The GREAT Charlie Chaplin!! I remember as a kid, I would watch Chaplin films with my Uncle in sheer amazement!! Even as a child, I could see the overwhelming talent!! My uncle was a HUGE fan and Chaplin collector. I became a HUGE fan!! After that .. I concluded he was the best entertainer to ever live, (& continue that belief today!) I inherited my Uncle's mass collection of Chaplin memorabilia when he died..and I am still collecting today. Two things I collect - Charlie Chaplin, and ALF (tv show) memorabilia. If you got any for sale...holla!! Any film Chaplin did...very cool stuff!! You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't know who Charlie Chaplin is!! He was as brilliant as he was creative! In my opinion, the first rebel of Hollywood. Truely AHEAD of his time. I have always believed that if ANYONE'S birthday should be a national holiday, it should be Charlie's. He certainly ranks with Martin Luther King with a message of peace! If you dispute that...then you can leave my site!! That said, he would learn entertainment and politics should be kept seperate. Piss people off, and the business impacts are disasterous. In this day and age, he would fit perfectly in the eb and flow of Hollywood - not, however, during the Golden age and he would ultimatly be NON-successfully shut out of the industry he was instrumental in creating an image for. Dispite the shit he went through, he would always come to SMILE whatever his situation!! I'm convinced there could not be a better theme song than SMILE, when it comes to the Tramp!!
He was born Charles Spencer Chaplin, on April 16, 1889, in the Walworth town of London, England. Born into a family of entertainers .. and it would come to be a saving grace. He lived here. His parents were entertainers and took many addresses all over the U.K., and Charlie and brother, Sydney going from school to school. His father, an alcoholic, and his mother seperated before Charlie was 3. Unbeknownst to little Charlie, his father was a celebrated vaudevillian actor in England. He had a half brother Sydney as well... same mum, different dad. With BOTH of his parents entertainers, he got a double whammy of talent! Charlie was a natural entertainer from the getgo..entertaining himself before he could walk or talk. He got his first gig at age 5, singing in place of his mother when she fell hoarse. The applause was thunderous! While Charlie did see his dad, (Charles, Sr.), on occasion, and lived with him for a time as a kid with half brother Sydney... his father was often absent from his life... though Charlie's dad did love his son and tried to show him while he was with him. His childhood took a harsh hardship at the age of 9 when Charlie lost his father and shortly thereafter their mom became mentally ill. Charlie and his brother were forced to admit their mom into a med facility asylum and spent time in a board school. They formed a very tight bond to support each other. Young Charlie turned to the only thing he knew .. entertaining. He would join a group in his teens called “The Eight Lancashire Lads.” With this troupe, he would tour to America and it was during this first tour that he was spotted by a fella working for D.W. Griffith named, Mack Sennett, who vowed 'if he ever became a studio head, he would sign Chaplin.' Charlie loved America and vowed to return to America to 'make it.' Charlie was highly favored by the group, and indeed, a 2nd tour was planned a few years later. Young Charlie was a hit with audiences. In 1910, he got the chance to come to America with the company to perform in a production called, “A Night in an English Music Hall”. It was such a hit, a encore performance was sketched. It was while touring America for his 2nd tour with the troupe, Charlie received a telegram & was offered a motion-picture contract working for film-pioneer Mack Sennett's 'Keystone Studios,' making $150 dollars a week in November of 1913. It was a change working with crews in front of cameras, from performing on-stage in front of live audiences. A bigger demand as well that Charlie had trouble getting used to. It was a change in demand that Charlie eventually adapted to. Before Charlie's adapting, Mack briefly thought he made a mistake hiring Charlie. Mack was told by some directors that quote, 'he was a son-of-a-bitch to work with. Mack quickly changed his mind of ANY mistakes when he got a telegram from his studio's financial company in New York .. stating... "HURRY UP with the Chaplin films - they are in HIGH demand." That telegram led to Chaplin writing and directing his own films for Keystone. Being billed as Keystone Studio's top star... and Keystone is where Charlie would develop the Tramp charactor. By 1914, he was working with another studio and racked up 35 films in 1914 alone. His brother would too, join the Keystone Film Company. By 1915, Charlie was writing, producing, and starring in his own pictures for a company called Mutual Pictures. A big jump working in Charlie's favor. This provided an opportunity for Charlie to channel his creativity the way he saw fit...albeit filtered. Filtered, meaning, through studio heads that were distributing his films. With this taste of freedom, he wanted full control over his work. He wasn't alone in this thinking...
He'd see it in 1917, when 26 top theater chains, (after seeing the success of Paramount's distribution of films) .. wanting to do more than just show films, formed First National Exhibitors. The idea was a nizzle of a dizzle, (NEATO!), for, it seemed, everyone involved in the deal. This formation would rid theaters of restrictions and provisions of the major film companies .. namely Paramount .. and not only allow them to show films the way they so chose to do so, but allow creative minds to make films the way they so chose to do so. It was exactly what Charlie, and some others in Hollywood who felt they were censored by big studios, wanted and needed! It wasn't long before they were knocking on Charlie's door. He quickly signed, and First National advanced him $125,000 for each of eight pictures, which Chaplin would produce independently. With this new endeavor, he built his own studio in 1917. (Chaplin Studio, at 1416 N. La Brea Ave, at the corner of DeLongpre St., in Hollywood (Chaplin had previously been under contract to Mutual, and had a studio at 1025 Lillian Way, called Chaplin-Mutual, which, for a short time, was Buster Keaton’s studio). Chaplin’s La Brea studio would eventually become A&M Records, and is now Jim Henson Productions. See here for picture tour. OR see here for an awesome video tour!
To keep the neighbors in the new area appeased, he had the roofing built to blend with houses in the area. The whole First National deal sounded too good to be true... AANNNDD .. it was! After the formation of First National Exhibitors, Paramount's Adolph Zukor .. no doubt, scared shitless in seeing a massive money loss in Paramount's distribution, cut a deal with First National to lift ALL Paramount restrictions and all theaters share in the success of Paramount films. First National caved to Paramount and a deal for merger was set. This rightly pissed Charlie, and the others First National had drafted, off BIG TIME! So they basically invested in their own plan.
The merger fell through, but it was too late for First National. They had lost the talent they had secured and thus were absorbed by Warner Bros. in 1928, but not before the talent finished out their contracts.
Upon Charlie's return to the United States, he was refreshed and filled with creativity devoted solely to his new partnership company, United Artists. His next film, 1923's 'A Woman of Paris,' was a change for Charlie in the fact that, outside of a few scenes, instead of starring in the film -he fullfilled a long dream he'd had by directing the film. Charlie's next film would start what would ultimatly be riddled with BIG problems for him. The film was to be called, 'The Gold Rush'. Needing a leading lady for the film, he secured Lilita MacMurray, who had played in Charlie's previous film 'The Kid,' as a 12 year old girl. She was right for the part, and for Charlie, apparently. Her name was changed to Lita Grey. During the filmming, the two engaged in a romance that would produce a pregnancy 6 months into the filmming, forcing the two into marriage. The marriage, however, did result in two children .. Charlie, Jr and Sydney.
By 1927, Charlie's marriage was unraveling. He was filmming 'The Circus,' which was proving to be problematic in itself and was dealing with the stress of Lita's lawyer on a daily basis. The lawyer was bound and determined to ruin Charlie's reputation publicly any way she could. The result?? Charlie's first Acadamy Award! A BIG screw you to Lita and her lawyer were in order, i'm sure. It would have been for me! The divorce happened, and Charlie was ready to begin fresh with his next film ... it would be just as marred with problems. The biggest problem was competing with an industry that had all but abandoned silent films, for 'talkie' pictures. Charlie's defining charactor was The Tramp. A well known mime. A mime that could speak to movie-goers without speaking. Now that the industry was 'talking pictures,' would the Tramp still resonate? A mime couldn't be in a 'talkie' picture. With that in mind, production began on 1931's 'City Lights.' As he did in all his films, Charlie put his all into it. There was no talking in it, but Charlie added the touch of a radio playing The result...a resounding success! While movie-goers loved this new 'talking-in-film' phenomenon ... provisions were made for the Tramp. He was the Tramp afterall!! After the premiere of 'City Lights,' Charlie took some time off to reflect. During this time, he went back to England where amongst the depression, he became irate of unemployment and wealthy hotshots living high on the hog, while they invested more and more in machines to do what workers were doing ... resulting in mass layoffs. In 1931 he was quoted as saying, “Unemployment is the vital question . . . Machinery should benefit mankind. It should not spell tragedy and throw it out of work”. He had celebrity, a spotlight, and was ready to use it to let his ideas be known in Hollywood
Upon his return to the United States, production started on his next film, Modern Times. It was well-recieved and seemed to mirror what the average working American was thinking. His following films ... were cause for confusion for some movie patrons. They started to contain more and more of Charlie's leftist political views. In the 1946 film, 'The Great Dictator,' Charlie donned a Hitler style antic to the film. Charlie played the role of "Adenoid Hynkel" Dictator of Tomania. This was his first 'talkie' film as well. Other times, Charlie would drop out of his comic charactor to address the audience something political. This was the lighting of the wick to the bomb that would eventually go kaboomie!
Charlie's actions were starting to being questioned by the government. Upon his return trip to the U.K. in 1952 for the premiere of his film Limelight, J. Edgar Hoover (sarcasticartwork by me), instructed the FBI & state dept. to not allow Charlie back into the United States citing his ideas and views were questionable. This, in my opinion, forever solidifying J. Edgar Hoover as one of the biggest pricks to ever be in government.
Charlie decided not to re-enter the United States, releasing a statement, quote, "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."
From 1969 until 1976, Chaplin wrote original music compositions and scores for his silent pictures and re-released them., including the lyrics to his theme song with help voicing it by Nat King Cole.
Sadly, he would never finish the films he was working on. His health rapidly deteriorated and by 1977, he had difficulty communicating, and was using a wheelchair. Chaplin died in his sleep in Vevey, Switzerland on Christmas Day 1977. RIP Charlie!! Words cannot even discribe how giant your legend is!! Leave virtual flowers and comments at his grave here.
Chaplin never spoke more than cursorily about his filmmaking methods, claiming such a thing would be tantamount to a magician spoiling his own illusion. OHH, How I would LOVE to know just a pinch of his secret!!
Later in life...Charlie admitted that politics should never be mixed in any business endevour, and yet every word (if you believe in terms of morality) was true in 'The Great Dictator' speech!! Have a listen ... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------>
Charlie Chaplin images & likeness from 1918 onwards and images from those films Copyright (c) Roy Export S.A.S.