Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin is the biggest ever silent-movie star, and as director, studio head (he co-founded United Artists), and composer, he excelled in virtually all areas of film-making.
His father was Charles Chaplin Sr. (1863–1901) and his mother, Hannah Chaplin (née Hill, 1865–1928) was Romanichal (English Gypsy). Both Chaplin's parents were entertainers in the music hall tradition: Hannah, the daughter of a shoemaker, had a brief and unsuccessful career under the stage name Lily Harley, while Charles Sr., a butcher's son, worked as a popular singer. The Chaplins became estranged around 1891.
His mother Hannah havd no means of income, other than occasional nursing and dressmaking, and Chaplin Sr. provided no support for his sons. Because of this, Chaplin was sent to a workhouse at seven years old. The council housed him at the Central London District School for paupers. He was briefly reunited with his mother at nine years old, before Hannah was forced to readmit her family to the workhouse in July 1898. The boys were sent to Norwood Schools, another charity institution. In September 1898, Hannah Chaplin was committed to Cane Hill mental asylum—she had developed a psychosis seemingly brought on by malnutrition and an infection of syphilis (with the exception of a brief period, she remained in care until her death in 1928). Chaplin and his brother were sent to live with their father, who was by then a severe alcoholic, and life with the man was bad enough to provoke a visit from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He died two years later, at 37 years old, from cirrhosis of the liver.
By age 13 Chaplin had fully abandoned education and was supporting himself with a range of jobs.
As a child he was confined to a bed for weeks due to a serious illness. At night his mother would sit at the window and act out what was going on outside. This was a major reason Chaplin became a comedian.
He gave the world The Tramp (aka Charlot), one of the most popular icons of the twentieth century: a bowler-hatted and cane-wielding clown who wore oversize shoes and trousers and sported a mustache.
The Tramp's original mustache was made from crepe paper.
He started directing his own films in 1915 (“His New Job” and “The Tramp”).
“The Great Dictator
” was Chaplin's first talkie, and he exploited this by making The Tramp speak out loud to deliver his antifascist message. Sadly, the world did not listen, and after World War II Chaplin seemed to stop caring. The Tramp disappeared, and the few films he made afterward are reflective and acquiescent in tone.
His mother suffered from schizophrenia and was committed to an asylum in 1903.
Chaplin lived a life moving between the poorhouse and various charity homes.
He married four times, had eleven children and many high-profile and stormy romantic liaisons, one of which led to a paternity suit in 1944.
He was branded a coward during World War I by many British and was accused of communist sympathies by the U.S. government in 1947.
In 1952, following a tour to promote Limelight, he was refused re-entry to the United States and so moved to Switzerland. He did not return to the United States until 1971, when he attended the Oscars to collect an honorary lifetime achievement award.
In 1978 his body was stolen from his grave by a group hoping to extort money from his family. His body was eventually recovered and re-buried under concrete to ensure he could rest in peace.
"I am not a communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life," was Chaplin's response to the House Un-American Activities Committee when he was investigated in 1947.
Hitler despised Chaplin (who he believed to have Jewish ancestry), however, he modeled his mustache on Chaplin's Tramp because he thought this would boost his popularity.
The Great Dictator (1940) was banned across Nazi-occupied Europe, but Hitler apparently watched the film twice.
Was once working as a butler in England, a job he enjoyed. He was fired after he was caught playing a trumpet he had found in his employer's attic.
Chaplin's relationships with women were controversial. Nabokiv's Lolita is said to be based on Chaplin's marriage to sixteen-year-old Lita Grey, who was 19 years his junior.
He was the first actor to appear on the cover of "Time" magazine, (July 6, 1925).
He was awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1975 Queen's Honors List for his services to entertainment.
He was an agnostic who believed in some sort of "Supreme Force".
His bowler and cane was sold for $150,000 in 1987.
Battleship Potemkin (1925) was his favorite movie.
Interred at Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery, Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
Making a Living (1914) $150/week
Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) $150/week
Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914) $150/week
Twenty Minutes of Love (1914) $150/week
Caught in the Rain (1914) $150/week
A Night Out (1915)$1,250/week
The Tramp (1915) $1,250/week
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