- 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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In 1914 Chaplin made his film debut in a somewhat forgettable one-reeler called Make a Living. To differentiate himself from the clad of other actors in Sennett films, Chaplin decided to play a single identifiable character. "The Little Tramp" was born, with audiences getting their first taste of him in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914).
Over the next year, Chaplin appeared in 35 movies, a lineup that included Tillie's Punctured Romance,
film's first full-length comedy. In 1915 Chaplin left Sennett to join the Essanay Company, which agreed to pay him $1,250 a week. It's with Essanay that Chaplin, who by this time had hired his brother Sydney to be his business manager, rose to stardom.
During his first year with the company, Chaplin made 14 films, including The Tramp (1915). Generally regarded as the actor's first classic, the story establishes Chaplin's character as unexpected hero when he saves farmer's daughter from a gang of robbers.
By the age of 26, Chaplin, just three years removed from his vaudeville days was a movie superstar. He'd moved over to the Mutual Company, which paid him a whopping $670,000 a year. The money made Chaplin a wealthy man, but it didn't seem to derail his artistic drive. With Mutual, he made some of his best work, including One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond (1916), and Easy Street (1917).
Through his work, Chaplin came to be known as a grueling perfectionist. His love for experimentation often meant countless retakes and it was not uncommon for him to order the rebuilding of an entire set. It also wasn't rare for him to begin with one leading actor, realize he'd made a mistake in his casting, and start again with someone new.
But the results were hard to refute. During the 1920s Chaplin's career blossomed even more. During the decade he made some landmark films, including The Kid (1921), The Pilgrim (1923), A Woman in Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), a movie Chaplin would later say he wanted to be remembered by, and The Circus (1928). The latter three were released by United Artists, a company Chaplin co-founded in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith.
Chaplin became equally famous for his life off-screen. His affairs with actresses who had roles in his movies were numerous. Some, however, ended better than others.
In 1918 he quickly married 16-year-old Mildred Harris. The marriage lasted two years, and in 1924 he wed again, to another 16-year-old, actress Lita Grey, whom he'd cast in The Gold Rush. The marriage had been brought on by an unplanned pregnancy, and the resulting union, which produced two sons for Chaplin (Charles Jr., and Sydney) was an unhappy one for both partners. The two split in 1927.
In 1936, Chaplin married again, this time to a chorus girl who went by the film name of Paulette Goddard. They lasted until 1942. That was followed by a nasty paternity suit with another actress, Joan Barry, in which tests proved Chaplin was not the father of her daughter but a jury still ordered him to pay child support.
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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