Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin yawning
Sir Charles Chaplin KBE, an English film actor, film maker and composer, in one of his classic poses.

Important moments in Chaplin's life

  • Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on 16 April 1889.
  • Chaplin's childhood was fraught with poverty and hardship.
  • Hannah, his mum, had no means of income. As the situation deteriorated, Chaplin was sent to Lambeth Workhouse when he was seven years old.
  • Between his time in the poor schools and his mother succumbing to mental illness, Chaplin began to perform on stage.
  • Six months into a second American tour, Chaplin was invited to join the New York Motion Picture Company.
  • Chaplin thought the Keystone comedies "a crude mélange of rough and rumble", but liked the idea of working in films. He met with the company and signed a $150-per-week ($3,635 in 2016 dollars) contract in September 1913.
  • He was not used in a picture until late January, during which time Chaplin attempted to learn the processes of filmmaking.

More history

  • The one-reeler Making a Living marked his film acting debut and was released on 2 February 1914. Chaplin strongly disliked the picture, but one review picked him out as "a comedian of the first water".
  • For his second appearance in front of the camera in Mabel's Strange Predicament, Chaplin selected the costume with which he became identified. He described the process in his autobiography:
    "I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large ... 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."
  • "The Tramp" character, as it became known, debuted to audiences in Kid Auto Races at Venice – shot later than Mabel's Strange Predicament but released two days earlier.
  • Chaplin asserted a high level of control over his pictures and started to put more time and care into each film.
  • Chaplin also began to alter his screen persona, which had attracted some criticism at Keystone for its "mean, crude, and brutish" nature. The character became more gentle and romantic; The Tramp (April 1915) was considered a particular turning point in his development.
  • During 1915, Chaplin became a cultural phenomenon. Shops were stocked with Chaplin merchandise, he was featured in cartoons and comic strips, and several songs were written about him.
  • In 1916, a contract was negotiated with Mutual that amounted to $670,000 a year, which Robinson says made Chaplin – at 26 years old – one of the highest paid people in the world.

Film highlights

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

Charles Chaplin:
quote borrowed by Richard Roud, director of the New York Film Festival, to introduce the program notes for the gala attended by honoree Charlie Chaplin that was held at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City (1972) - also quoted in "Chicago Tribune" (1972).

Other Links

Charlie Chaplin's Honorary Award: 1972 Oscars
Music in Charles Chaplin

Created and coded by Anthony Bonello, 2017.