- Category : Actor
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 1
English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film. He is perhaps best known for his creation of the memorable character, the Tramp, also known as the Little Fellow or simply Charlie.
As the younger son of music hall entertainers and a gifted mime, he first went on stage at age five. From 1895 until her death on August 28, 1928, his mother was in and out of institutions with physical and emotional problems. With an alcoholic father who could not care for them, Charlie and his older half-brother Sydney were placed in children's homes and workhouses. At age ten, Charles took to the stage with Sydney as the boys tried to fend for themselves. Charlie made his professional debut as a member of a juvenile group called "The Lancashire Lads." He soon became the group's top tap dancer. At age 14, he got his first acting gig in a legitimate stage show, "Sherlock Holmes," when he appeared as Billy the page boy. When the play closed, he began his career as a Vaudeville comedian and first came to the United States in 1910 with the Fred Karno Repertoire Company. American audiences were enamored with him. In 1912, on a repeat tour in the U.S., Chaplin was offered a motion picture contract and agreed to do movies as soon as his Vaudeville contract ended in 1913. He joined Mack Sennett and the Keystone Film Company in December of that year. With Keystone, he turned out as many as 35 films per year. His first film, "Making a Living," was released in February 1914 and later that month, Chaplin assembled the costume of his trademark character, the Tramp, a persona that would serve him well in his life. His success caught the attention of other producers and in 1915 he joined the Essanay Company on the prospect of earning a great deal more money. That year, he released his movie, "The Tramp." By 1916, more in demand than ever, he signed with the Mutual Film Corporation for a still larger salary, turning out such hits as "The Floorwalker," "the Fireman, "The Vagabond," and others.
After his contract with Mutual ended in 1917, he decided to become an independent producer. He built his own studios in Hollywood and in 1918 entered into an agreement with First National Exhibitors Circuit to promote his pictures. He continued to make hilarious movies that appealed to post-World War I audiences. In April 1919, he joined with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith to found United Artists Corporation. In 1921, he produced his six-reel masterpiece, "The Kid," introducing child-star Jackie Coogan to audiences everywhere. In 1921, he sailed for a well-deserved European vacation and was received warmly on his home continent.
Under his arrangements with United Artists, Chaplin made eight feature movies, including "Gold Rush" (1925), "City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and "The Great Dictator (1940) in which he played a dual role and talked on screen for the first time. In 1957, he wrote, acted in, directed and composed the music for "A King in New York." In 1966, he produced his last picture "A Countess form Hong Kong" for Universal Pictures.
Despite his lack of formal education and a poverty-stricken deprived childhood, Chaplin was a self-made artistic genius. In addition to his achievements on the stage and in the movie industry, he wrote his own scripts, authored four books and composed several songs and soundtracks for his film. He had taught himself to play a variety of instruments and cultivated a life-long interest in music.
With a predilection for young beauties, he married four times, first to actress Mildred Harris, only 16 at the time of their marriage on October 23, 1918. They had a child who was born deformed in July 1919 and died three days later. He and Mildred divorced two years later in November 1920. In 1924, he married Lita Gray, age 16 and pregnant at the time. They had two sons, Charles Spencer, Jr., born May 5, 1925, and Sydney Earle, born on March 30, 1926. He secretly married his third wife, well-known actress, Paulette Goddard in 1935 when she was 19 and he was 44. News of their union wasn't released until the following year, and they divorced in 1942. His fourth marriage to Oona O'Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neil, was reputed to be a true partnership and lasted the rest of his life. They married on June 16, 1943 when he was 54 and she was 18. Their marriage produced eight children, including actress Geraldine Chaplin, who starred in Dr.Zhivago.
Chaplin had never become a U.S. citizen and his left-of-center politics raised suspicion that he was a Communist. His legal and political troubles began in 1943, when actress Joan Barry filed an ugly paternity suit against him. In the course of investigations, Chaplin was charged with two federal crimes: violations of the Mann Act which forbade taking people across state lines for illicit sexual purposes and several counts of violations of Joan Barry's civil rights. By 1945, the federal charges were dropped but his reputation had been somewhat tarnished. Blood tests proved he was not the father but were inadmissible under California state law, and he was ordered to pay for child-support until the child reached age 18. With the onset of the Cold War, suspicion about his Communist leanings proliferated. Thus, in September 1952, two days after he and his family set sail for a London premiere of his movie "Limelight," the US Attorney General revoked his re-entry permit, claiming that Chaplin would have to prove himself morally and politically fit to return to the US. Chaplin chose instead to remain in exile, living out the rest of his life in an elegant manor near Vevey, Switzerland.
He was knighted by the Queen in 1975. On December 25, 1977 at 4:00 AM in Corsier-sur-Vevey, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 88. His wife Oona lived until the age of 66, dying September 27, 1991.