Legendary actor, Charlie Chaplin, was born Charles Spencer Chaplin on Apr 16, 1889 in Walworth, London, England. Chaplin died at the age of 88 on Dec 25, 1977 in Vevey, Switzerland and was laid to rest in Corsier Cemetery in Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland.
Charlie Chaplin was born Charles Spencer Chapin on April 16th, 1889 in London England. His early life was not an easy one. Although he was born into a middle-class household father abandoned his family for another woman, leaving his sons to be raised by a mentally unstable mother, Hannah. He and his brother would spend much of their childhood in the in harsh London district of Kennington. With an absent father and frequently unemployed vaudevillian mother, the young Chaplin was forced to a workhouse at the age of seven. He and brother were frequently in and out of homes for destitute children. In 1898 his mother was committed to a mental asylum for two month. During her tenure, Chaplin and his brother were sent to stay with their father and young mistress. The two hardly knew their severely alcoholic father and his treatment of his children was not kind and upon their mothers release from the asylum, Chaplin and his brother were returned to her care. Her bouts of sanity were never long and for the next five years Hannah was in and out of the asylums while the young Chaplins was forced to fend for himself. In 1905, the Chaplin brothers were forced to commit their mother permanently.
Early Stage Career
Despite these early hardships, Chaplin was able to maintain a vested interest in the performing arts. His first stage appearance was at the age of five and credits his mother for his growing interest in theatre. Soon, he began touring with a dance troupe and toured through out England in 1900. The venture was not a very profitable one and Chaplin found himself working a series of odd jobs, such as newsvendor, toymaker, and printer to support himself. The next year, in 1901, Chaplin's father died of cirrhosis, a condition he owned to his severe alcohol addiction. Rather than let the loss affect him, Chaplin throw himself further into his dream of being an entertainer and at age 14 landed his first role as newsboy Jim, in A Romance Cockayne. Although the show closed after only two weeks, Chaplin was singled out for his impressive comedic performance. In 1903, more stage work came his way, this time in a traveling production of Sherlock Holmes as Billy the pageboy. The tour was so successful that, in 1905, it eventually moved to London's West End.
In 1906, Chaplin left the show and began touring once again. He traveled with an array of comedic troupes, honing his pantomime acts. He eventually was signed to a contract with the London Coliseum. He slowly built his reputation and was continually given starring roles by 1909. After the success of his new sketch, Jimmy the Fearless, his popularity only grew and Chaplin was one of the few chosen by his company manger to tour the North American Vaudeville circuit. It was during one of these tours that film producer Mack Sennett caught his eye. In July of 1913, Charlie Chaplin signed his first film contract with Keystone Studios.
Early Film Career
At first, Chaplin's Hollywood career seemed dead on arrival. While filming his first Keystone short, Making a Living, Chaplin found the rigorous discipline of the newly born medium of film too much to handle. In the vaudeville circuit, Chaplin was given the time to reflect each performance, allowing slowly and thoughtfully develop a character or routine. At Keystone, however, Chaplin was under contract to produce two films a week; a fast turnaround by even the industry standards. His next film however would prove to be much better experience.
Chaplin debuted his now Iconic Tramp character in Kid Auto Races at Venice. Feeling he had hit the mark with that character, Chaplin made it his silver-screen persona, often at the ire of his directors, whom felt Chaplin was too demanding as an actor. Still an ardent supporter of Chaplin, Sennett simply allowed Chaplin to direct his own film, Caught in the Rain. The film became the biggest success at Keystone to date. He soon directed all of his own shorts, appearing in over 35 films that year. His first feature was the Marie Dressler vehicle, Tillie's True Romance. The film was a huge hit and although Chaplin's role was only supporting, his popularity grew. He also slowed his production rate, spending more time on development and technique. Soon after Chaplin was signed to Essanay Studios when Keystone was unable to match the monetary compensation Chaplin felt he deserved. He was also offered unprecedented creative control over his films and worked towards further development of his ÃÂ"Tramp" Character. Initially criticized as too mean and brutish, Chaplin soon added an effervescent gentleness to his creation. By the time he released 1915's aptly named The Tramp Chaplin was major star.
Move to Mutual and Global Stardom
After his successful tenure at Essanay Studios, in 1916 Chaplin signed with Mutual for a salary that came to over 650,00 dollars a year and his very own Los Angeles studio. At Mutual he was given complete control over his films and began to work at slower, more methodical pace. Rather than churn out 35 films in one year, as he did at his previous studio, in 1917 he released on four films. It was in two of these films, The Immigrant and Easy Street, which Chaplin began to dabble with idea of film as social commentary. His popularity continued to grow and he was now one of the most universally recognized figures in the world. Later that year, he moved to First National studios, where he built his own studio.
His first film for the new company was 1918's A Dog's Life. He continued to spend more and more time on films, putting careful consideration into the mechanics and pathos of his filmmaking. The films were longer, more ambitious but fewer in number. During this time, he also toured the United States to raise money for the war effort and made short, comedic propaganda films. Soon after, he left First National and joined fellow silent stars Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W Griffith to create the distribution company United Artists. Although his first film for the company, 1919's Sunnyside, was successful, it would be his second film that would mark his phase of artistic evolution.
Feature Films and Artistic Growth
In 1921 Chaplin released The Kid, his first feature length film and most ambitious project yet. It starred Chaplin and child actor Jackie Coogan in a story that explores themes of poverty and childhood abandonment and is said his own childhood traumas and experiences. The film was a sensation and his biggest money in Hollywood History with the exception of Birth of a Nation. His next film, the A Woman is Paris, the first feature he would direct but not appear on screen. Although critical acclaimed, ticket sales were much lower than expected. Audiences, it seemed, had no patience for a film made by Chaplin if they could not see Chaplin. He more than made up for his disappointment with his next film, 1925's The Gold Rush. The feature length comedy, which features his famous "Potato Dance" gag, is considered by many to be the finest film of his career.
He was in the midst of a messy divorce during the filming of his project, The Circus and was forced to delay production multiple times. When finally released the film was a hit and at the very first Academy Awards, Chaplin received a special award for his artistic merit. Although sound was quickly becoming the Hollywood standard, Chaplin remained cautious of the new medium. Although considered obsolete, his next film, City Lights, remained silent. The film follows the tramp as he falls in love with a blind flower shop girl and selflessly attempts to save her failing financial situating. Much to the surprise of some early critics, the film was a massive success and became the fourth highest grossing film of the year. It has since become his most critically acclaimed film.
By the time he began production on his next project, 1936's Modern Times, he knew he could not longer avoid sound and made the decision to use them sparingly as sound effect and disingenuous voices. The tramp remained silent save his gibberish, dubbed "a universal language" during the movies musical number. The film was a satire on modern industrial life, and reflected Chaplin's leftist view on the state of labor and capitalism in America. Although considered to be one of his finest efforts, upon it's initial release the film received mixed reviews and was a disappointment at the box-office. His next project, 1940's The Great Dictator, was his most controversial. Becoming more and more alarmed about the state of growing militaristic fascism in world politics, Chaplin unapologetically threw his political views into his work. The film was clearly a satire on the rise in power and politics of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Although film was released to mix reviews, depending on which side of the political spectrum the critic sat, the film was a financial hit and received five Academy Awards, including best picture.
Chaplin's next project, Monsieur Verdoux, was a dark comedy about a serial killer who preys on rich widows. Chaplin also continued to criticize the current capitalist state that he argued fueled wars for profit, greed and caused nothing but destruction. His transformation from the beloved Tramp, to the sophisticatedly charming but murderous Henri Verdoux, however, proved to be too much of a departure for audiences and the film was his first real financial failure. In 1947, Chaplin had been under investigation by the FBI, labeling him a possible threat the national security for his previous support of a joint front with the Soviet Union. So, with his next film, he left politics behind and went for a more personal angle. Limelight is a seemingly semi-autobiographical tale about a popular vaudevillian clown who sinks into depression after losing popularity with his audiences. The film premiered in London and was a hit overseas. However, Chaplin would have to wait two decades to premiere the film in America. Upon trying to re-renter the country in 1952, he was detained and told he would have provided an interview to permit re-entry on account of his leftist political views. He refused and was exiled from America.
Chaplin and his Wife, Oona, moved to Switzerland, cutting all professional ties in America. He created his own production company and began work on his next film, A King in New York in London. The film was released in the European market in 1957. Although the reviews for the film were mixed, the film did moderately well despite not being released in America until 1973. His next film, A Countess from Hong Kong, would also be his last. The Romantic-comedy starred Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren and was released to negative reviews and box-office failure. Film historians often cite audience's change of taste, from the romanticisms of the classical era to the new, gritty, realistically violent films such as Bonnie and Clyde for the films failure.
In 1966 Chaplin suffered a series of minor strokes. This would mark the start of his declining health. With his formerly active lifestyle no longer a choice, Chaplin turned his focus to his older film, re-editing, re-scoring, and re-mastering them. As the conservative political atmosphere of 1950's American began to change into the liberation movements of the sixties, Chaplin politics began to seem of little consequence and there was resurgence of interested of his works. He was made Commander of the national order of the Legion of Honor at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. The next year he would return to America for the first time in 20 years to receive an honorary Academy Award. Although initially hesitant, he would go on to receive the longest standing ovation in Academy Award History, clocking in at 20 minutes. In 1975, he was knighted but soon his health went in to further decline. On December 25th, 1977 Charlie Chaplin died of stroke sleeping in his Switzerland Home. He was 88 years old.
(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Charlie Chaplin was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one for Best Music - Scoring for Limelight in 1972. He also won two Honorary Awards in 1927/28 and 1971 for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century .
|1940||Best Actor||The Great Dictator (1940)||Hynkel, Dictator of Tomania||Nominated|
|1940||Best Writing||The Great Dictator (1940)||N/A||Nominated|
|1947||Best Writing||Monsieur Verdoux (1947)||N/A||Nominated|
|1972||Best Music - Scoring||Limelight (1952)||N/A||Won|
Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)
|1927/28||Special Award||for acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus. [NOTE: "The Academy Board of Judges on merit awards for individual achievements in motion picture arts during the year ending August 1, 1928, unanimously decided that your name should be removed from the competitive classes, and that a special first award be conferred upon you for writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus. The collective accomplishments thus displayed place you in a class by yourself." (Letter from the Academy to Mr. Chaplin, dated February 19, 1929.)]|
|1971||Honorary Award||for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century|
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