- NAME: Charlie Chaplin
- OCCUPATION: Comedian
- BIRTH DATE: April 16, 1889
- DEATH DATE: December 25, 1977
- PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland
- Full Name: Sir Charles Spencer, KBE
- AKA: Charles Chaplin
- Originally: Charles Spencer Chaplin
- AKA: Charlie Chaplin
Best Known For
Charlie Chaplin was a comedic British actor who became one of the biggest stars of the 20th century's silent-film era.
Charlie Chaplin: On Broadway (1:48)
Robert Downey Jr. - Full Episode (45:13)
Watch a short video about Charlie Chaplin and his years of filmmaking that charmed audiences around the world.
Charlie Chaplin began acting on stage at the age of 13. He toured the United States in vaudeville, and soon started performing in films, rising to fame with "The Champion," "A Night Out," and "The Tramp."
Actor Rob McClure, who portrays Charlie Chaplin in "Chaplin: The Musical," discusses what it's like to play "The Little Tramp" and Chaplin's legacy as a performer and director. (Video courtesy of Chaplin: The Musical)
In the 1980s, Robert Downey Jr. starred in several high grossing movies, eventually earning an Oscar nomination for "Chaplin." Downey was arrested in 1996 and his brushes with the law continued until 2000 when he cleaned up his act.
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Born on April 16, 1889, in London, England, Charlie Chaplin worked with a children's dance troupe before making a huge mark on the big screen. His character "The Tramp" relied on pantomime and quirky movements to become an iconic figure of the silent-film era. Chaplin went on to become a director, making films like City Lights and Modern Times, and co-founded the United Artists Corporation. He died in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland, on December 25, 1977.
"I want to see the return of decency and kindness. I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy."
"I am for people. I can't help it."
"The Zulus know Chaplin better than Arkansas knows Garbo."
"The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury."
"All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl."
"I remain just one thing, and one thing only—and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician."
"I am known in parts of the world by people who have never heard of Jesus Christ."
"I went into the business for the money, and the art grew out of it."
"The summation of my character is that I care about my work. I care about everything I do. If I could do something else better, I would do it, but I can't."
"I've always related to a sort of a comic spirit, something within me, that said, I must express this. This is funny."
"Cruelty is a basic element in comedy. What appears to be sane is really insane, and if you can make that poignant enough they love it."
"I don't think one can do humor without having great pity and a sense of sympathy for one's fellow man."
"I think life is a very wonderful thing, and must be lived under all circumstances, even in misery."
"All my pictures are built around the idea of getting in trouble and so giving me the chance to be desperately serious in my attempt to appear as a normal little gentleman."
"Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself."
"Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot."
"A day without laughter is a wasted day."
Famous for his character "The Tramp," the sweet little man with a bowler hat, mustache and cane, Charlie Chaplin was an iconic figure of the silent-film era and one of film's first superstars, elevating the industry in a way few could have ever imagined.
Born Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England, on April 16, 1889, Charlie Chaplin's rise to fame is a true rags-to-riches story. His father, a notorious drinker, abandoned Chaplin, his mother and his older half-brother, Sydney, not long after Chaplin's birth. That left Chaplin and his brother in the hands of their mother, a vaudevillian and music hall singer who went by the stage name Lily Harley.
Chaplin's mother, who would later suffer severe mental issues and have to be committed to an asylum, was able to support her family for a few years. But in a performance that would introduce her youngest boy to the world of performance, Hannah inexplicably lost her voice in the middle of a show, prompting the stage manager to push the five-year-old Chaplin, whom he'd heard sing, onto the stage to replace her.
Chaplin lit up the audience, wowing them with his natural presence and comedic angle (at one point he imitated his mother's cracking voice). But the episode meant the end for Hannah. Her singing voice never returned and she eventually ran out of money. For a time, Charlie and Sydney had to make a new, temporary home for themselves in London's tough workhouses.
Armed with his mother's love of the stage, Chaplin was determined to make it in show business himself and in 1897 using his mother's contacts landed with a clog dancing troupe named the Eight Lancashire Lads. It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could.
"I (was) newsvendor, printer, toymaker, doctor's boy, etc., but during these occupational digressions, I never lost sight of my ultimate aim to become an actor," Chaplin later recounted. "So, between jobs I would polish my shoes, brush my clothes, put on a clean collar and make periodic calls at a theatrical agency."
Eventually other stage work did come his way. Chaplin made his acting debut as a pageboy in a production of Sherlock Holmes. From there he toured with a vaudeville outfit named Casey's Court Circus and in 1908 teamed up with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, where Chaplin became one of its stars as The Drunk in the comedic sketch, A Night in an English Music Hall.
With the Karno troupe, Chaplin got his first taste of the United States, where he caught the eye of film producer Mack Sennett, who signed Chaplin to a contract for a $150 a week.
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In the 1940s and 1950s, the United States was in the grips of a "red scare." Many prominent individuals suspected of sympathizing with liberal or humanitarian causes were branded a communist threat, and even accused of espionage. Hollywood was a major focus of the accusations, and after 10 actors refused to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the blacklist was created. Hundreds of actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters and other entertainment professionals were barred from working. Here are some of the famous people who were on the Hollywood blacklist.
Blacklisted 26 people in this group
In the early years of motion pictures, actors were recruited from the stage, resulting in larger-than-life performances that seemed jarring when blown up to the size of a movie screen. As the years went on, actors began to understand the subtleties of the medium, and used more natural expressions to connect with their audiences. They became movie stars, known for their glamorous looks and identifiable personalities. As Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard would say, they didn't need dialogue, they had faces.
Silent Screen Stars 16 people in this group
Actors Turned Directors 56 people in this group