Hollywood History: Charlie Chaplin the “Tramp”

Although a well-known name, he was known by many more actor, director, composer, screenwriter, producer, editor, son, brother, husband and father.

Born into a life of poverty on April 16, 1889, in London’s Kennington district, Charlie Chaplin overcame many trials that would beat most to the brink. From and absent father to a mother who was riddled with physical and mental illness.

Charlie Chaplin started performing at a young age, from touring music halls to stage acting and comedy.  The Fred Karno Company signed Charlie when he was 19, which lead him to America. While in America Charlie would be scouted for films and in 1914 began working for Keystone Studios, it was at this time he developed his “Tramp” persona, for which he is best known. During his time with Keystone, he directed his own films and by 1918, he was one of the best-known actors of his time. Also, in 1918, he married Mildred Harris; in 1919, a son was born of this union, and passed 3 days after birth.

In 1919, Charlie Chaplin became the co-founder along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith of a distribution company named United Artists, now Charlie had complete reign over his films. In 1920, his divorced his first wife Mildred. In 1921, Chaplin released his first full-length motion picture titled “The Kid” followed by “A Woman in Paris in 1923.  In 1924, Chaplin marries his second wife Lita Grey, Chaplin had two more films in the 1920’s named “The Gold Rush“, in 1925 also within this year another son was born. In 1927, he divorced Lita Grey, and then in 1928, came the movie “The Circus.”  Chaplin wanting to hold to his roots, he refused to move to “talkies” in the 1930’s, he made two films “City Lights,” in 1931 and “Modern Times” in 1936 were both made with no dialogue. With another well-known script, Charlie Chaplin married yet a third time, this time to Paulette Goddard there were no children from this marriage.

With the world in the middle of a great war, Chaplin became political, and thought to be a communist sympathizer. The 1940’s were not kind to Chaplin; he made a movie in 1940, called “The Great Dictator” in which he played Adenoid Hynkel who parodied Adolf Hitler. The similarities between Hitler and Chaplin did not set well with a country at war, his popularity dwindled, as well as his third marriage he, and Goddard were divorced in 1942. A year later Chaplin would marry Oona O’Neill would prove to be his final wife and mother to eight of his children. In 1947,  Chaplin released the movie” Monsieur Verdoux  Five years later in 1952, while on his way to the opening of “Limelight” the FBI opened a case on him; accused of communist sympathies, and numerous scandals involving other areas of his personal life, Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and settled in Switzerland.  He lived in Switzerland until his death on Christmas Day 1977.

Although Charlie Chaplin’s life was filled hardship and controversy, he indeed was a brilliant man when it came to the motion pictures he created and shall always be the “Tramp”.

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