Charlie Chaplin

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For the Jamaican musician named Charlie Chaplin, see Charlie Chaplin (singer); for the artist and printmaker, see Charles Chaplin (artist).
Chaplin in his costume as "The Tramp"
Chaplin in his costume as "The Tramp"

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, (16 April 188925 December 1977) was an English actor, the most famous actor in early to mid Hollywood cinema, and also a notable director. His principal character was "The Tramp": a vagrant with the refined manners and dignity of a gentleman who wears a tight coat, oversized pants and shoes, a derby or bowler hat, a bamboo cane, and his signature square mustache. Chaplin was one of the most creative personalities in the silent film era; he acted in, directed, scripted, produced, and eventually scored his own films.


Private life

Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in "City Lights" (1931)
Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in "City Lights" (1931)

Chaplin's professional successes were repeatedly overshadowed by his private life, particularly with regard to his politics and his pattern of relationship with young women. On October 23, 1918, the 28 year old Chaplin married the 16-year-old Mildred Harris. They had one child, Norman Spencer Chaplin, who died in infancy; they divorced in 1920. At 35, he became involved with 16-year-old Lita Grey during preparations for The Gold Rush. They married on November 26, 1924 after she became pregnant. They had two sons, the actors Charles Chaplin Jr. (1925-1968) and Sydney Earle Chaplin. Their extraordinarily bitter divorce in 1928 had Chaplin paying Grey a then-record-breaking $825,000 settlement. The stress of the sensational divorce, compounded by a tax dispute, allegedly turned his hair white. The publication of court records, which included many intimate details, led to a campaign against him. Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard were involved in a romantic and professional relationship between 1932 and 1940, with Goddard living with Chaplin in his Beverly Hills home for most of this time. After the relationship ended, Chaplin made public statements that they had been secretly married in 1936, but in private he claimed they were in fact never officially married. In any case, their common-law marriage ended amicably in 1942, with Goddard being granted a divorce and settlement. Afterwards, Chaplin briefly dated actress Joan Barry, but ended it when she started harassing him and displaying signs of severe mental illness. In May 1943, she filed a paternity suit against him. Blood tests proved Chaplin was not the father, but as blood tests were inadmissible evidence in court, he was ordered to pay $75 a week until the child turned 21. Shortly thereafter, he met Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill, and married her on June 16, 1943. He was 54; she was 17. This marriage was a long and happy one, with eight children. They had three sons Christopher Chaplin, Eugene Chaplin and Michael Chaplin and five daughters Geraldine Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Jane Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin and Annette-Emilie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in "Modern Times" (1936)
Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in "Modern Times" (1936)

In April 1972, Chaplin returned to America to accept an Honorary Academy Award. The presentation is remembered as one of the emotional highlights in all of Academy Award history. Chaplin's weeklong return visit to the US, his last, also included numerous honors in both New York and Los Angeles.

On March 4, 1975 he was knighted as a Knight of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. The honour was first proposed in 1956, but vetoed by the British Foreign Office on the grounds that he sympathized with the left and that it would damage British relations with the United States, at the height of the Cold War and with planning for the ill-fated invasion of Suez underway.

Chaplin died on Christmas Day, 1977 in Vevey, Switzerland, following a stroke, aged 88, and was interred in Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery in Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Vaud. On 1 March 1978, his body was stolen in an attempt to extort money from his family. The plot failed. The robbers were captured, and the body was recovered 11 weeks later near Lake Geneva. There is a statue of Chaplin in front of the alimentarium in Vevey to commemorate the last part of his life.

Amongst his many honours, Chaplin has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1985 he was honoured with his image on a postage stamp of the United Kingdom and in 1994 he appeared on a United States postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

In 1992 a film was made about his life entitled Chaplin, directed by Oscar-winner Sir Richard Attenborough, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Dan Aykroyd, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie's daughter, portraying Charlie's mother, her own grandmother), Sir Anthony Hopkins, Milla Jovovich, Moira Kelly, Kevin Kline, Diane Lane, Penelope Ann Miller, Paul Rhys, Marisa Tomei, Nancy Travis, and James Woods.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted among the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

All his life, Chaplin was known to be an avowed atheist. He had nothing but contempt for any form of religion. He once joked, "I would love to play the part of Jesus! I fit it perfectly because I am a comedian".


"The bond of friendship" (info)
A video clip from the silent film, "The Bond" (1918).
"The marriage bond" (info)
A video clip from the silent film, "The Bond" (1918).
"U.S. Liberty Bonds" (info)
A video clip from the silent film, "The Bond" (1918).
Charlie Chaplin gets hit by Cupid (info)
This clip has Chaplin falling in love with a beautiful woman, with some help from Cupid.
Problems seeing the videos? Media help.



Feature films

(as actor and director except as noted)

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

Charlie Chaplin

Feature-length films: Tillie's Punctured Romance, The Kid, A Woman of Paris, The Gold Rush, The Circus, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight, A King in New York, A Countess From Hong Kong

Selected short films: The New Janitor, Behind the Screen, The Immigrant

Other: Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Chaplin

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