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The Life and Career of Charlie Chaplin

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He is considered one of the most pivotal stars of the silent film era and early Hollywood. Born April 16th, 1889 in Walworth, London, Charles Spencer Chaplin grew up in a family of music hall performers. Interestingly, his start as an entertainer came especially early in life at the age of five. Joining several musical groups and comedy troupes, he later came to America and made it big as The Tramp, a popular character with a toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane and funny walk. In this video, WatchMojo.com takes a look at the life and career of silent era movie icon and comedian Charlie Chaplin.
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The Life and Career of Charlie Chaplin

He is considered one of the most pivotal stars of the silent film era and of early Hollywood. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be taking a look at the life and career of Charlie Chaplin.

Born April 16th, 1889 in Walworth, London, Charles Spencer Chaplin grew up in a family of music hall performers.

Interestingly, his start as a performer came especially early in life. A musically-inclined five-year-old Chaplin was discovered by his mother’s stage manager after her voice broke unexpectedly on stage. The young boy was promptly ushered on stage to save the show by singing a popular melody.

Already comfortable with audiences, and interested in becoming an entertainer, Chaplin started his acting career only three years later when he began touring with The Eight Lancashire Lads musical troupe.

A decade later in 1910, at the age of 18, he joined the Vaudeville Troupe’s variety entertainment show to perform in America.

In 1913, Keystone Studios’ popular comedy director Mack Sennett discovered the gifted performer on stage in New York.

In short order, Charlie landed several film studio contracts to direct and appear in dozens of films as his comedic persona ‘The Little Tramp,’ a role that debuted in 1914’s ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice.’

As the popular character with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane and funny walk, the comedian starred in such silent comedies as ‘The Tramp’ and ‘The Bank.’

Due to his instant success, and his interest in sitting in the director’s chair, he formed Chaplin Studios in 1916. Three years later, he joined forces with other Hollywood heavyweights to form United Artists.

Despite a highly successful film career, both on and off the screen, and his achievement of worldwide popularity, Chaplin was not immune to scandal.

The first instance of gossip occurred during World War I, when his loyalty to his home country of England was called into question. Due to the fact that he had never applied for US citizenship, and had chosen to stay away from battle, critics in his home nation labeled him a coward.

This negative backlash was further exasperated with the help of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who voiced suspicions that Chaplin’s films, such as ‘The Great Dictator’, used comedy to spread communist propaganda.

As a result, when Chaplin travelled to London for the premiere of his 1952 film ‘Limelight’ he was denied re-entry to the United States due to these suspicions of communist ties. Without recourse, the actor decided to re-settle his family in Switzerland.

Despite this negative press, he was awarded several honors around the world. For example, he was given the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor by France in 1952, and 20 years later was honored with an Academy Award for his immeasurable contributions to the motion picture industry of the twentieth century.

Living an unconventional lifestyle, he married four times over the course of his life, and raised 11 children, all while preferring to live in shabby accommodations, despite his immense fortune.

Not even his death of natural causes in 1977 at the age 88 kept him out of the tabloids, as his corpse was stolen from its grave and not recovered for three months.

To this day, Charlie Chaplin is considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema. His movies are still popular throughout the world, and he continues to make audiences laugh as The Little Tramp, a positive character inhabiting a world of chaos.
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