a small group of Swiss mechanics in an attempt to extort money from his family. The plot failed, the robbers were captured, and the corpse was recovered eleven weeks later near Lake Genevamarker. His body was reburied under two metres of concrete to prevent further attempts.

Other controversies

During World War I, Chaplin was criticized in the British press for not joining the Army. He had in fact presented himself for service, but was denied for being too small and underweight. Chaplin raised substantial funds for the war effort during war bond drives not only with public speaking at rallies but also by making, at his own expense, The Bond, a comedic propaganda film used in 1918. The lingering controversy may have prevented Chaplin from receiving a knighthood in the 1930s.

For Chaplin's entire career, some level of controversy existed over claims of Jewish ancestry. Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and 40s prominently portrayed him as Jewish (named Karl Tonstein) relying on articles published in the U.S. press before, and FBI investigations of Chaplin in the late 1940s also focused on Chaplin's ethnic origins. There is no documentary evidence of Jewish ancestry for Chaplin himself. For his entire public life, he fiercely refused to challenge or refute claims that he was Jewish, saying that to do so would always "play directly into the hands of anti-Semites." Although baptised in the Church of England, Chaplin was thought to be an agnostic for most of his life.

In 1924, Chaplin was aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst when producer Thomas Ince died there in mysterious circumstances. A dramatization of one reported version of these events is depicted in Peter Bogdanovich's 2001 film The Cat's Meow. The precise circumstances of Ince's death are still not known.

Chaplin's lifelong attraction to younger women remains another enduring source of interest to some. His biographers have attributed this to a teenage infatuation with Hetty Kelly, whom he met in Britain while performing in the music hall, and which possibly defined his feminine ideal. Chaplin clearly relished the role of discovering and closely guiding young female stars; with the exception of Mildred Harris, all of his marriages and most of his major relationships began in this manner.

Legacy



Comparison with other silent comics

Since the 1960s, Chaplin's films have been compared to those of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd (the other two great silent film comedians of the time), especially among the loyal fans of each comic.

The three had different styles: Chaplin had a strong affinity for sentimentality and pathos (which was popular in the 1920s), Lloyd was renowned for his everyman persona and 1920s optimism, and Keaton adhered to onscreen stoicism with a cynical tone more suited to modern audiences. On a historical level, Chaplin was behind the pioneering generation of film comedians, and both the younger Keaton and Harold Lloyd built upon his groundwork (in fact, Lloyd's early characters "Willie Work" and "Lonesome Luke" were obvious Chaplin ripoffs, something that Lloyd acknowledged and tried hard to move away from—eventually succeeding). Chaplin's period of film experimentation ended after the Mutual period (1916-1917), just before Keaton entered films.

Commercially, Chaplin made some of the highest-grossing films in the silent era; The Gold Rush is the fifth with US$4.25 million and The Circus is the seventh with US$3.8 million. However, Chaplin's films combined made about US$10.5 million while Harold Lloyd's grossed US$15.7 million (Lloyd was far more prolific, releasing twelve feature films in the 1920s while Chaplin released just three). Buster Keaton's films were not nearly as commercially successful as Chaplin's or Lloyd's even at the height of his popularity, and only received belated critical acclaim in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Beyond a healthy professional rivalry, former vaudevillians Chaplin and Keaton thought highly of one another. Keaton stated in his autobiography that Chaplin was the greatest comedian that ever lived, and the greatest comedy director. Chaplin also greatly admired Keaton: he welcomed him to United Artists in 1925, advised him against his disastrous move to MGM in 1928, and for his last American film, Limelight, wrote a part specifically for Keaton as his first on-screen comedy partner since 1915.

Media

image:Charlie Chaplin, bond of friendship, 1918.ogg|A video clip from the silent film, The Bond (1918)image:Charlie Chaplin, the Marriage Bond.ogg|A video clip from the silent film, The Bond (1918)image:Charlie Chaplin, The Bond, 1918.ogg|A video clip from the silent film, The Bond (1918)

Filmography

Chaplin wrote, directed, and starred in dozens of feature films and short subjects. Highlights include The Immigrant (1917), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and The Great Dictator (1940), all of which have been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Three of these films made the AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies and AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies lists: The Gold Rush, City Lights, and Modern Times.

See also



Notes

Further reading

  • Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography. Simon & Schuster, 1964.
  • Charles Chaplin: Die Geschichte meines Lebens. Fischer-Verlag, 1964. (germ.)
  • Charlie Chaplin Die Wurzeln meiner Komik in: Jüdische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, 3.3.67, gekürzt: wieder ebd. 12.4. 2006, S. 54 (germ.)
  • Chaplin: A Life by Stephen Weissman Arcade Publishing 2008.
  • Charles Chaplin: My Life in Pictures. Bodley Head, 1974.
  • Alistair Cooke: Six Men. Harmondsworth, 1978.
  • S. Frind: Die Sprache als Propagandainstrument des Nationalsozialismus, in: Muttersprache, 76. Jg., 1966, S. 129-135. (germ.)
  • Georgia Hale, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups, edited by Heather Kiernan. Lanhammarker: Scarecrow Press, 1995 and 1999. ISBN 157-886-0040 (1999 edition).
  • Victor Klemperer: LTI - Notizbuch eines Philologen. Leipzig: Reclam, 1990. ISBN 337-900-1252; Frankfurt am Main (19. A.) 2004 (germ.)
  • Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp, Ted Okuda & David Maska. iUniverse, New York, 2005.
  • Chaplin: His Life and Art, David Robinson. McGraw-Hill, second edition 2001.
  • Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema, Jeffrey Vance. Abrams, New York, 2003.
  • Charlie Chaplin: A Photo Diary, Michel Comte & Sam Stourdze. Steidl, first edition, hardcover, 359pp, ISBN 388-243-7928, 2002.
  • Chaplin in Pictures, Sam Stourdze (ed.), texts by Patrice Blouin, Christian Delage and Sam Stourdze, NBC Editions, ISBN 2-913986-03-X, 2005.
  • [452]Double Exposure: Charlie Chaplin as Author and Celebrity, Jonathan Goldman. M/C Journal 7.5.


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