- 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 1943, Chaplin married 18-year-old Oona O'Neil, the daughter of playwright, Eugene O'Neil. Unexpectedly the two would go on to have a happy marriage, one that would result in eight children for the couple.
Chaplin kept creating interesting and engaging films in the 1930s. In 1931, he released City Lights, a critical and commercial success that incorporated music Chaplin scored himself.
More acclaim came with Modern Times (1936), a biting commentary about the state of world's economic and political infrastructures. The film, which did incorporate sound and did not include "The Little Tramp" character, was, in part, the result of an 18-month world tour Chaplin had taken between 1931 and 1932, a trip in which he'd witnessed severe economic angst and a sharp rise in nationalism in Europe and elsewhere.
Chaplin spoke even louder in The Great Dictator (1940), which pointedly ridiculed the governments of Hitler and Mussolini. "I want to see the return of decency and kindness," Chaplin said around the time of the film's release. "I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy . . ."
But Chaplin was not universally embraced. His romantic liaisons led to his rebuke by some women's groups, which in turn led to him being barred from entering some U.S. states. As the Cold War age settled into existence, Chaplin didn't withhold his fire from injustices he saw taking place in the name of fighting Communism in his adopted country of the United States.
Chaplin soon became a target of the right wing conservatives. Representative John E. Ranking of Mississippi pushed for his deportation. In 1952, the Attorney General of the United States obliged when he announced that Chaplin, who was sailing to Britain on vacation, was not permitted to return to the United States unless he could prove "moral worth." The incensed Chaplin said goodbye to United States and took up residence on a small farm in Vevey, Switzerland.
Nearing the end of his life, Chaplin did make one last return to visit to the United States in 1972, when he was awarded a special Academy Award from the Motion Picture Academy. The trip came just six years after Chaplin's final film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1966), the filmmaker's first and only color movie. Despite a cast that included Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, the film did poorly at the box office. In 1975, Chaplin received more recognition when Queen Elizabeth knighted him.
In the early morning hours of December 25, 1977, Charlie Chaplin died at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland. His wife Oona and seven of his children were at his bedside at the time of his passing. In a twist that might very well have come out of one of his films, Chaplin's body was stolen not long after he was buried from his grave near Lake Geneva in Switzerland by two men who demanded $400,000 for its return. The men were arrested and Chaplin's body was recovered 11 weeks later.
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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 25 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