Information on Charlie Chaplin

Information on Charlie Chaplin

The contributions of this maverick performer to cinema and the arts are immeasurable. Charlie Chaplin's satire was a bold comment on political and social situations and he often paid the price for voicing his opinions.
A day without laughter is a day wasted. ―Charlie Chaplin

The early years of Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr, were marked by poverty and self-reliance. Born on April 16, 1889, in London, he spent the initial years of his childhood being shunted around with his mother, who was an actor. His singer father, Charles Chaplin, after whom he was named, deserted the family when he was three, and eventually died of alcoholism. Greatly contributing to Charlie's unstable childhood were his mother's frequent visits to mental hospitals. Consequently, he started working at the age of 10 as a mime, and thus commenced the stage life of this creative genius. His debut performance was as a member of a group called 'The Eight Lancashire Lads'. He inherited his incredible vocal and acting talents from his parents.

The Entertainer
He first received recognition for his performance in Fred Karno's Speechless Comedians, when they traveled to the United States in 1910. However, it was only during his second trip in 1912, that he was offered a motion picture contract. His foray into films took place under the umbrella of the Keystone Film Company in Mack Sennett's film Making a Living, in 1914. The movie received wide accolades, and catapulted him to fame. His second film 'Kid Auto Races at Venice', presented and immortalized the character of the tramp, an image that will forever be synonymous to Charlie Chaplin.

In 1915, Chaplin moved to the Essanay Company, after the completion of his contract with Sennett, where his half-brother Sydney replaced him. Within a year, he moved again, this time to the Mutual Film Corporation, who offered him $670,000 to produce a dozen two-reel comedies. This deal allowed him considerable creative freedom, and almost every film he spun for them was a classic. Among them, Easy Street, One AM, The Pawnshop, and The Adventurer are perhaps the best known. When his contract with Mutual expired in 1917, he decided to embark on his own, a move that allowed him to devote more time to each film, and fashion them according to his own technique. Along with his films, he also started the construction of his own studio.

In 1918, he made the film, 'The Bond', which became popular for its use by the US government to popularize the Liberty Loan drive. By 1919, he had ultimate creative control. Not only did he own a studio, but he also formed United Artists along with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith, which resulted in him controlling every aspect of the filmmaking process―producing, casting, directing, writing, scoring, and editing the movies he starred in. The Kid, his first full-length magnum opus, made in 1921, received such unanimous acclaim, that it is considered one of the greatest triumphs of his career. He received his second Academy Award, which was a special award, 'for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus', in 1929. The following years, the masterpieces he made included A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), and Monsieur Verdoux (1947).

An artist extraordinaire, his talent extended beyond movies. He authored several books, including his autobiography. He mastered the violin, cello, and several other musical instruments. Apart from the soundtracks for all his films, he also wrote and published numerous songs.

Personal Life
Chaplin's life was peppered with several tumultuous relationships. His tempestuous relationship with Polish actress Pola Negri took place in the media glare. He married four times, though his last marriage to Oona O'Neill is considered the most successful. He had eight children from his marriage with Oona, and one son from his short marriage to Lita Grey. His image suffered when a public paternity suit was filed against him in 1943, by Joan Barry with whom he had a brief affair. Even though he was not the father, he was ordered to support the child.

He was also persecuted for his political and moral beliefs, which caused him to reside abroad for extended periods of time. He sympathized with pacifists, communists, and Soviet supporters, which brought him under the scanner, several times.

In 1975, Charlie Chaplin was named Knight Commander of the British Empire. Two years later, on December 25, he died in his sleep from old age.

The legacy of films that Charlie Chaplin left behind have their place in history for enabling the transition of cinema to art. His success is reflected in millions around the world who have the image of the 'tramp' emblazoned in their hearts and minds, as the greatest comedian of all times.
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