The Little Tramp
Charles Chaplin's parents, Charles and Hannah Chaplin, were music hall entertainers. His first stage
appearance, at age five, was singing a song in place of his mother who had become ill. At eight he toured in a musical "The Eight Lancaster Lads". Nearly eleven, he appeared in "Giddy Ostende" at
London's Hippodrome. From age 17 to 24 he was with Fred Karno's English vaudeville troupe which brought him to New York in 1910, aged 21. In November of 1913 he signed a contract with Mack Sennett (Keystone) and left
for Hollywood the next month. His first movie Making a Living (1914) premiered in February of 1914. He did 35 films that year, moved to Essanay in 1915 and did 14 more, moved on to Mutual for 12 two-reelers 1916-7. In
1918 he joined First National (later absorbed by Warner Bros.) and in 1919 forms United Artists along with Douglas Fairbanks Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. His first full-length film Kid, The (1921) came out in 1921;
his first for UA, fully produced and directed by himself, Woman of Paris, A (1923), was released in 1923. In 1929 he won a special award "for versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing
Circus, The (1928) at the first Oscar awards. In 1943 he was unfairly accused of fathering a child; the papers made much of the scandal. The same year he entered his fourth marriage, to Oona, daughter of playwright
'Eugene O'Neill'. They had eight children. Tired of political and moralistic controversies and plagued by tax collectors, he left the United States for Switzerland in 1952. He published his memoirs in 1964. In 1972 he
returned to Hollywood to claim a special Oscar honoring his lifetime contributions to movies. He was named Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1975. He died in his sleep from old age.
IMDb mini-biography by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Oona Chaplin (1943 - 25 December 1977) (his death); 8 children
Paulette Goddard (1933 - 1942) (divorced)
Lita Grey (1924 - 1927) (divorced); 2 sons
Mildred Harris (I) (1918 - 1920) (divorced)
with toothbrush mustache, undersized bowler hat and bamboo cane who struggled to survive while keeping his dignity in a world with great social injustice.
Destroyed the original negative of "The Sea Gull" (1933) before a number of witnesses. The film never
saw release, possibly because Chaplin was dismayed by the poor performance of his lead actress, Edna Purviance.
Grandfather of Dolores Chaplin
Grandfather of Carmen Chaplin
Chaplin thought his
period with Mutual was the most consistently pleasant period in his career, although he felt that the plots of the films got too formualic for his taste.
(October 1997) Ranked #79 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
Chaplin was 28 years old when he wed Mildred Harris (I); she was 16.
He was 35 years old when he wed Lita Grey; Lita was 16.
He was 44 years old when he wed Paulette Goddard; Paulette was 19.
He was 54 years old when he wed 'Oona O'Neill'; Oona was 18.
On 3 March
1978 his dead body was stolen from the Sur-Vevey cemetery. It took until 18 May when the police found it.
Chaplin's Beverly Hills residence was known as "Breakaway House". Designed by Chaplin himself
and built by studio carpenters, it began falling to bits over the years, much to the amusement of visitors. Built on Summit Drive in the Pickfair neighborhood, the house boasted a pipe organ Chaplin continually used to
entertain his guests in the great hall; he also screened his films there. His tennis court was a hive of activity; even the elusive Greta Garbo was a frequent player. He seems to have been an inspiring host; many of his
guests joined in with his antics, and reflected that they had never been so funny before or since -- it was the influence of Chaplin.
Half-brother of Syd Chaplin
Father of Charles Chaplin Jr.
Father of Sydney Chaplin (I)
Father, with O'Neill, of Geraldine Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Christopher Chaplin, Jane, Eugene, Michael Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin; and Annette-Emilie.
subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Council (HUAC) in September of 1947, but his appearence was postponed three times, and he never appeared. He sent HUAC a telegram stating "I am not a Communist,
neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life". HUAC determined that it was no longer needed for Chaplin to appear.
Knighted in 1975.
In her book,
"Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, " Joyce Milton asserts that Nabokov's controversial classic, "Lolita, " was inspired by Chaplin's relationship with Lita Grey. On the 100th anniversary of Charlie
Chaplin's birth, celebrations were held in Corsier and Vevey, Switzerland, where he last lived. For the occasion, a hundred children from the region performed a choreography dressed up as little tramps.
Interred at Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery, Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
He once entered a Charlie Chaplin-look-a-like-contest and finished third!
Stan Laurel was Charlie Chaplin's understudy on the English stage.
When both Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin moved to America they shared a room in a boarding house.
Cooking was not allowed in the
boarding house where Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin stayed, so Chaplin would play the violin to cover up the sound of Laurel frying up food on a hot plate.
Invented his tramp costume with the help of Fatty
Arbuckle's pants. Arbuckle's father-in-law's derby, Chester Cockline's cutaway, Ford Sterling's size 14 shoes, and some crepe paper belonging to Mack Swain (which became the tramp's moustache). The only item that
actually belonged to Charlie Chaplin was the whangee cane.
His bowler and cane was sold for $150,000 in 1987
Half brother of Wheeler Dryden
Chaplin was the first actor to appear on the cover of 'Time' magazine, (July 6, 1925).
He was also the first actor to have a comic strip about him; Ed Carey's 1916 strip, "Pa's Imported Son-in-Law,"
detailed the adventures of Chaplin.
"All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl"
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, composer. (b. Apr. 16, 1889,
London; d. Dec. 25, 1977.) He has been called the single most in- fluential artist in the history of motion pictures; certainly no other movie star enjoyed the international, iconographic status he attained early in the
silent era and maintained well past the coming of sound. And certainly no other creative talent did as much as he to elevate screen comedy to a high art. Perhaps most significant, though, is the fact that he helped make
the motion picture a medium of emotional expression, taking it forever out of the category of a mere flickering novelty.
Charles Spencer Chaplin was born to British music-hall entertainers who had skirted around
the edges of prosperity without ever achieving it. His parents separated when he was only a year old, and he stayed with his mother, whose stage career dissipated as he got older. Chaplin's father died a hopeless
alcoholic, and his mother's increasingly fragile health and tenuous mental state forced him and older half-brother Sydney to work for their suppers. Already steeped in show-business traditions, he did some childhood
hoofing and occasionally acted on the legitimate stage. At the age of 17 he joined the music hall troupe of impresario Fred Karno, with whom he honed his pantomimic skills.
While touring with Karno in America in
1912, Chaplin-whose comic drunk was the highlight of the troupe's show-was seen by Mack Sennett, the godfather of movie comedy, who hired him away to appear in moving pictures. He debuted on screen in Making a Living
(1914), all but unrecognizable in top hat, frock coat, and mustache. Kid Auto Races at Venice (also 1914) saw him wearing a derby hat and droopy trousers, and brandishing a cane; it was the first appearance of what
would come to be known as "the Little Tramp," a character Chaplin continued to refine in his short-subject appearances during a year-long tenure with Sennett's Keystone company.
He began directing with
his 13th film, Caught in the Rain (also 1914), and gradually moved away from the simple slapstick frenetics of the Keystones. Already a familiar face to moviegoers, and an increasingly valuable property to Sennett,
Chaplin felt he was worth more than the $175 a week he was getting paid, and in 1915 signed with Essanay (another pioneering film company) for $1,250 a week with bonuses. He maintained complete creative control over his
short subjects, and during the Essanay period evolved the Tramp character further, adding the little subtleties and the touch of pathos for which he became famous worldwide. The Tramp was truly an Everyman for
international audiences, all of whom could easily identify with the downtrodden little fellow whose eternal optimism in the face of adversity inspired them all. It was The Tramp (1915) that gave audiences their first
glimpse of a Chaplin trademark: the final shot of the little fellow, alone, shuffling away from the camera down a long, barren stretch of road.
In 1916 Chaplin moved operations to Mutual. By now he commanded a
weekly salary of $10,000 (with bonuses adding up to $150,000), enjoyed creative autonomy, and was given a month to produce each of his two-reel comedies-in an era when most were cranked out in a few days. With his
characterization set, he applied himself to crafting his films with painstaking precision, often improvising and rehearsing for days to get a sequence that might last only a minute or less. His skill at pantomime and
his athletic flair for expressive physical comedy manifested themselves in set pieces that were choreographed like dance routines with splitsecond timing. Easy Street, The Rink, The Cure and The Immigrant are just a few
of the brilliant comedies Chaplin made during his stay at Mutual in 1916-17.
First National beckoned him with a million-dollar contract in 1918, demanding only a minimal output (initially eight two-reelers per
year) but anticipating the same huge worldwide profits that had come to be expected of his films. A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms (both 1918), and The Kid (1921, his first feature film) are among his best efforts for First
National. As well compensated as he was, though, Chaplin longed for the total freedom and security of his own company. In 1919 he cofounded, along with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D. W. Griffith, the United
Artists Corporation, through which the four cinematic giants would release their subsequent product. When Chaplin's contract with First National ran out, he made films exclusively for UA distribution, never again
returning to the shackles of a studio contract.
He directed his first United Artists release, the sophisticated A Woman of Paris (1923), which starred his former leading lady Edna Purviance and Adolphe Menjou;
Chaplin himself took only a brief cameo. The film flopped badly, and a chastened Chaplin returned to the security of his Little Tramp for The Gold Rush (1925), one of his enduring masterpieces, still an often-revived
favorite from the silent era. It exuded the great attention to detail, both in setting and performance, that would become a Chaplin hallmark even as it reduced his output. Fully three years elapsed between it and The
Circus (1928), another fine comedy, for which he was awarded a special Oscar at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1928.
Chaplin had by this time already been the recipient of unwanted controversy. Although he
campaigned vigorously for the sale of U.S. War Bonds during World War 1, he was castigated for not returning to his homeland to join the Armed Forces (actually, a medical problem kept him out of uniform). His penchant
for younger women found him marrying two 16-yearolds, Mildred Harris (an actress from whom he was divorced after two years) and Lita Grey (who bore him two sons and won a million-dollar divorce settlement after three
years), a 19-year-old starlet, Paulette Goddard (from whom he was divorced in 1942), and finally, 18-year-old Oona O'Neill (the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill). All these liaisons generated reams of unwelcome
In 1928, the talking-picture revolution threw the entire movie industry into turmoil, but Chaplin dealt with sound in his own unique way: He simply ignored it. He reckoned, correctly, that sound would
ruin the simple appeal of his Tramp character, and hurl the pathetic little figure into a world more real (and certainly more coarse) than the stylized fantasy milieu he then inhabited. City Lights (1931), his next and
arguably greatest picture, made certain concessions: It sported a fully orchestrated musical score-composed, for the most part, by Chaplin himself-and used sound effects sparingly, and to clever effect. The story itself
concerned the Tramp's efforts to help the blind girl he loved hopelessly, and the final scene-in which, having had her sight restored through his efforts, the girl first sees that her benefactor is a shabby little
wretchstill brings sobs to the throats of audiences with its exquisite poignancy.
Modern Times (1936) saw Chaplin flouting convention yet again by delivering to moviegoers another silent film. Another masterwork,
it costarred Paulette Goddard, the former chorus girl whom he married in 1933. A brilliant commentary on the insanity of a rapid-paced, highly industrialized (and, in Chaplin's view, dehumanized) society, it delighted
audiences with richly orchestrated comic set pieces. Unfortunately, its apparent anticapitalist overtones would come back to haunt the filmmaker years later.
The Great Dictator (1940) earned Chaplin several Oscar
nominations-for his acting, the script, and Best Pictureand saw him tackle dialogue for the first time. It offered a relentlessly ridiculous caricature of Hitler and Nazism, and gave movie fans their last look at the
Little Tramp, incarnated for this picture only as a Jewish barber whose resemblance to a fascist dictator gets him into trouble.
Chaplin was off the screen for seven years, during which time the motion picture
matured to the point where his next contribution didn't seem nearly as important as his previous efforts. Monsieur Verdoux (1947), a bitter, cynical black comedy, cast him as a murderous Bluebeard, a characterization
not appreciated by film fans of the day. (It did, however, get nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar.) The story's pacifist leanings ran him afoul of political conservatives in America, then marshaling their forces for
the Cold War against Communism. They pointed to Verdoux and also to Modern Times and its implied distaste for capitalism, and set Chaplin up to be knocked down by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which
suspected him of being a Communist. He denied the charges while testifying before the committee, but public outcry for his deportation continued.
Chaplin, for all his years in America, never bothered to become a
citizen, and when he went to London in 1952 with fourth wife Oona, he was informed that he would not get a reentry visa to America. Ironically, he was on his way to the British premiere of Limelight his nostalgic tale
of a once-great music-hall performer fallen on hard times. Although the film had several wonderful sequencesincluding one that teamed him with another legendary film comic, Buster Keaton-it impressed many as overlong
and indulgent. With the U.S., his most important market, sour on him, Chaplin found himself the producer of another flop. (Because it was never "officially" released in Los Angeles in 1952, Limelight was
eligible for an Academy Award twenty years later, and in fact won one, for Best Score, in 1972!)
A profoundly bitter Chaplin resolved never to return to America. He settled in Switzerland with Oona and their
children (one of whom, Geraldine, became an actress in film), lampooning with consid- erable bitterness American manners and mores in A King in New York (1957, unreleased in the U.S. until 1976), and gamely attempting a
directorial comeback with A Countess From Hong Kong (1967), a totally anachronistic, poorly realized romantic comedy starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren.
In 1972 Chaplin consented to return to America for the
Academy Awards ceremony, where he was presented a special Oscar for career achievement to a tumultuous ovation from the assembled crowd of Hollywood dignitaries. He was similarly feted later at New York's Philharmonic
Hall, and was knighted by the Queen in 1975. His "My Autobiography" was published in 1964. A biographical film, Chaplin was released in 1992.