Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin Life Overview, Movies, Achievements & More

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London, England, on April 16th, 1889. His mother, Lily Harley, was a lovely actress and singer who came to notoriety in the world of light opera. His father was a talented singer and performer. Charlie Chaplin began his professional career as a member of a juvenile ensemble known as “The Eight Lancashire Lads,” and quickly established himself as a talented tap dancer.

Starting Career of Charlie Chaplin

He had his first chance to act in a genuine theatrical show when he was about twelve years old, when he played “Billy” the page boy in support of H. A. Saintsbury, and subsequently William Gillette in several performances of “Sherlock Holmes.” At the end of this contract, Charlie embarked on a career as a vaudeville comic, which led him to America in 1910 as a featured player with the Fred Karno Repertoire Company.

He became an instant hit with American audiences with his performance in the sketch “A Night in an English Music Hall.” Chaplin got an offer of a motion picture deal when the Fred Karno team returned to the United States for a repeat tour.

Charlie Chaplin
Alf and Amy Reeves, Muriel Palmer & Charlie Chaplin on the boat to America for the 1910 Karno tour

Charlie Chaplin Life Overview

When his vaudeville contracts expired in November 1913, he finally consented to appear in front of the cameras. When he joined Mack Sennett and the Keystone Film Company, he made his debut in the film industry. His original weekly wage was $150. His instant success on film prompted other producers to begin negotiations for his services.

Chaplin moved on to the Essanay Company (1915) after his Sennett contract expired. The following year, Sydney Chaplin returned from England to take his brother’s place as Keystone’s star comedian. Charlie was in high demand the following year. He secured a deal with the Mutual Film Corporation to film 12 two-reel comedies.

The Kid (1921) | Charlie Chaplin

Early in 1921, he released The Kid, a six-reel masterpiece. He introduced Jackie Coogan, one of the greatest child actresses the world has ever known, to the film in it.

Later that year, he released “The Idle Class,” in which he played two roles. Then, in September 1921, Chaplin set off for Europe. He received a thunderous welcome in London, Paris, Berlin, and other European towns.

Chaplin returned to Hollywood after a long holiday to restart his film profession and begin his active association with United Artists. Chaplin made eight feature-length films under his contract with U.A., in the following order:


The Masterpiece of Charlie Chaplin Features

1.      A Woman of Paris (1923)

A Woman of Paris was a bold move in his professional life. He directed a film in which he only featured for a few seconds as an unbilled and unrecognized extra — a porter at a railroad station – after appearing in seventy films in which he appeared in every scene. Until now, every movie was a comedy. A Woman of Paris was a love story.


2.      The Gold Rush (1925)

Chaplin tried to keep his professional and personal life distinct in general, but the two got inexorably and brutally intermingled in this case. He rediscovered Lillita MacMurray, whom he had cast as a pretty 12-year-old in The Kid while looking for a new main woman. Lillita got the contract and renamed Lita Grey. She was still under the age of sixteen.


3.      The Circus (1928)

Charles Chaplin earned his first Academy Award for The Circus. It wasn’t even the “Oscar” at the time. In 1929, he received it at the first awards ceremony. But even as late as 1964, he preferred to forget about it. The reason for this was not the film itself, but the extremely difficult circumstances in which it was made.

Chaplin’s marriage to Lita Grey was breaking up, and the filming of The Circus coincided with one of the most unsavory and scandalous divorces in twenties Hollywood, as Lita’s lawyers tried everything they could to destroy Chaplin’s reputation. As if his domestic woes weren’t bad enough, the picture seemed doomed to failure in every way.

Charli Chaplin
CITY LIGHTS, Charlie Chaplin, 1931

4.      City Lights (1931)

City Lights proved to be Chaplin’s most difficult and time-consuming project. He spent two years and eight months on the project with about 190 days of actual shooting. The amazing thing is that the final product bears no resemblance to the effort and anguish that went into it.

The premieres were among the most spectacular in movie history. Albert Einstein was Chaplin’s guest in Los Angeles. Moreover, Bernard Shaw sat next to him in London. The film City Lights was a critical success. All of Chaplin’s problems and worries seemed to be offset by the picture. Today the picture is popular as the pinnacle of his career and reputation.

Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw
Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw in London

5.      Modern Times (1936)

Chaplin set out to turn his insights and fears into humor in Modern Times. Poverty, unemployment, strikes, and strikebreakers, political intolerance, economic inequalities, the tyranny of the machine, narcotics – the tiny Tramp – described in the film credits as “a Factory Worker” – is now one of the millions struggling with the issues of the 1930s, which are not so dissimilar from those of the twenty-first century.


6.      The Great Dictator (1940)

Chaplin was as famous as Hitler when he wrote The Great Dictator in 1939, and his Tramp character had the same mustache. Chaplin plays two characters in the film. Firstly, a Jewish barber lost his memory in a plane crash during World War I and spent years in a hospital. Before releasing into an antisemitic country, he doesn’t understand. Secondly, Hynkel, the dictator leader of Romania, whose armies are the forces of the Double Cross, and who will do anything to increase his chances of becoming a dictator. Chaplin’s goal is clear, and the picture concludes with the barber giving a now-famous and humanistic statement in Chaplin’s own words.


7.      Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Orson Welles proposed the idea as a proposition for a dramatized documentary about the career of the renowned French murderer Henri Désiré Landru. He was killed in 1922 after killing at least ten people, two dogs, and one boy. Chaplin was a popular target for political witch-hunters in the late 1940s. He was a foreigner with liberal and humanist sympathies. America’s Cold War paranoia reached its pinnacle. This marked the beginning of Chaplin’s final and unhappiest year in the United States, which he would leave permanently in 1952.


8.      Limelight (1952)

With this strong undercurrent of nostalgia, Chaplin worked hard to recreate the London he remembered from half a century earlier. The film’s preliminary notes show that the character of Calvero had a childhood strikingly similar to Chaplin’s own. Limelight’s story of a once-famous music hall performer who no longer finds himself entertaining could have been autobiographical as a nightmare scenario.


9.      A King in New York (1957)

With A King in New York,  Charles Chaplin was the first cinematographer to dare to portray the insecurity and political hatred that gripped America during the Cold War years of the 1940s and 1950s through satire and mockery. Chaplin had firsthand knowledge of the time’s American depression.


10. A Countess from Hong Kong

In 1966, he produced “A Countess from Hong Kong,” his only color film, starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, for Universal Pictures. In the 1930s, a Stowaway project for Paulette Goddard conceived the picture. Chaplin makes a cameo appearance as a ship steward, his son Sydney reprises his role as a leading man, and three of Chaplin’s daughters have minor roles in the picture. The film was a box office failure, but Petula Clark had a couple of hit albums with songs from the soundtrack, and the music is still immensely popular.

Later Years of Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin was a multi-talented artist who dabbled in writing, music, and sports. He wrote at least four books in addition to all of his screenplays. Charlie was a talented musician who, while being self-taught, could play a wide range of instruments with equal ease.

He was also a composer who wrote and published several songs. Charles Chaplin wrote, acted in, directed, and composed the soundtracks for all of his films in addition to financing and producing them. He died on Christmas Day 1977, leaving behind eight children from his previous marriage to Oona O’Neill, as well as one son from his brief marriage to Lita Grey.