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Date Posted: 20:10:11 08/07/00 Mon
Author: Laura
Subject: Here's a report on Charlie Chaplin!
In reply to: Lax29 's message, "Report on Chaplin" on 14:20:00 04/16/99 Fri

Actor, producer, screenwriter, director, composer. Born April 16, 1889, in London, England. Chaplin was introduced early on to performing, as both of his parents were music hall entertainers. After a double tragedy--his mother had a nervous breakdown and his father died when Charlie was five--he and his half-brother, Sydney, became street urchins, in and out of charity homes. After a time in an orphanage, Chaplin toured England with a children’s musical troupe, the Eight Lancashire Lads, a job which led to small roles on the London stage. At age 17, he joined the Karno music hall revue and toured the United States. In 1913, the film producer Mack Sennett signed him to his Keystone Company for a salary of $150 per week. His first film for Keystone was Making a Living (1914). In Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), Chaplin introduced the character who would become his trademark, the “Little Tramp.” Complete with bowler hat, cane, baggy pants, and too-big shoes, Chaplin would soon become the first-ever movie star and arguably the most innovative pioneer in movie history.
While at Keystone, Chaplin made over 20 short films in one year, many of which he also wrote and directed. Meanwhile, he carefully honed the character of the Tramp—despite the appearance of spontaneity and improvisation, he worked out every last detail of his films. By 1915, he had become such a popular actor that he signed with the Essanay film company for $1,250 per week, plus a $10,000 signing bonus. In his 1915 film, The Tramp, Chaplin starred for the first time with Edna Purviance, who would play his version of an ideal woman in every one of his films for the next eight years. In most of his films, Chaplin performed one kind deed after another for the sake of the women he adored, but he ultimately understood that they could never be expected to fall in love with a Tramp like him.

In 1916, Chaplin moved to the Mutual Film Corporation, where a string of popular short (two-reel) films like The Pawnshop (1916), One A.M. (1916), The Immigrant (1917), and Easy Street (1917) made him an international star. He soon began working as an independent filmmaker, distributing through the First National Exhibitors Circuit, and was responsible for every aspect of the making of the films he starred in, including writing, directing, producing, casting, and editing. Films made during this period included the longer, three-reel features A Dog’s Life (1918) and Shoulder Arms (1918)—the latter set on the battlefields of Europe—and the unprecedented six-reel The Kid (1921), which became one of the biggest hits yet in film history (its popularity was exceeded only by D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, Birth of a Nation).

In 1919, Chaplin and Griffith founded the United Artists Corporation (UA) with Chaplin's fellow silent-screen stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Chaplin’s first film with UA, A Woman of Paris (1923) was also his first full-length feature and his last film with Purviance. He wrote and directed the film, but appeared only briefly, as a railroad porter. In 1925, the Little Tramp made his UA debut, in The Gold Rush, the film Chaplin called “the picture I want to be remembered by.” Chaplin was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1928 for his film The Circus.

Refusing to give in to the growing pressure to add sound to his films, Chaplin scored another huge hit with 1931’s City Lights, a story of the Tramp and his hopeless love for a blind flower girl. Chaplin did set the film to music, however, and also added sound effects. From then on, he wrote the musical scores for all his films and added musical tracks to a number of his old silent classics. He eventually jumped on the miraculous bandwagon of "talkies," giving the Tramp his only talking sequence on film (a garbled sing-song sequence) in Modern Times (1936).

Besides being a deft comic actor with an impeccable sense of timing and a studiously straight face, Chaplin brought a distinct take on various social and political issues to many of his films. The Great Dictator (1940), his first full-length talkie, combined slapstick with a sharp, satirical kind of political commentary—Chaplin played a dual role as a Jewish barber reminiscent of the Tramp and Adenoid Hynkel, the maniacal Hitler-like dictator of the country of Tomania. The film also featured Jack Oakie as Benzino Napaloni of Bacteria, a clear send-up of Benito Mussolini. In 1947, Chaplin brought a distinctly post-war, post-Holocaust vision to another brilliant, socially conscious film, Monsieur Verdoux.

By the early 1950s, Chaplin’s liberal political views drew criticism in the growing atmosphere of suspicion promulgated by Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist crusade. After releasing his last great film, Limelight (1952), Chaplin—who had never applied for U.S. citizenship—was in England when he was informed that he might not be permitted back into the States because of his alleged leftist views. He settled with his family in Switzerland. Due to pronounced public anger against Chaplin, his first European film, the gently satirical A King in New York (1957), was not even released in America until 1973. In 1967, Chaplin released his final film, the low-budget picture A Countess From Hong Kong, starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando.

In 1972, after 20 years, Chaplin was invited back to the United States to receive another honorary Academy Award. Reestablished in the public’s mind as one of the true geniuses in filmmaking history, Chaplin was knighted in 1975 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Chaplin often drew criticism about his personal life and his well-documented penchant for much younger women. In addition to his four wives, Chaplin was romantically linked to a number of other women, including the actresses Pola Negri and Louise Brooks. Chaplin’s first marriage, to Mildred Harris, ended in divorce in 1920 after two years. He met his second wife, Lita Grey, when she appeared in The Kid at age 12. They married in 1924, when she was 16, and had two sons, Charles Jr. and Sydney, before divorcing in 1927. Chaplin married the actress Paulette Goddard in the early 1930s (the exact date is in dispute); the couple divorced in 1942. In 1943, another actress, Joan Barry, named Chaplin in a paternity suit; although his denial was backed by some genetic evidence, the court ruled in Barry’s favor. In June 1943, Chaplin married Oona O’Neill, the 18-year-old daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill. The couple had eight children and remained together until Chaplin’s death on December 25, 1977, in Switzerland.

© 2000 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.

1914 Mabel At the Wheel
1914 The Star Boarder
1914 Her Friend the Bandit
1914 The Rounders
1914 The Masquerader
1914 Laughing Gas
1914 The Knockout
1914 The Fatal Mallet
1914 Dough and Dynamite
1914 Tango Tangles
1914 Recreation
1914 Gentlemen of Nerve
1914 Kid Auto Races at Venice
1914 His Prehistoric Past
1914 Those Love Pangs
1914 The Property Man
1914 Making a Living
1914 A Busy Day
1914 Mabel's Busy Day
1914 His Musical Career
1914 Caught in a Cabaret
1914 Between Showers
1914 Cruel, Cruel Love
1914 The New Janitor
1914 His Favorite Pastime
1914 Tillie's Punctured Romance
1914 Getting Acquainted
1914 His New Profession
1914 The Face on the Bar Room Floor
1914 Making a Living
1914 A Film Johnnie
1914 His Trysting Place
1914 Twenty Minutes of Love
1914 Caught in the Rain
1915 The Champion
1915 Shanghaied
1915 Work
1915 A Jitney Elopement
1915 A Woman
1915 A Night in the Show
1915 A Night Out
1915 His New Job
1915 Burlesque on Carmen
1915 Mixed Up
1915 In the Park
1915 The Tramp
1915 The Bank
1915 His Regeneration
1915 By the Sea
1916 The Vagabond
1916 The Fireman
1916 Police
1916 The Count
1916 One A.M.
1916 The Rink
1916 Behind the Screen
1916 The Floorwalker
1916 The Pawnshop
1917 Easy Street
1917 The Cure
1917 Chase Me Charlie
1917 The Immigrant
1917 The Adventurer
1918 Triple Trouble
1918 The Bond
1918 A Dog's Life
1918 Shoulder Arms
1919 Sunnyside
1919 A Day's Pleasure
1921 The Kid
1921 The Idle Class
1921 The Nut
1922 Pay Day
1923 Hollywood
1923 Souls for Sale
1923 The Pilgrim
1923 A Woman of Paris
1925 The Gold Rush
1928 The Circus
1931 City Lights
1936 Modern Times
1940 The Great Dictator
1947 Monsieur Verdoux
1950 Herrliche Zeiten
1952 Limelight
1957 A King in New York
1967 A Countess from Hong Kong

Charlie Chaplin: A Tramp's Life Biography video

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