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Charlie Chaplin - Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977)


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Charlie Chaplin

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., KBE (16 April25 December ), better known as Charlie Chaplin, was an Academy Award-winning English comedy actor. Chaplin became one of the most famous actors as well as a notable director, composer and musician in the early to mid Hollywood cinema era. He is considered to have been one of the finest mimes and clowns ever caught on film and has greatly influenced performers in this field.

He acted in, directed, scripted, produced, and eventually scored his own films. Chaplin was also one of the most creative and influential personalities in the silent-film era. His working life in entertainment spanned over 65 years, from the Victorian stage and music hall in the United Kingdom as a child performer, almost until his death at the age of eighty-eight. Chaplin's high-profile public and private life encompassed highs and lows with both adulation and controversy.

His principal character was 'The Tramp' (known as 'Charlot' in France and the French-speaking world, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Romania, and Turkey, and as 'Carlitos' in Brazil). 'The Tramp' is a vagrant with the refined manners and dignity of a gentleman. The character wears a tight coat, oversized trousers and shoes, and a derby; carries a bamboo cane; and has a signature toothbrush moustache.

Chaplin, c. 1920Early life

Charles Chaplin, c. 1920

Charlie Chaplin was born on 16 April , in East Street, Walworth, London. His parents were both entertainers in the Music Hall tradition; they separated before Charlie was three. He learned singing from his parents. The 1891 census shows that his mother, the actress Lily Harvey (Hannah Harriet Hill), lived with Charlie and his older brother Sydney on Barlow Street, Walworth. As a child Charlie also lived with his mother in various addresses in and around Kennington Road in Lambeth, including 3 Pownall Terrace, Chester Street, and 46 Methley Street. His maternal grandmother was half-Roma, a fact he was very proud of, but also described as 'the skeleton in our family cupboard'. Chaplin's father was an alcoholic and had little contact with his son, though Chaplin and his brother briefly lived with their father and his mistress Louise at 287 Kennington Road (which address is now ornamented with a plaque commemorating Chaplin's residence). The brothers resided there when their mother became mentally ill and was admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum at Coulsdon. His father's mistress sent the young Chaplin to Kennington Road school. Chaplin's father died when Charlie was twelve in 1901. At the time of the 1901 Census, Charles resided at 94 Ferndale Road, Lambeth, with the The Eight Lancashire Lads, which was led by John William Jackson (the 17 year old son of one of the founders).

A larynx condition ended the singing career of Chaplin's mother. Hannah's first crisis came in 1894 when she was performing at The Canteen, a theatre in Aldershot. The theatre was mainly frequented by rioters and soldiers, and it was one of the worst places to perform. Hannah was badly injured by the objects the audience mercilessly threw at her, and she was booed off the stage. Backstage, she cried and argued with her manager. In the meantime, the five-year old Chaplin went on stage alone and started singing a very well-known tune at that time, 'Jack Jones'.

When Hannah Chaplin was again admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum, Chaplin was left in the workhouse at Lambeth in south London, moving after several weeks to the Central London District School for paupers in Hanwell. The young Chaplin brothers forged a close relationship to survive. They gravitated to the Music Hall while still very young, and both of them proved to have considerable natural stage talent. Chaplin's early years of desperate poverty were a great influence on his characters. Themes in his films in later years would re-visit the scenes of his childhood deprivation in Lambeth.

Chaplin's mother died in 1928 in Hollywood, seven years after being brought to the U.S. by her sons. Unknown to Charlie and Sydney until years later, they had a half-brother through their mother. The boy, Wheeler Dryden, was raised abroad by his father but later connected with the rest of the family and went to work for Chaplin at his Hollywood studio.


Chaplin first toured America with the Fred Karno troupe from 1910 to 1912. Then, after five months back in England, he returned for a second tour and arrived in the United States with the Karno Troupe on October 2, . In the Karno Company was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, who would later become known as Stan Laurel. Chaplin and Laurel shared a room in a boarding house. Stan Laurel returned to England but Chaplin remained in the United States. In late 1913, Chaplin's act with the Karno Troupe was seen by film producer Mack Sennett, who hired him for his studio, the Keystone Film Company. Chaplin's first film appearance was in Making a Living a one-reel comedy released on February 2, . At Keystone Studios, Chaplin became an instant success . It is also said that Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest and, quite humorously, won second place.

Chaplin's earliest films were made for Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios, where he developed his tramp character and very quickly learned the art and craft of film making. The tramp was first presented to the public in Chaplin's second film Kid Auto Races at Venice (released Feb. 7, 1914) though Mabel's Strange Predicament, his third film, (released Feb. 9,1914) was produced a few days before. It was for this film that Chaplin first conceived of the tramp. The character would immediately gain huge popularity among theater audiences. As Chaplin recalled in his autobiography:

'I had no idea what makeup to put on. I did not like my get-up as the press reporter [in Making a Living]. However on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression.

I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born.' (Chaplin, My Autobiography: 154).

Chaplin's early Keystones use the standard Mack Sennett formula of extreme physical comedy and exaggerated gestures. Chaplin's pantomime was subtler, more suitable to romantic and domestic farces than to the usual Keystone chases and mob scenes. The visual gags were pure Keystone, however; the tramp character would aggressively assault his enemies with kicks and bricks. Moviegoers loved this cheerfully earthy new comedian, even though critics warned that his antics bordered on vulgarity. Chaplin was soon entrusted with directing and editing his own films. He made 34 shorts for Sennett during his first year in pictures, as well as the landmark comedy feature Tillie's Punctured Romance.

In 1915, Chaplin signed a much more favourable contract with Essanay Studios, and further developed his cinematic skills, adding new levels of depth and pathos to the Keystone-style slapstick. Most of the Essanay films were more ambitious, running twice as long as the average Keystone comedy. Chaplin also developed his own stock company, including ingenue Edna Purviance and comic villains Leo White and Bud Jamison.

In 1916, the Mutual Film Corporation paid Chaplin US$670,000 to produce a dozen two-reel comedies. He was given near complete artistic control, and produced twelve films over an eighteen-month period that rank among the most influential comedy films in cinema. Practically every Mutual comedy is a classic: Easy Street, One AM, The Pawnshop, and The Adventurer are perhaps the best known. Edna Purviance remained the leading lady, and Chaplin added Eric Campbell, Henry Bergman, and Albert Austin to his stock company; Campbell, a Gilbert and Sullivan veteran, provided superb villainy, and second bananas Bergman and Austin would remain with Chaplin for decades. Chaplin regarded the Mutual period as the happiest of his career, although he also had concerns that the films during that time were becoming formulaic owing to the stringent production schedule his contract required. Upon the US entering World War I, Chaplin became a spokesman for Liberty Bonds with his close friend Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

Most of the Chaplin films in circulation date from his Keystone, Essanay, and Mutual periods. After Chaplin assumed control of his productions in 1918 (and kept exhibitors and audiences waiting for them), entrepreneurs serviced the demand for Chaplin by bringing back his older comedies. The films were recut, retitled, and reissued again and again, first for theatres, then for the home-movie market, and in recent years, for home video. Even Essanay was guilty of this practice, fashioning 'new' Chaplin comedies from old film clips and out-takes. The twelve Mutual comedies were revamped as sound movies in 1933, when producer Amadee J. Van Beuren added new orchestral scores and sound effects. A listing of the dozens of Chaplin films and alternate versions can be found in the Ted Okuda-David Maska book Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp. Efforts to produce definitive versions of Chaplin's pre-1918 short films have been underway in recent years; all twelve Mutual films were restored in 1975 by archivist David Shepard and Blackhawk Films, and new restorations with even more footage were released on DVD in 2006.

CCharlie Chaplin Studios, 1922reative control

Charlie Chaplin Studios, 1922

At the conclusion of the Mutual contract in 1917, Chaplin signed a contract with First National to produce eight two-reel films. First National financed and distributed these pictures (1918-23) but otherwise gave him complete creative control over production which he could perform at a more relaxed pace that allowed him to focus on quality. Chaplin built his own Hollywood studio and using his independence, created a remarkable, timeless body of work that remains entertaining and influential. Although First National expected Chaplin to deliver short comedies like the celebrated Mutuals, Chaplin ambitiously expanded most of his personal projects into longer, feature-length films, including Shoulder Arms (1918), The Pilgrim (1923), and the feature-length classic The Kid (1921).

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the United Artists film distribution company with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith, all of whom were seeking to escape the growing power consolidation of film distributors and financiers in the developing Hollywood studio system. This move, along with complete control of his film production through his studio, assured Chaplin's independence as a film-maker. He served on the board of UA until the early 1950s.

All Chaplin's United Artists pictures were of feature length, beginning with the atypical drama in which Chaplin had only a brief cameo role, A Woman of Paris (1923). This was followed by the classic comedies The Gold Rush (1925) and The Circus (1928).

After the arrival of sound films, he made City Lights (1931), as well as Modern Times (1936) before he committed to sound. These were essentially silent films scored with his own music and sound effects. City Lights contained arguably his most perfect balance of comedy and sentimentality. Of the final scene, critic James Agee wrote in Life magazine in 1949 that it was the 'greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid'.

His dialogue films made in Hollywood were The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952).

While Modern Times (1936) is a non-talkie, it does contain talk —- usually coming from inanimate objects such as a radio or a TV monitor. This was done to help 1930s audiences, who were out of the habit of watching silent films, adjust to not hearing dialogue. Modern Times was the first film where Chaplin's voice is heard (in the nonsense song at the end, being both written and performed by Chaplin). However, for most viewers it is still considered a silent film -- and the end of an era.

Although 'talkies' became the dominant mode of movie making soon after they were introduced in 1927, Chaplin resisted making such a film all through the 1930s. He considered cinema was essentially a pantomimic art. He said: 'Action is more generally understood than words. Like Chinese symbolism, it will mean different things according to its scenic connotation. Listen to a description of some unfamiliar object -- an African wart hog, for example; then look at a picture of the animal and see how surprised you are (Time Magazine, February 9, 1931).'

It is a tribute to Chaplin's versatility that he also has one film credit for choreography for the 1952 film Limelight, and another as a singer for the title music of The Circus (1928). The best known of several songs he composed are 'Smile', composed for the film 'Modern Times' and given lyrics to help promote a 1950s revival of the film, famously covered by Nat King Cole. 'This Is My Song' from Chaplin's last film, 'A Countess From Hong Kong,' was a number one hit in several different languages in the 1960s (most notably the version by Petula Clark and discovery of an unreleased version in the 1990s recorded in 1967 by Judith Durham of The Seekers), and Chaplin's theme from Limelight was a hit in the 1950s under the title 'Eternally.' Chaplin's score to Limelight was nominated for an Academy Award in 1972 due to a decades-long delay in the film premiering in Los Angeles making it eligible.

The Great Dictator

His first dialogue picture, The Great Dictator (1940), was an act of defiance against German dictator Adolf Hitler and Nazism, filmed and released in the United States one year before it abandoned its policy of isolationism to enter World War II. Chaplin played the role of a Nazi-like dictator 'Adenoid Hynkel', Dictator of Tomainia, clearly modeled on Hitler. The film also showcased comedian Jack Oakie as 'Benzino Napaloni', dictator of Bacteria. The Napaloni character was clearly a jab at Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Fascism.

Paulette Goddard filmed with Chaplin again, depicting a woman in the ghetto. The film was seen as an act of courage in the political environment of the time, both for its ridicule of Nazism and for the portrayal of overt Jewish characters and the depiction of their persecution. Chaplin played both the role of Adenoid Hynkel and also that of a look-alike Jewish barber cruelly persecuted by the Nazis. The barber physically resembles Chaplin's Tramp character, but is not considered to be the Tramp. At the conclusion, the two characters Chaplin portrayed swapped positions through a complex plot, and he dropped out of his comic character to address the audience directly in a speech.


Chaplin together with the American socialist Max Eastman in Hollywood 1919.

Charlie Chaplin together with the American socialist Max Eastman in Hollywood 1919.

Chaplin's political sympathies always lay with the left. His politics seem tame by modern standards, but in the 1940s his views (in conjunction with his influence, fame, and status in the United States as a resident foreigner) were seen by many as communistic. His silent films made prior to the Great Depression typically did not contain overt political themes or messages, apart from the Tramp's plight in poverty and his run-ins with the law, but his 1930s films were more openly political. Modern Times depicts workers and poor people in dismal conditions. The final dramatic speech in The Great Dictator, which was critical of following patriotic nationalism without question, and his vocal public support for the opening of a second European front in 1942 to assist the Soviet Union in World War II were controversial. In at least one of those speeches, according to a contemporary account in the Daily Worker, he intimated that Communism might sweep the world after World War II and equated it with human progress.

Apart from the controversial 1942 speeches, Chaplin declined to support the war effort as he had done for the First World War which led to public anger, although his two sons saw service in the Army in Europe. For most of WWII he was fighting serious criminal and civil charges related to his involvement with actress Joan Barry (see below). After the war, the critical view towards what he regarded as capitalism in his 1947 black comedy, Monsieur Verdoux led to increased hostility, with the film being the subject of protests in many US cities. As a result, Chaplin's final American film, Limelight, was less political and more autobiographical in nature. His following European-made film, A King in New York (1957), satirized the political persecution and paranoia that had forced him to leave the US five years earlier. After this film, Chaplin lost interest in making overt political statements, later saying that comedians and clowns should be 'above politics'.

McCarthy era

Although Chaplin had his major successes in the United States and was a resident from 1914 to 1952, he always retained his British nationality. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of 'un-American activities' as a suspected communist sympathizer and J. Edgar Hoover, who had instructed the FBI to keep extensive secret files on him, tried to end his United States residency. FBI pressure on Chaplin grew after his 1942 campaign for a second European front in the war and reached a critical level in the late 1940s, when Congressional figures threatened to call him as a witness in hearings. This was never done, probably from fear of Chaplin's ability to lampoon the investigators. This was probably a wise decision, as Chaplin later stated that, if called, he wanted to appear dressed in his Tramp costume.[citation needed]

In 1952, Chaplin left the US for what was intended as a brief trip home to the United Kingdom for the London premiere of Limelight. Hoover learned of the trip and negotiated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to revoke Chaplin's re-entry permit. Chaplin decided not to re-enter the United States, writing; '..Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States.'

Chaplin then made his home in Vevey, Switzerland. He briefly and triumphantly returned to the United States in April 1972, with his wife, to receive an Honorary Oscar, and was welcomed warmly.

Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (1921)

Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (1921)

Academy Awards

Chaplin won one Oscar in a competitive category, and was given two honorary Academy Awards.

Competitive award

In 1972, he won an Oscar for the Best Music in an Original Dramatic Score for the 1952 film Limelight, which co-starred Claire Bloom. The film also features an appearance with Buster Keaton, which was the only time the two great comedians ever appeared together. Due to Chaplin's political difficulties, the film did not play a one-week theatrical engagement in Los Angeles when it was first produced. This criterion for nomination was unfulfilled until 1972.

Chaplin was also nominated for Best Comedy Director for The Circus in 1929, for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Music for The Great Dictator in 1940, and again for Best Original Screenplay for Monsieur Verdoux in 1948. During his active years as a filmmaker, Chaplin expressed disdain for the Academy Awards; his son Charles Jr wrote that Chaplin invoked the ire of the Academy in the 1930s by jokingly using his 1929 Oscar as a doorstop. This may help explain why City Lights and Modern Times, considered by several polls to be two of the greatest of all motion pictures, were not nominated for a single Academy Award.

Honorary awards

When the first Oscars were awarded on May 16, , the voting audit procedures that now exist had not yet been put into place, and the categories were still very fluid. Chaplin had originally been nominated for both Best Actor and Best Comedy Directing for his movie The Circus, but his name was withdrawn and the Academy decided to give him a special award 'for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus' instead. The other film to receive a special award that year was The Jazz Singer.

Chaplin's second honorary award came forty-four years later in 1972, and was for 'the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century'. He came out of his exile to accept his award, and received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history, lasting a full five minutes.

Final works

Statue of Chaplin in Leicester Square, London.

Statue of Chaplin in Leicester Square, London.

Chaplin's two final films were made in London: A King in New York (1957) in which he had starred, written, directed and produced; and A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, in which Chaplin had made his final on-screen appearance in a brief cameo role as a seasick steward, and in which he had directed, produced, and written.

In his autobiography My Autobiography, published in 1974, Chaplin indicated that he had written a screenplay for his youngest daughter, Victoria; entitled The Freak, the film would have cast her as an angel. According to Chaplin, a script was completed and pre-production rehearsals had begun on the film (the book includes a photograph of Victoria in costume), but were halted when Victoria married. 'I mean to make it some day,' Chaplin wrote; however, his health declined steadily in the 1970s and he died before this could happen.

In the 1970s, Chaplin wrote original music compositions and scores for his silent pictures and re-released them. He composed the scores of all his First National shorts, and of The Kid and The Circus.

One of Chaplin's last completed works, the score for his 1923 film A Woman of Paris, was finished in 1976

Relationships with women, married life and children

Hetty Kelly

Hetty Kelly was Chaplin's 'true' first love, a dancer with whom he 'instantly' fell in love with when she was fifteen and almost married when she was nineteen. At the time Kelly was performing before him in a London music hall and Chaplin asked if she would meet him the following weekend; she agreed.[citation needed] It is said Chaplin fell madly in love with her and asked her to marry him. When she refused, Chaplin suggested it would be best if they did not see each other again; he was reportedly crushed when she agreed. Years later, her memory would remain a 'fetish' with Chaplin. He was devastated in 1921 when he learned that she had died of influenza during the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918. There is a slight controversy over whether or not Chaplin and Kelly had a child; if so, the child has yet to be brought to light.

Edna Purviance

Edna Purviance

Chaplin and his first major leading lady, Edna Purviance, were involved in a close romantic relationship during the production of his Essanay and Mutual films in 1916–1917. The romance seems to have ended by 1918, and Chaplin's marriage to Mildred Harris in late 1918 ended any possibility of reconciliation. Purviance would continue as leading lady in Chaplin's films until 1923, and would remain on Chaplin's payroll until her death in 1958. She and Chaplin spoke warmly of one another for the rest of their lives.

Mildred Harris

Mildred Harris ca 1918 - 1920.

Mildred Harris ca 1918 - 1920.

On October 23, , Chaplin, age twenty-nine, married the popular child-actress, Mildred Harris, age sixteen. They had one son, Norman Spencer Chaplin (also known as 'The Little Mouse'), born July 7th, 1919, who died three days later. The couple divorced on April 4, 1921.[citation needed] Chaplin admitted that he 'was not in love, now that [he] was married [he] wanted to be and wanted the marriage to be a success.' During the divorce, Chaplin claimed Harris had an affair with noted actress of the time Alla Nazimova, rumoured to be fond of seducing young actresses. Harris in turn claimed Chaplin was a sexual addict.[citation needed]

Pola Negri

Chaplin was involved in a very public relationship and engagement to the Polish actress Pola Negri in 1922–23, after she arrived in Hollywood to star in films. The stormy on-off engagement was halted after about nine months, but in many ways it foreshadowed the modern stereotypes of Hollywood star relationships. Chaplin's public involvement with Negri was unique in his public life. By comparison he strove to keep his other romances and relationships very discreet and private (usually without success). Many biographers have concluded the affair with Negri was largely for publicity purposes.

Marion Davies

In 1924, during the time he was involved with the underage Lita Grey, Chaplin was rumored to have had a fling with actress Marion Davies, companion of William Randolph Hearst. Davies and Chaplin were both present on Hearst's yacht the weekend preceding the mysterious death of Thomas Harper Ince. Charlie allegedly tried to persuade Marion to leave Hearst and remain with him, but she refused and stayed by Hearst's side until his death in 1951. Chaplin made a rare cameo appearance in Davies' 1928 film Show People, and by some accounts supposedly continued an affair with her until 1931.

Lita Grey

Chaplin first met Lita Grey during the filming of The Kid. Three years later, at age thirty-five, he became involved with the then 16-year-old Grey during preparations for The Gold Rush in which she was to star as the female lead. They married on November 26, after she became pregnant (a development that resulted in her being removed from the cast of the film). They had two sons, the actors Charles Chaplin Jr. (1925–1968) and Sydney Earle Chaplin (1926–). The marriage was a disaster, with the couple hopelessly mismatched. The couple divorced on August 25, 1927.[citation needed] Their extraordinarily bitter divorce in 1928 had Chaplin paying Grey a then-record-breaking US$825,000 settlement, on top of almost one million dollars in legal costs. The stress of the sensational divorce, compounded by a federal tax dispute, allegedly turned his hair white. The Chaplin biographer Joyce Milton asserted in Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin that the Grey-Chaplin marriage was the inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov's 1950s novel Lolita.

Georgia Hale

Lita Grey's replacement on The Gold Rush was Georgia Hale. In the documentary series, Unknown Chaplin, Hale, in a 1980s interview states that she had idolized Chaplin since childhood and that the then-19-year-old actress and Chaplin began an affair that continued for several years, which she details in her memoir, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups. During production of Chaplin's film City Lights in 1929-30, Hale was called in to replace Virginia Cherrill as the flower girl. Seven minutes of test footage survives from this recasting, and is included on the 2003 DVD release of the film, but economics forced Chaplin to rehire Cherrill. In discussing the situation in Unknown Chaplin, Hale states that her relationship with Chaplin was as strong as ever during filming.

Louise Brooks

A specialty dancer in Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies, Louise Brooks met Chaplin when he came to New York for the opening there of The Gold Rush. For two months, they cavorted together at the Ritz, and with film financier A.C. Blumenthal and Follies dancer Peggy Fears in Blumenthal's penthouse suite at the Ambassador Hotel. Brooks was with Chaplin when he spent four hours watching a musician torture a violin in a Lower East Side restaurant, an act he would recreate in Limelight.

May Reeves

May Reeves was originally hired to be Chaplin's secretary on his 1931-1932 extended trip to Europe, dealing mostly with reading his personal correspondence. She worked only one morning, and then was introduced to Chaplin, who was instantly infatuated by her. May became his constant companion and lover on the trip, much to the disgust of Chaplin's brother, Syd. After Reeves also became involved with Syd, Chaplin ended the relationship and she left his entourage. Reeves chronicled her short time with Chaplin in her book, 'The Intimate Charlie Chaplin'.

Paulette Juliet Goddard

Paulette Goddard in Second Chorus (1940)

Paulette Goddard in Second Chorus (1940)

Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard were involved in a romantic and professional relationship between 1932 and 1940, with Goddard living with Chaplin in his Beverly Hills home for most of this time.

Chaplin 'discovered' Goddard and gave her starring roles in Modern Times and The Great Dictator. Refusal to clarify their marital status is often claimed to have eliminated Goddard from final consideration for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. After the relationship ended in 1940, Chaplin and Goddard made public statements that they had been secretly married in 1936; but these claims were likely a mutual effort to prevent any lasting damage to Goddard's career. In any case, their relationship ended amicably in 1942, with Goddard being granted a settlement. Goddard went on to a major career in films at Paramount in the 1940s, working several times with Cecil B. DeMille. Like Chaplin, she lived her later life in Switzerland, dying in 1990.

Joan Barry

Chaplin had a brief affair with Joan Barry (1920-1996) in 1942, whom he was considering for a starring role in a proposed film, but the relationship ended when she began harassing him and displaying signs of severe mental illness (not unlike his mother). Chaplin's brief involvement with Barry proved to be a nightmare for him. After having a child, she filed a paternity suit against him in 1943. Although blood tests proved Chaplin was not the father of Barry's child, Barry's attorney, Joseph Scott, convinced the court that the tests were inadmissible as evidence, and Chaplin was ordered to support the child. The injustice of the ruling later led to a change in California law to allow blood tests as evidence. Federal prosecutors also brought Mann Act charges against Chaplin related to Barry in 1944, of which he was acquitted. Chaplin's public image in America was gravely damaged by these sensational trials. Barry was institutionalized in 1953 after she was found walking the streets barefoot, carrying a pair of baby sandals and a child's ring, and murmuring: 'This is magic.'

Oona O'Neill

During Chaplin's legal trouble over the Barry affair, he met Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill, and married her on June 16, . He was fifty-four; she had just turned seventeen. The elder O'Neill refused all contact with Oona after the marriage, up until his death in 1953. O'Neill and Chaplin each seemed to provide elements missing in the others' lives -- she longed for the love of a father figure, and Chaplin craved her loyalty and support as his public popularity declined.[citation needed] The marriage was a long and happy one, with eight children. They had three sons: Christopher, Eugene and Michael Chaplin and five daughters: Geraldine, Josephine, Jane, Victoria and Annette-Emilie Chaplin. Oona survived Chaplin by fourteen years, but her final years were unhappy, with grief over Chaplin's death eventually leading to alcoholism. She died from pancreatic cancer in 1991.


He was named in the New Year's Honours List in 1975 and, on March 4, was knighted at age eighty-five as a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. The honour was first proposed in 1931, and again in 1956, when it was vetoed by the then Conservative government for fears of damage to relations with the United States at the height of the Cold War and planned invasion of Suez of that year


His robust health began to slowly fail in the late 1960s, after the completion of his final film A Countess from Hong Kong. In his final years he grew increasingly frail. He died in his sleep on Christmas Day, 1977, in Vevey, Switzerland, aged 88. He was interred in Corsier-Sur-Vevey Cemetery, Vaud, Switzerland. On March 1, , his corpse was stolen by a small group of Polish and Bulgarian mechanics in an attempt to extort money from his family. The plot failed, the robbers were captured, and the corpse was recovered eleven weeks later near Lake Geneva. His body was reburied under two meters of concrete to prevent further attempts.

Other controversies

During World War I Chaplin was criticised in the British press for not joining the Army. He had in fact presented himself for service, but was denied for being too small and underweight. Chaplin raised substantial funds for the war effort during War bond drives, by making, at his own expense, The Bond, a comedic propaganda film used in 1918. The lingering controversy reportedly is thought to have prevented Chaplin from receiving a knighthood in the 1930s.

For Chaplin's entire career, some level of controversy existed over claims of Jewish ancestry. Nazi propaganda in the 1930s prominently portrayed him as Jewish (named Karl Tonstein) relying on articles published in the US press before, and FBI investigations of Chaplin in the late 1940s also focused on Chaplin's ethnic origins. Paranoia about Jewish domination of the film industry was probably the root cause underlying this controversy. There is no documentary evidence of Jewish ancestry for Chaplin himself. For his entire public life, he fiercely refused to challenge or refute claims that he was Jewish, saying that to do so would always 'play directly into the hands of anti-semites'. Although baptised in the Church of England, Chaplin was thought to be an agnostic for most of his life.

Chaplin has also figured in the mysterious events surrounding the death of producer Thomas Ince aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst in 1924, one of Hollywood's greatest mysteries. A fictionalized version of these events is depicted in the 2001 film The Cat's Meow. The precise circumstances of Ince's death will likely never be known.

Chaplin's lifelong attraction to younger women remains another enduring source of interest to some. His biographers have attributed this to a teenage infatuation with Hetty Kelly, whom he met in Britain while performing in the music hall, and which possibly defined his feminine ideal. Chaplin clearly relished the role of discovering and closely guiding young female stars; with the exception of Mildred Harris, all of his marriages and most of his major relationships began in this manner.

Mini Biography

Charlie Chaplin, considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular 'Little Tramp' character; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk.

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in Walworth, London, England on April 26th, 1889 to Charles and Hannah (Hill) Chaplin, both music hall performers, who were married on June 22nd, 1885. After Charles Sr. separated from Hannah to perform in New York City, Hannah then tried to resurrect her stage career. Unfortunately, her singing voice had a tendency to break at unexpected moments. When this happened, the stage manager spotted young Charlie standing in the wings and led him on stage, where five-year-old Charlie began to sing a popular tune. Charlie and his half-brother, Syd Chaplin (born Sydney Hawkes), spent their lives in and out of charity homes and workhouses between their mother's bouts of insanity. Hannah was committed to Cane Hill Asylum in May of 1903 and lived there until 1921, when Chaplin moved her to California.

Chaplin began his official acting career at the age of eight, touring with The Eight Lancashire Lads. At 18 he began touring with Fred Karno's vaudeville troupe, joining them on the troupe's 1910 US tour. He traveled west to California in December 1913 and signed on with Keystone Studios' popular comedy director Mack Sennett, who had seen Chaplin perform on stage in New York. Charlie soon wrote his brother Syd, asking him to become his manager. While at Keystone, Chaplin appeared in and directed 35 films, starring as the Little Tramp in nearly all. In November 1914 he left Keystone and signed on at Essanay, where he made 15 films. In 1916, he signed on at Mutual and made 12 films. In June 1917 Chaplin signed up with First National Studios, after which he built Chaplin Studios. In 1919 he and Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith formed United Artists (UA).

Chaplin's life and career was full of scandal and controversy. His first big scandal was during World War I, during which time his loyalty to England, his home country, was questioned. He had never applied for US citizenship, but claimed that he was a 'paying visitor' to the United States. Many British citizens called Chaplin a coward and a slacker. This and his other career eccentricities sparked suspicion with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Council (HUAC), who believed that he was injecting Communist propaganda into his films. Chaplin's later film The Great Dictator (1940), which was his first 'talkie', also created a stir. In the film Chaplin plays a humorous caricature of Adolf Hitler. Some thought the film was poorly done and in bad taste. However, it grossed over $5 million and earned five Academy Award Nominations.

Another scandal occurred when Chaplin briefly dated 22-year-old Joan Barry. However, Chaplin's relationship with Barry came to an end in 1942, after a series of harassing actions from her. In May of 1943 Barry returned to inform Chaplin that she was pregnant, and filed a paternity suit, claiming that the unborn child was his. During the 1944 trial blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father, but at the time blood tests were inadmissible evidence and he was ordered to pay $75 a week until the child turned 21. Chaplin was also scrutinized for his support in aiding the Russian struggle against the invading Nazis during World War II, and the U.S. government questioned his moral and political views, suspecting him of having Communist ties. For this reason HUAC subpoenaed him in 1947. However, HUAC finally decided that it was no longer necessary for him to appear for testimony. Conversely, when Chaplin and his family traveled to London for the premier of Limelight (1952), he was denied re-entry to the United States. In reality, the government had almost no evidence to prove that he was a threat to national security. He and his wife decided, instead, to settle in Switzerland.

Chaplin was married four times and had a total of 11 children. In 1918 he wed Mildred Harris, they had a son together, Norman Spencer Chaplin, who only lived three days. Chaplin and Mildred were divorced in 1920. He married Lita Grey in 1924, who had two sons, Charles Chaplin Jr. and Sydney Chaplin. They were divorced in 1927. In 1936, Chaplin married Paulette Goddard and his final marriage was to Oona O'Neill (Oona Chaplin), daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1943. Oona gave birth to eight children: Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin, Eugene, Jane, Annette-Emilie and Christopher Chaplin.

In contrast to many of his boisterous characters, Chaplin was a quiet man who kept to himself a lot. He also had an 'un-millionaire' way of living. Even after he had accumulated millions, he continued to live in shabby accommodations.

In 1921 Chaplin was decorated by the French government for his outstanding work as a filmmaker, and was elevated to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1952. In 1972 he was honored with an Academy Award for his 'incalculable effect in making motion pictures the art form of the century.' In 1975 England's Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. Chaplin's other works included musical scores he composed for many of his films. He also authored two autobiographical books, 'My Autobiography' in 1964 and its companion volume, 'My Life in Pictures' in 1974. Chaplin died of natural causes on December 25, 1977 at his home in Switzerland.

In 1978, Chaplin's corpse was stolen from its grave and was not recovered for three months; he was re-buried in a vault surrounded by cement. Charlie Chaplin was considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema, whose movies were and still are popular throughout the world, and have even gained notoriety as time progresses. His films show, through the Little Tramp's positive outlook on life in a world full of chaos, that the human spirit has and always will remain the same.

Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest and widely loved silent movie stars. From 'Easy Street' (1917) to 'Modern Times' (1936), he made many of the funniest and most popular films of his time. He was best known for his character, the naive and lovable -- Little Tramp. The Little Tramp, a well meaning man in a raggedy suit with cane, always found himself wobbling into awkward situations and miraculously wobbling away. More than any other figure, it is this kind-hearted character that we associate with the time before the talkies.

Born in London in 1889, Chaplin first visited America with a theater company in 1907. Appearing as 'Billy' in the play 'Sherlock Holmes', the young Chaplin toured the country twice. On his second tour, he met Mack Sennett and was signed to Keystone Studios to act in films. In 1914 Chaplin made his first one-reeler, 'Making a Living'. That same year he made thirty-four more short films, including 'Caught in a Cabaret', 'Caught in the Rain', 'The Face on the Bar-Room Floor', and 'His Trysting Place'. These early silent shorts allowed very little time for anything but physical comedy, and Chaplin was a master at it.

Chaplin's slapstick acrobatics made him famous, but the subtleties of his acting made him great. While Harold Lloyd played the daredevil, hanging from clocks, and Buster Keaton maneuvered through surreal and complex situations, Chaplin concerned himself with improvisation. For Chaplin, the best way to locate the humor or pathos of a situation was to create an environment and walk around it until something natural happened. The concern of early theater and film was to simply keep the audience's attention through overdramatic acting that exaggerated emotions, but Chaplin saw in film an opportunity to control the environment enough to allow subtlety to come through.

Chaplin was known as one of the most demanding men in Hollywood. Regardless of the size the part, Chaplin walked each actor through every scene. Chaplin knew that a successful scene was not simply about the star, but about everyone on the screen. He demanded that the entire cast work together in every performance. Without this unity he could not express the subtlety of character that was so important to him. The only way to achieve that unity was to maintain complete control over every scene. This constant attention to detail ran many features over-time and over-budget, but the public reaction assured him and the studios that what he was doing worked. As his popularity increased he took more liberties with filming. Movies such as his 1925 hit, 'The Gold Rush', demanded unending reworking of scenes and rebuilding of sets.

Chaplin typically improvised his story in front of the camera with only a basic framework of a script. He shot and printed hundreds of takes when making a movie, each one a little experimental variation. While this method was unorthodox, because of the expense and inefficiency, it provided lively and spontaneous footage. Taking what he learned from the footage, Chaplin would often completely reorganize a scene. It was not uncommon for him to decide half-way through a film that an actor wasn't working and start over with someone new. Many actors found the constant takes and uncertainty grueling, but always went along because they knew they were working for a master.

Though Chaplin is of the silent movie era, we see his achievements carried through in the films of today. With the advent of the feature-length talkies, the need for more subtle acting became apparent. To maintain the audience's attention throughout a six-reel film, an actor needed to move beyond constant slapstick. Chaplin had demanded this depth long before anyone else. His rigor and concern for the processes of acting and directing made his films great and led the way to a new, more sophisticated, cinema.

Charlie Chaplin, who brought laughter to millions worldwide as the silent 'Little Tramp' clown, had the type of deprived childhood that one would expect to find in a Dickens novel. Born in East Street, Walworth, London on 16 April, 1889, Charles Spencer Chaplin was the son of a music hall singer and his wife. Charlie Chaplin's parents divorced early in his life, with his father providing little to no support, either financial or otherwise, leaving his mother to support them as best she could. Charlie Chaplin's mother Hannah was the brightest spot in Charlie's childhood; formerly an actor on stage, she had lost her ability to perform, and managed to earn a subsistence living for herself, Charlie, and Charlie's older half-brother Sidney by sewing. She was an integral part of Charlie's young life, and he credited her with much of his success. Sadly, she slowly succumbed to mental illness, and by the time that Charlie Chaplin was 7 years old, she was confined to an asylum; Charlie and Sidney were relegated to a workhouse (a government facility for orphaned and abandoned children) -- not for the last time. After 2 months, she was released, and the family was happily reunited, for a time. In later years, she was readmitted for an 8-month stretch later, during which time Charlie Chaplin lived with his alcoholic father and stepmother, in a strained environment.

Charlie Chaplin's first taste of show business

Sidney left home first, working first on a sailing ship, and later on the stage, opening the door for Charlie to follow in his footsteps later. Young Charlie Chaplin felt more alone than ever without the presence of his brother, his closest friend and confidant. However, there was a bright spot as well in Charlie Chaplin's 9th year -- he toured with a stage company, the 8 Lancashire Lads, with a kindhearted couple who led the troupe, and gave Charlie Chaplin his first taste of stage life. He also met a young Stan Laurel as part of the troupe.

At the age of 12, Charlie Chaplin's father died quite young.

At the age of 14, Charlie Chaplin's mother is readmitted to the asylum, while Sidney is out of town on an extended trip. Charlie provided for himself as best he can, desperate to avoid returning to the workhouse, until Sydney returns home. With Sidney's return, young Charlie Chaplin's luck begins to turn for the better. He wins a part in the stage play 'Jim, A Romance of Cockney' to glowing reviews. Later in the same year, he earns the part of Billy in a stage adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes,' again to sterling reviews, and tours with the company playing that part. The tour continues through the next year, and Hannah is again released, seemingly in her right mind. All seems to be going well, until Hannah relapses, and is institutionalized for the next 7 years; Charlie Chaplin is 16 years old.

Charlie Chaplin tours with the Karno troupe, and enters films

Charlie Chaplin continued in his acting career, as his brother Sidney joins the Karno troupe, again opening the way there for Charlie. Charlie Chaplin joined the Karno troupe the next year, again working alongside Stan Laurel. Two years later, Charlie Chaplin (along with the rest of the Karno troupe) tour the United States' vaudeville circuit. Two years later, in 1912, Charlie Chaplin returned with the Karno troupe to the USA, but this time decides to stay. The next year, Charlie Chaplin left the stage to join Mack Sennet's Keystone Films Studio, marking a milestone both in his own life and in the history of film.

Charlie Chaplin's famous Tramp character is born

The pace of film making in early Hollywood seems impossible by today's standards. In just two months, Charlie Chaplin appeared in the following Keystone films: Making a Living, Kid Auto Races, Mabel's Strange Predicament, Between Showers, A Film Johnnie, Tango Tangles, His Favourite Pastime, Cruel, Cruel Love. Although Charlie Chaplin started at the Keystone company as a bit player, with the introduction of his world-famous tramp character he quickly exploded into a major star. By April, at the age of 25, Charlie Chaplin directs his first film, 'Twenty Minutes of Love.'

By November of that year, Charlie Chaplin left Keystone, having signed an exclusive contract for the newly formed Essanay Film Company. Sidney follows in Charlie's steps this time, and joins the Keystone company shortly before Charlie left it.

In February of 1915, Charlie Chaplin began work for Essanay, with greater control over his films than ever before -- but not enough to avoid 'creative differences' with his bosses at Essanay. However, another milestone occurs at the same time -- he meets Edna Purviance, who was to be his leading lady for many of his films, as well as an off-again, on-again romance. At Essanay, Charlie Chaplin created many of the classic short films he's best remembered for, including His New Job, A Jitney Elopement, The Tramp, A Night in the Show, and The Immigrant. In February of 1916, Charlie Chaplin again jumped to another film company, Mutual, where he continues to create some of his finest shorts, including The Floorwalker, The Vagabond, The Pawnshop, Behind the Screen, and The Rink. In both his personal and professional life, his inner circle began to expand. He first hired Henry Bergman (the 'heavy villain' in so many of Charlie Chaplin's films), as well as hiring Tom Harrington as his personal secretary, a position which he kept for many decades, becoming Charlie Chaplin's right-hand man in many respects. It was also at Mutual that he hired Eric Campbell, the 'gentle giant' that was his on-screen nemesis and personal friend, who co-starred in 11 of his 12 Mutual films..

Charlie Chaplin, Dog's Life

Charlie Chaplin, Dog's Life Giclee Print

Desiring even more creative control, Charlie Chaplin began building his own studio in the fall of 1917, and signed with yet another studio, First National. For the first time, Charlie Chaplin had complete control over every step of his films. Sadly, Eric Campbell died in a car accident, causing Charlie Chaplin's style of comedy to change, being centered more around Charlie Chaplin himself. For First National, Charlie Chaplin continued to create classic shorts: A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms, and The Bond. In 1918, he also marries for the first (but not the last) time, to Mildred Harris.

Charlie Chaplin's woman troubles

Charlie Chaplin began in his personal life a recurring, destructive pattern -- he chases (and frequently marries) a young woman, loses interest in her (being consumed by his creative energies), goes through a messy breakup (or divorce), typically impacting his professional life, and then repeats the pattern. In November of that year, his first true love, Hetty Kelly, dies -- although Charlie Chaplin didn't find this out until he visited England in 1921.

Charlie Chaplin - pathos and comedy

1919 was a year of both great gains and losses for Charlie Chaplin. One of his most popular short films, Sunnyside, is released -- demonstrating a degree of both pathos and comedy mixed together to a high degree. Charlie Chaplin had been slowly moving the Little Tramp towards this more balanced characterization for some time -- and now Charlie the tramp is maturing. Sadly, Charlie the human being suffered a terrible loss, as his & Mildred's infant child is born, horribly deformed, and dies after only 3 days. Charlie Chaplin sought solace in his work, alienating his wife even more. In that same year, he formed United Artists with his closest friend Douglas Fairbanks and Fairbanks' wife, screen legend Mary Pickford -- in a successful effort to keep the major studios from monopolizing and controlling all aspects of production. In December of that year, A Day's Pleasure was released, dealing with a happy family trying to enjoy a quiet day at the beach -- somewhat ironically, considering the state of Charlie Chaplin's personal life at that stage. But something new was on the horizon -- Charlie Chaplin had begun production of The Kid.

Charlie Chaplin - The Kid

Charlie Chaplin Photo

The Kid was Charlie Chaplin's first full-length movie. It, more than anything else to that date, made Charlie Chaplin a living legend. It took over a year to produce, and was an incredible success for Charlie Chaplin, both financially and artistically.

Over the next year, Charlie Chaplin continued working on The Kid, as his perfectionism takes more and more time in creating his film masterpieces. Sadly, he and Mildred Harris divorce at this time, in one of the most bitter Hollywood divorces seen up to this point. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, as The Kid is finally released to unanimous praise, and record box office success, in 1921. Charlie Chaplin had gone through a very difficult time, and needed time to relax, and renew himself. He took his first vacation, returning to Europe to crowds that were beyond his wildest dreams. In a bittersweet moment, he learns of Hetty Kelly's death from her brother while in London. More cheerfully, he begins several friendships in London that become lifelong, including with the famous writer H. G. Welles. In addition, he and Sydney brought their mother, Hannah, to the States, where she lived the rest of her life, under the best medical care that Charlie's money could provide.

Returning to America, and to his work, Charlie Chaplin quickly produced his next film, The Idle Class. Charlie Chaplin began working on his next film, Payday, in his professional life, and meets the European actress Pola Negri, with whom he has an off-again, on-again romantic relationship that goes on for nearly a year. Over the course of that year, Charlie Chaplin releases his next film, The Pilgrim (about an escaped convict who takes on the role of a preacher to avoid recapture), and prepares for his first dramatic film, A Woman of Paris, designed to catapult Edna Purviance into her own career. Audiences by now had associated the name Charlie Chaplin with comedy, however, and were not expecting serious fare. Although a good movie, it died at the box office -- and gave Charlie Chaplin his first commercial failure.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush - and in a family way

That was reversed by his next film, one of the classics of the silent era -- The Gold Rush. It is the story of the Little Tramp going north to the Alaskan gold rush, and by more luck than skill both getting the girl and becoming rich. It is touching, poignant, and hilarious, containing some of Charlie Chaplin's most famous routines. However, early in the filming of the movie, Charlie Chaplin's leading lady, Lita Grey, had to be replaced by Georgia Hale -- since Charlie Chaplin had married Lita Grey, and she had become pregnant. She was only 16 at the time.

Charlie Chaplin worried incessantly about his young wife's pregnancy -- had felt that the death of his first son was, in some way, his fault. Thankfully, in 1925 this child was born healthy -- Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. Charlie Chaplin had qualms about naming the child after himself, fearing that the boy would live in his father's shadow, but he gave way to Lita. That same year, The Gold Rush (read review) was released to critical acclaim and great financial success. Some believe it is Charlie Chaplin's finest film. Ironically, there was a third birth that year that would become integral to Charlie Chaplin years later -- Oona O'Neil was born.

The next year, Charlie Chaplin began work on his next film, The Circus (read review). As John McCabe noted in his excellent biography of Charlie Chaplin, The Circus was not the equal of The Gold Rush, but was a good film in its' own right -- and, given the circumstances under which it was filmed, it was a miracle that it was even palatable.

Charlie Chaplin in a messy divorce

Despite the birth of a second son, Sidney, in 1926, Charlie & Lita's marriage broke apart -- bitterly, and publicly. Charges went back and forth, with newspapers gleefully displaying the details of the Chaplins' marital woes. Charlie Chaplin always refused to discuss his marriage with Lita; Lita, however, wrote a one-sided account, Wife of the Life of the Party. The divorce ended in 1927 with a record-breaking divorce settlement of $825,000. The stress was enough to permanently turn Charlie Chaplin's hair prematurely white. During all of this, Charlie Chaplin continued to film The Circus (read review), one of his lesser-known, but best, films.

In 1928, Charlie Chaplin released The Circus to popular acclaim, and also received a special Oscar for his work on the film as director, actor, producer. Sadly, this positive year was also crushingly negative, as Charlie's beloved mother died. Charlie Chaplin's life continued to be centered around his work, even in his grief, as he began work on his next film towards the end of that year: City Lights (read review).

Charlie Chaplin - the end of the Tramp

City Lights, released in 1931, was Charlie Chaplin's first non-silent film. But it still was not a 'talking' picture. Charlie Chaplin included the musical soundtrack, and used sound effects, but nobody spoke in the picture yet. This was a major gamble for Charlie Chaplin, since sound pictures had now become the standard. But it was a gamble that paid off handsomely. The movie was both a financial and critical success, and many believe it to be one of Charlie Chaplin's finest films, if not his best.

Modern Times Poster

After City Lights, Charlie Chaplin did something totally out of character; he took a vacation. Actually, Charlie Chaplin took vacations quite frequently, both to refresh himself and to find new ideas for his films. But this was his first extended vacation, away from creating a new movie for nearly two years. He talks at length about this time in his autobiography (My Autobiography), including globe-trotting and how he was nearly assassinated in Japan; but perhaps his most pivotal moment was in 1932, when he met Paulette Goddard, who would costar in his next film -- Modern Times -- which would be the Tramp's final film.

After the release of Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard were married in secret, while on vacation in the Orient. Upon his return, Charlie Chaplin began his most audacious comedy yet - The Great Dictator, making fun of Adolph Hitler himself. Hitler, in many ways, was a natural subject for Charlie Chaplin to satirize. Hitler, it is said, adopted his mustache in imitation of Charlie Chaplin. Both were smaller men, of slight build. And Chaplin saw the ideas that Hitler was championing as horrible, evil; and Charlie Chaplin was determined to show the world what he saw.

Chaplin le Dictateur Giclee Print

Charlie Chaplin attacks Hitler in The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin's first truly talking picture, and when it was finally released in 1940, it was a worldwide sensation. Many people mistakenly think that the character of the Jewish Barber in the film is the Tramp, but Charlie Chaplin was adamant that they are different characters. Although the barber uses many of the Tramp's mannerisms, he is also clearly an individual in his own right. And the barber is far more long-winded, as the famous 'Look Up, Hannah' speech at the end of the movie reminds us.

Charlie Chaplin - un-American?

In the same year that Charlie Chaplin began working on The Great Dictator, the House Un-American Committee begins investigating Charlie Chaplin. At first glance, there seems to be no reason for this -- until the second glance. Earlier Charlie Chaplin had done his patriotic part in raising money for the war effort, alongside his long time friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford -- raising large amounts of money for the war. Charlie Chaplin was a lifelong pacifist, but he was also a realist who saw that the aggression of the Axis powers had to be stopped. In many ways, Charlie Chaplin was politically naive -- such as speaking at fund raisers for the Communist USSR, whom Charlie Chaplin simply saw as our allies in the fight. And by suggesting that America immediately open a two front war to help our 'friends' in the Soviet Union. These were some of the reasons that the government began keeping tabs on the immigrant film maker (although he worked for all of these years in America, he maintained his British citizenship, and had no intention of becoming an American citizen).

1942 was a very busy year for Charlie Chaplin, at least in his personal life. Paulette Goddard, co-star of Modern Times and The Great Dictator, divorced Charlie Chaplin, and went on to be a star in her own right. In that same year, Charlie Chaplin met another young lady, whom he falls deeply, and permanently, in love with -- Oona O'Neil. Oona, although young, is mature beyond her years -- perhaps from having grown up in the household of her father, Eugene O'Neil, the famous playwright. Eugene O'Neil was opposed to having his daughter date Charlie Chaplin; given Charlie Chaplin's track record to date, one can hardly blame him. In addition, Charlie Chaplin met another young lady that year, whose relationship to Charlie Chaplin would almost seem to confirm the playwright's suspicions -- Joan Barry.

By all accounts, Joan Barry was a troubled young woman, who had some talent for acting. She had met Charlie Chaplin, who had given her a screen test for a role, but did not hire her for any of his movies. Although they dated on and off, nothing serious came of it. But in Joan Barry's mind, it was very serious -- serious enough that she breaks into Charlie Chaplin's home later that year, armed with a gun. Charlie Chaplin eventually talked her out of any violence, got her to leave quietly, and then called the police, resulting in a restraining order that should have served to keep her out of Charlie Chaplin's life.

Charlie Chaplin in the paternity suit

However, two things happened that next year that prevented that from happening. First was Joan Barry's pregnancy; she named Charlie Chaplin as the father. Second, Charlie Chaplin married Oona O'Neil -- and, in a very real sense, they lived happily ever after. The couple truly loved each other, were devoted to each other, and grew closer as time went on.

In the more immediate term, Charlie Chaplin denied being the father of Joan Barry's child, and a blood test proved his innocence. However, the blood test was inadmissable in the California court at the time, and a jury of his peers ordered Charlie Chaplin to pay child support. (This is recreated quite well in the 1992 'Chaplin' movie starring Robert Downey, and is highly recommended viewing).

In 1946, the first of Oona and Charlie Chaplin's children, Michael, is born. Over the years, he will have 7 more siblings (Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette and Christopher). Charlie Chaplin also began his next film, a very great departure from anything Charlie has ever attempted -- the dark comedy Monsieur Verdoux .

Monsieur Verdoux is a very dark comedy, in which the title character, a fired bank clerk, makes his living by marrying rich older women and then killing them for their money. Charlie Chaplin used it to make a statement about the paradox of killing millions in war is virtuous for the winning side, but killing individuals is a crime. Although it has moments both humorous and engaging, it was not the fare that the public was expecting from Charlie Chaplin, and it did not do well domestically, although it did well overseas, and Charlie Chaplin made a tidy profit from it. He also used Edna Purviance on screen for the last time, essentially as an extra.

Charlie Chaplin's final films

In 1951, Charlie Chaplin made one of his finest films, and one of his least well known - Limelight. Limelight is the story of a formerly great dance hall tramp clown, Calvero (portrayed by Chaplin) on a downward spiral, contrasting with a young dancer on her way to fame - into the spotlight. A funny, poignant film, it also teamed two of the great clowns of the silent era, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, for the first and only time.

Limelight did not do well at American movie houses, largely due to the false rumors that Charlie Chaplin was a communist, as well as an organized protest by various unions resulting in theaters refusing to show the film. As a result, it was not seen widely in the United States of America for decades. Years later, when it finally played in Los Angeles, it was nominated for the Best Music Academy Award -- and won.

Charlie Chaplin in Exile

After Limelight, Charlie Chaplin took another vacation to England, wanting to show his new wife and children his native country. Upon leaving the territorial waters of the United States of America, Charlie Chaplin received a cable, informing him that the State Department had rescinded his reentry permit -- effectively locking him out of the country as an undesirable alien. There were many reasons for this -- Charlie Chaplin's unorthodox political views, the false accusation that he was a Communist, and not least of all, money. There would have been an attempt by the federal government to seize Charlie Chaplin's assets, which were enormous. However, his wife Oona returned to the United States, and promptly took all of the liquid assets, as well as liquidating everything she could -- leaving the government without a penny for its' trouble.

Charlie Chaplin was not, however, a man without a country. He was still a citizen of Great Britain, but he did not desire to live there. After the stress of the situation had been dealt with, the Chaplins relocated to Vevey, Switzerland in 1953, where they lived for the remainder of their lives together. After their death, it has been turned into an international Charlie Chaplin museum.

In 1954, Oona renounced her U.S. citizenship, casting her lot with her husband. And, ironically, Charlie Chaplin was awarded World Peace Council Prize in that same year. In the next year, he resumes doing what he does best -- making comedies.

His next film, A King In New York, was a biting indictment of modern society. In it, he played the role of King Shadov, an European monarch in exile, who comes to New York to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear power. Along the way, he pokes fun at the Red Scare, commercials, movies, celebrities, movie magazines, and life in urban America. Filmed in England, it was the last film in which he was on screen as a major character.

In the same year that A King In New York premiered, Charlie Chaplin's half-brother Wheeler Dryden died. Wheeler had been introduced to Charlie Chaplin many years before by Edna Purviance -- Charlie had been unaware of him. Wheeler was a competent, though not gifted, actor, and idolized his famous brother. He began to work for Charlie Chaplin in various roles and positions, and years later served as Charlie's assistant director on The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux. Jerome Robinsons' photo journal, Charlie and Me, contains some interesting anecdotes about Charlie's lesser-known sibling.

Charlie Chaplin's professional pace seemed to be slowing down, to an outside observer. After all, he was now 69 years old. However, Charlie Chaplin was not finished working. He had been re-editing some of his earlier movies, and composing new music for some of them. Charlie Chaplin was musical by nature as well as profession, and he wrote some of the most enduring melodies of the century -- not least among them the song 'Smile'. However, before he could release his reedited movies, now narrated by Charlie Chaplin himself, death claimed another old friend -- Edna Purviance died in 1958. And, to add insult to injury, Charlie Chaplin's name was removed from Los Angeles' Walk of Fame.

In 1959, The Chaplin Revue was released, to worldwide acclaim. Charlie Chaplin continued his work in Switzerland, writing and composing, and raising his growing brood of children. In 1964 he published his autobiography, which he humbly titled 'My Autobiography.' It was an interesting look into the life of Charlie Chaplin, although incomplete -- he mentioned his marriage to Lita Grey in only one sentence.

In 1965, death again intruded on Charlie Chaplin's family life, as his older brother Sidney died. This was a strong blow to Charlie Chaplin, second only to the loss of him mother in 1928. Sidney had been his brother, friend, companion, confidant and business manager all rolled into one. Charlie Charplin grieved deeply for the loss of his beloved brother.

But Charlie Chaplin did not stop working. After dealing with his grief as best he could, in 1966 Charlie began work on his next, and final, movie, A Countess in Hong Kong. It was a number of firsts for Charlie Chaplin -- he did not star in the film, and only had a small, Hitchcock-esque walk-on scene as a porter. Instead, he directed two of Hollywood's largest stars of the day, Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. Although an interesting idea, it was not a hit at the box office when released in 1967.

Order this Charlie Chaplin poster and help support clown-ministry

In 1968, Charlie Chaplin was now 79 years old. It is not surprising that more and more of his friends and coworkers died -- for example, his longtime cameraman and assistant Rollie Totheroh died the previous year. However, Charlie Chaplin's oldest son, Charles Chaplin Jr., died. Again, Charlie Chaplin worked through his grief, and threw himself into his work. He was preparing a new film, 'The Freak', about a young girl who sprouts wings, as a vehicle for his daughter -- but it never went past the planning stages.

In 1972, Charlie Chaplin did something he never thought he would do -- he returned to the United States of America. He was returning to accept a lifetime achievement Academy Award. The foolishness of 20 years previous had been forgotten, and Charlie Chaplin was greeted by America with open arms. Correcting another old injustice, Charlie Chaplin's name was added again to the 'Walk of Fame' in Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin was also awarded the Golden Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival .

In 1974, Charlie Chaplin published another book, 'My Life in Pictures.' The next year, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and became Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.

In 1977, Charlie Chaplin passed away, on Christmas Day. He left behind grieving family and friends, and millions of fans worldwide.

Quotes by Charlie Chaplin:

'To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!'

'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.'

'Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain'

Filmography of Charlie Chaplin

Keystone films

Essanay films

His New Job

Night Out, A

The Champion

In The Park

A Jitney Elopement

The Tramp

By the Sea


A Woman

The Bank


A Night in the Show

Burlesque on Carmen (released by Essanay in 1916 as Charlie Chaplin´s Burlesque on Carmen)


Triple Trouble

Mutual films

The Floorwalker

The Fireman

The Vagabond

One A.M.

The Count

The Pawnshop

Behind the Screen

The Rink

Easy Street

The Cure

The Immigrant

The Adventurer

First National Exhibitor's Circuit

A Dog´s Life

Shoulder Arms

The Bond


A Day´s Pleasure

The Kid

The Idle Class

Pay Day

The Pilgrim

United Artist

A Woman of Paris

The Gold Rush

The Circus

City Lights

Modern Times

Great Dictator

Monsieur Verdoux


Charlie Chaplin . . . Allez Cuisine!!!

It has long been recognized that “food” in one form or another was a very important part of Charlie Chaplin’s life and art. Scenes as widely recognized and remembered as the boiled shoe Thanksgiving dinner in The Gold Rush, to the pancake breakfast and “hearty” stew dinner of The Kid and the strawberries and “Henglish” mustard of The Great Dictator are just a few examples. How many people know, however, that Charlie Chaplin was also in the habit of publishing his recipes?

Throughout his public life, Charlie Chaplin was called upon by one organization or another to donate a favorite recipe for publication in a cookbook to be sold to raise money for charitable purposes. The very first of these was Celebrated Actor-Folks’ Cookeries. It was published in 1916 by Mabel Rowland, Inc., with the proceeds being donated to the Red Cross and the Actor’s Fund. Recipes from the book have been donated by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (not a couple at this point), Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, Mack Sennett and more. Charlie not only donated a recipe for an apple roll, but a picture, an autograph, and a comment as well.

The next cookbook doesn’t appear to benefit anyone but the author, one C. Mac Sheridan. Entitled The Stag Cookbook, it was published in 1922. Sheridan dedicates the book to: “That great host of bachelors and benedicts alike who have at one time or another tried to ‘cook something’; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil what, under more favorable circumstances, would have proved a chef-d’oeuvre.” The social status of the participants here is quite different from the last book. Listed in the contents are such notables as Warren G. Harding, the American president, Booth Tarkington, John Philip Sousa, Will Hays (yes, of the Hays Commission), and William Jennings Bryan. Doug Fairbanks and Harold Lloyd are among the notable “stags” as is Charlie—and he picked quite an “Henglish” favorite: steak and kidney pie. And here it is:

Get 2 pounds lean steak, 1 beef kidney, and 1 small onion. Cut the steak and kidney into two inch pieces. Flour them. Add pepper and salt to taste. Line a deep pie dish with rich pie crust after having buttered dish. Put inverted egg cup in center. Fill with meat and finely chopped onion. Add water almost to top of dish. Roll pastry half inch thick and cover all. Make several small holes in pastry to permit steam to escape. Bake three hours in moderate oven. EAT. Charlie Chaplin at the Jeu de Paume

It seemed more than a little ironic that the front door of the Jeu de Paume, the venue of Sam Stourdz's 'Chaplin et les Images' (Chaplin in Pictures) exhibit looks out on Place de la Concorde, just a few short steps from the façade of the Hotel Crillon where Charlie Chaplin looked down from his position on the first floor balcony at the hoards of adoring Parisians creating a traffic quagmire there in March 1931. Paris and Parisians have been and continue to be kind to Charlie, to hold him in their hearts as well as their minds. This summer in Paris, Chaplin films were on television every Sunday night, Monsieur Verdoux and The Great Dictator were being shown on the big screen at select MK2 theaters around town and, if you were paying attention, you might have seen him both pictured and quoted in a special exhibit at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of relativity and in an exhibit at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France commemorating Jean-Paul Sartre's 100th birthday, cited as being one of the motivations for Sartre's visit to America in the 1940s.

But the 'main event' was and is 'Chaplin in Pictures' at the Jeu de Paume until September 18th and then moving on to the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, and hopefully elsewhere. Although the exhibit is loosely arranged according to Charlie's creative chronology, it's best experienced randomly. What struck me first was how multi-textual Charlie's images are: they're two-dimensional, three-dimensional, photographic, filmic, verbal and visual-to name a few. And while Stourdzé expertly traces the development and evolution of the Chaplin image, his exhibit suggests that this particular goal is almost beside the point. The Little Tramp is not an evolving product that, like a snake, sheds his skin never to pick it up again. The Tramp of Mabel's Busy Day is as important to an understanding of the Tramp in Modern Times or of the character of Verdoux as he is to himself or to the Tramp of the Keystone films alone. These Chaplin images overlap; they engage in dialogue with each other; they infect each other. As you face the wall, for instance, and begin to look at a traditionally framed photo-one you've only seen in books before and so are a little more than excited to see the real thing-you notice that even this image is not 'pure.' The glass covering the photo reflects the film loop playing just behind you, so as you try to look at Chaplin on the stage in Repairs, the Tramp from Kid Auto Races at Venice walks into the frame, sauntering tenuously up to Lehrman's movie camera. This montage-creating ability of the exhibit design is reinforced by strategically placed display cases that juxtapose magazine covers, postcards and Charlie's own 'official' pressbooks from the archives in a simple and effective collage and by a striking display of modernist artistic representations of the Trampby Fernand Leger, Erwin Blumenfeld and others which show Chaplin's character either exploded into familiar parts and re-assembled or placed newly envisioned in unfamiliar contexts.

Christmas with Charlie Chaplin

How well I remember one Christmas Day sitting on that same seat (at Hanwell school), weeping copious tears. The day before I had committed some breach of rules. As we came into the dining-room for Christmas dinner we were to be given two oranges and a bag of sweets

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush

I am speculating what I shall do with mine. I shall save the peel and the sweets I shall eat one a day. Each child is presented with his treasure as he enters the dining-room. At last it is my turn. But the man puts me aside.

'Oh, no—you'll go without for what you did yesterday.'

-- Charles Chaplin: 'A Comedian Sees the World' (1933-34)

If you know anything about Charlie Chaplin, you may have heard this particular story. And if you know this particular story, you know that many report that Christmas for him often seemed to be colored by this particular childhood event. Or was it? Christmas with Charlie, as it is passed down to us through the recollections of others, is nothing if not full of contradictions. Even in the essay cited above, 'A Comedian Sees the World', Charlie tells us about this sad Christmas memory, but then hints in another upon Charlot's arrival in Paris, 1921passage of at least knowing about, or recognizing, the same warm Christmas feelings and impulses we all do. While in London, he writes: 'As I walk around West Square, I come upon a stationer’s shop where they sell toys, sweets and tobacco. The store has an odor that awakens memories. It smells Christmasy. In the window I see a Noah’s ark with painted wooden animals. I can’t resist it. I go in and buy it just to get a whiff of the paint and the feel of the excelsior that’s packed inside.'

In a similar spirit, Charlie Chaplin, Jr. gives a long and loving account of his experience in 1936 celebrating 'Christmas on the hill' — in the Summit Drive house in Beverly Hills. 'Christmases at my father’s home,' he writes, 'form a composite picture in my mind, for every one of them was almost identical in style and texture.

Medal Madness

Due to his position as a celebrity and film artist, Charlie Chaplin was no stranger to public scrutiny and critique. Early in his career, he was castigated for not serving in World War I and then for a troubled marriage or two. And then there was the issue of taxpaying that seemed to plague him throughout his life in America. These are not the only areas of public critique, but are perhaps the most well known. Lesser-known and/or summarily forgotten is the controversy Chaplin endured in order to be decorated by the French government. His goal was always to receive the highly-regarded Legion d’Honneur medal, equivalent to an English knighthood, but his acquisition of this medal and its attendant respect and honor took nearly ten years and probably ten times the difficulty it needed to. In honor of the 75th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s receipt of the medal on March 27, 1931, I would like to dedicate this newsletter to its story.

The story must begin, really, with Charlie’s first trip back to Europe in September/October 1921. While most of his focus on this trip was on London and his first homecoming there since moving to America to work in films, Charlie Chaplin and his party made three trips to Paris as part of the itinerary. Certainly, meeting the French public who greeted him as “Charlot” for the first time, was an important part of these visits, but also there seemed to be a sort of promise to Charlie that he would be “decorated,” whatever that term happened to mean at the time. On the third trip to Paris, ostensibly to attend the French premiere of The Kid at the Trocadero, “it” happened, but the decoration was for something called “Officier de l’Instruction Publique”—an award given to public school teachers in France. After all this effort, Charlie still didn’t receive the award he was after and returned to the States empty-handed, although his account of it in My Trip Abroad reveals none of this disappointment:

“Mary [Pickford] and Doug [Fairbanks] are very kind in congratulating me, and I tell them of my terrible conduct during the presentation of the decoration. I knew I was wholly inadequate for the occasion. […] Then they wanted to see the decoration, which reminded me that I had not looked at it myself. So I unrolled the parchment and Doug read aloud the magic words from the Minister of Instruction of the Public and Beaux Arts which made Charles Chaplin, dramatist artist, an Officier de l’Instruction Publique.”

Chaplin’s Parents

Chaplin's Father

Charles Spencer Chaplin Sr.

Charlie wrote in his book that he really never knew his father. Charles Sr. was a London Music Hall singer for many years and even traveled to America and performed in New York. Charlie lived with his father for a short of time during his childhood. Charles Sr. died May 9, 1901, at the age of 37 from illnesses stemming from alcoholism.

Chaplin's Mother

Hannah Chaplin

Charlie's mother Hannah became a singer in the London Music Halls after marrying Charles Chaplin Sr. in 1885. She had one son Sydney at the time of the marriage.

She appeared under the stage name 'Lily Harley', and for a few short years, the couple made a comfortable living singing at the London Music Halls. It was during this period that Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. was born on April 16, 1889.

But the Chaplin marriage ended after Hannah was caught having an affair that resulted in birth of a son fathered by another Music Hall singer Leo Dryden.

Charlie Jr. was too young to know what was going on and would not fully know about his half brother Wheeler Dryden until many years later. Soon after, the Chaplin family's comfortable life came to an end.

Charlie's family - His mother Hannah, top; his father Charles Sr., right; Sydney, center left; and Wheeler Dryden and Charlie in 'Limelight', bottom.

Charlie Chaplin Family

Charlie's family - His mother Hannah, top; his father Charles Sr., right; Sydney, center left; and Wheeler Dryden and Charlie in 'Limelight', bottom.

During Charlie's and Sydney's childhood, Hannah suffered from mental illness and had to live under care for many years.

Charlie and Sydney lived in many different homes, schools and workhouses during this time, but the home they remember most was the one at 3 Pownall Terrace. Charlie would visit that location years later. His menories of it can be see in the room Charlie created as his home in 'The Kid'.

Hannah would suffer with mental illness for the rest of her life. Charlie and Sydney loved their mother. They clearly remembered her entertaining them as children and inspired them through their tough childhood. They brought their mother to America in 1921. Charlie purchased a California home for Hannah and had special people to care for her where she lived her last years. She died August 28, 1928.

Charlie Chaplin's Brothers

Sydney Earl Chaplin, (half-brother)

Wheeler Dryden ( half-brother)

Charlie had two half-brothers. Sydney Chaplin grew up with Charlie and was the one person who really knew Chaplin the best. Wheeler Dryden did not get to know his famous brothers until Charlie was well into his film career.

Wheeler tried to contact Charlie but was unsuccessful. Dryden decided to write Edna Purviance instead. The thoughtful and detailed letter is still in the Edna Purviance Collection at BFI Library in London. Edna had to be touched and knew a lot about siblings, since she was very close to her two sisters, Myrtle and Bessie.

The brothers apparently all met up again in the 1920's when Dryden worked in films with Sydney and Charlie Chaplin. Wheeler Dryden played the doctor in 'Limelight'. (pictured above.)

Wheeler had one son name Spencer Dryden. Spencer became famous as the drummer for Jefferson Airplane and was with the group throughout the bands best years. Spencer Dryden was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Spencer died from cancer January 10, 2005.

Sydney Chaplin was Charlie's business manager as well as played roles in the films 'Shoulder Arms', 'Pay Day', 'A Dog's Life' and 'The Pilgram'. Sydney and Charlie were very close and visited each other well into their later years.

Sydney had no children and was married twice. His first wife, Minnie, died, but Sydney remarried a french girl name Gypsy. The couple lived in both America and France, with their last years being in Nice. Both marriages were happy ones for Sydney.

Sydney, 80, died on Charlie's birthday on April 16, 1965. Wheeler Dryden died September 30, 1957.

Charlie Chaplin's Marriages and Children

Charlie Chaplin was married four times and had 11 children between 1919 and 1962. This is a list of the marriages, children and brief information of interest.

Chaplin's First Wife: Mildred Harris

They were married October 23, 1918. The couple had one son Norman Spencer Chaplin born July 7th, 1919. The baby died three days later. The couple divorced April 4, 1921.

Chaplin's Second Wife: Lita Grey

They were married November 26, 1924. They had two sons: Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. - born May 5, 1925, and Sydney Earle Chaplin - born March 30th, 1926. The couple divorced on August 25, 1927.

Charlie's Jr. played in 'Limelight' as one of the clowns with his father. In 1960, he wrote the book about his father titled 'My Father, Charlie Chaplin'. Charlie Jr. died on March 20, 1968.

Sydney played with his father in 'Limelight' in the role as Neville. He still attends Chaplin events held for his father and can be seen in film interviews about Charlie.

Chaplin's Third Wife - Paulette Goddard

Chaplin and Goddard were married on a trip while traveling near Japan and China in 1936, but the legal papers were ever made public during the time of their marriage. They made two films together 'Modern Times and 'The Great Dictator'. Paulette became a beloved step-mother to Charlie Jr. and Sydney. The couple divorced in June of 1942. It was at this time the marriage was said to have taken place in The Orient six years earlier.

Chaplin's Fourth Wife - Oona O'Neill

They were married June 16, 1943. They had 8 children. (Oona 1942)

Chaplin's Children - Charlie and Oona's Family

Geraldine Leigh Chaplin, born August 1, 1944

Geraldine was an actress known for many roles, but first recognized for her work in 'Dr. Zhivago'. She also played her own grandmother in the 1992 Richard Attenborough film of 'Chaplin'. Her first film appearance was in 'Limelight' with brother Michael and sister Josephine at the beginning of the film.

Michael John Chaplin, born March 7, 1946

Appeared in 'Limelight' with his sisters in the beginning and played the boy 'Rupert Macabee' in 'King of New York'.

Josephine Hannah Chaplin, born March 28, 1949

Victoria Chaplin, born May 19, 1951

Eugene Anthony Chaplin, born August 23, 1953

Jane Cecil Chaplin, born May 23, 1957

Annette Emily Chaplin, born December 3, 1959

Christopher James Chaplin, born July 8, 1962

Movie Star Colony Malibu Beach
Charlie Chaplin Homes

Postcard, late 1910's - early 1920's - Edna Purviance Research Collection

Chaplin had many homes during his childhood, but they were either rentals or rooms at workhouses. The one place he remembers as his 'London home' was called 3 Pownall Terrace. He would return to that location during his visits to London, but he had no family home to return to, only the street and building locations he remembered as a child.

Postcard, late 1910's - early 1920's - Edna Purviance Research Collection

During his career, Chaplin owned two homes, but none at the beginning of his film career in early 1914. Instead for many years, Charlie rented a room at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. He and Sydney were not sure how long their careers would last and were always ready to head back to London, if things did not work out. And even after Chaplin's career did take off, he still preferred his club room to a home.

During Charlie's marriage to Mildred Harris he rented a home on 2000 De Mille Drive, but during the break up he moved back to the Athletic Club.

After Chaplin's return from his 1921 London and European Tour, his friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford finally talked him into building a home near their fame estate called 'Pickfair'.

The land once was an open hillside where the locals rode their horses. The hill became the 'home of the stars' in the silent film days. Chaplin's home was finished in 1923 and was designed by Chaplin. It had 14 rooms, a swimming pool and the most interesting feature, a fully installed pipe organ. Later a tennis court was added which Chaplin enjoyed while having Sunday Tennis parties.

Chaplin lived in his Summit Drive home until his family trip to London with Oona in September of 1952. Chaplin would never be able return to the California home he loved when he was denied re-entry to the U.S. by government officials. He sold the house in the 1950's.

His second and final home was Manoir de Ban, Corsier sur Vevy Switzerland. Charlie and Oona raised their eight children at the Manoir de Ban during the 50's, 60's and 70's. Chaplin passed away at his home on Christmas Day 1977. The family continued to live at the home. Today it is being turned into the 'Charlie Chaplin Heritage Center', the current name for the project.

Chaplin also owned the home he brought his mother to live in during her later years in the 1920's. This home was in the Los Angele area.

BOOKS: Biographical

  • My_autobiographie_english_thumb

My Autobiography

Chaplin’s film career as the Little Tramp adored by the whole world is the stuff of legend, but this frank autobiography shows another side

  • Robinson_his_life___art_english_thumb

His Life and Art

The greatest icon in the history of cinema, Charlie Chaplin lived one of the most dramatic rags to riches stories ever told.

  • A_comedian_sees_the_world__cover_thumb

A Comedian sees the world

Re-issue of Charlie Chaplin’s “A Comedian Sees the World” with annotations and hyper-textual enhancements by Lisa Stein []

  • Cc_interviews_cover_book_thumb

Charlie Chaplin: Interviews

“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl.”[]

  • Chaplin_stage_by_stage_thumb

Chaplin Stage by Stage

Never before has so much original research been done to establish just where, when, and with whom, Chaplin spent his time on the stage, before going into films []

  • Chaplin_and_agee_thumb

Chaplin and Agee

“Chaplin and Agee” charts the friendship between James Agee, author of “Let us now Praise Famous men” and the pulitzer prize – winning “A Death in the Family” and screenwriter for classic american films, including the “African Queen”, and Charles Chaplin []

BOOKS: Pictures

  • Chaplin_in_picture_cover_book_thumb

Chaplin in Pictures

Book to accompany the “Chaplin in pictures” Exhibition still on tour.[ ]

  • Po_chaplin_thumb

The unparalleled career of the Little Tramp

Charles Chaplin’s Little Tramp is the supreme icon of motion pictures—still recognized and loved throughout the world, more than 90 years since he first burst on the screen.

  • Livre_jeffrey_vance_version_english_thumb

Genius of the Cinema

Noted film historian and silent comedy authority, Jeffrey Vance draws on exhaustive research and interviews with those who knew Chaplin to produce this definitive illustrated account []

  • Michel_comte_book_thumb

A Photo Diary

A few years ago Michel Comte discovered that the Chaplin office held an extensive photo archive, consisting of thousands of glass negatives, negatives and photographic prints

  • Chaplin_posters_book_thumb

Charlie Chaplin Movie Posters

In this book for the first time, the astonishing career of Charlie Chaplin is viewed through the posters used to advertise his movies.

  • St_cover_thumb

Silent traces

Discovering early Hollywood through the films of Charlie Chaplin: Uncovering tidbits of the history of Los Angeles and the early film industry that are hidden within Charlie Chaplin’s timeless films []

BOOKS: Essays

  • Charlie_chaplin_par_andré_bazin_thumb

Charlie Chaplin par André Bazin

L’oeuvre de Chaplin, Bazin la connaissait comme sa poche, on s’en rendra compte en lisant ce livre []

  • Limelight_bologna_project_thumb

Limelight: Chaplin Project n°1

The original archive material, only available to a few film historians up to now, will be published and reproduced for the first time in a series of monographic volumes.

  • Modern_times_bologne_book_thumb

Modern Times: Chaplin Project n°2

The book traces back the history of “Modern Times” from its planning stage to its distribution, through the analysis of more than a hundred pages from the Chaplin archive, here published for the very first time.[]

  • The_search_for_cc_cover_book_thumb

The Search for Charlie Chaplin

The book contains the DVD of the documentary “The Unknow Chaplin []

  • City_lights_charles_maland_book_thumb

City Lights

a careful history of the film’s production and reception, as well as a close examination of the film itself[]

  • Great_dictator_bologna_book_thumb

The Great Dictator: Chaplin Project Notebook n°1

Articles and archive documents on “The Great Dictator”

  • Chaplin_la_grande_histoire_cover_thumb

Chaplin Facing History

This book shows how in the “Great Dictator” Chaplin exposes his personal world to the pressure of world events []

  • Chaplin_an_american_culture_thumb

Chaplin and American Culture

This is the first book focusing on the relationship between Chaplin and American public that was perhaps the stormiest in the History of American Stardom.[]

  • The_essential_chaplin_cover_book_thumb

The Essential Chaplin

Perspectives on the life and art of the great comedian [] By Richer Schickel, the distingushed film critic.

  • Limelight_book_thumb

Chaplin’s Limelight and the music hall tradition

Charles Spencer Chaplin was a stage performer before he was a filmmaker, and it was in English music hall that he learned the rudiments of his art. The last film he made in the United States, “LimeLights” was a tribute to the music hall days of his youth.

  • Chaplin_encyclopedia_thumb

Chaplin Encyclopedia

The Charlie Chaplin Encyclopedia is the source of all Chaplin information…

  • Chaplin_aujourd_hui_thumb

Chaplin Aujourd’hui

Cet ouvrage collectif des « cahiers du cinéma » se propose de remonter du mythe au créateur, du personnage de Charlot au cinéaste Chaplin []

  • La_mort_de_charlot_thumb

Mort de Charlot

Ces textes d’Albert Cohen, ont été publiés dans les années 20 dans la nouvelle Revue Française et dans la Revue Juive []

  • The_dictator___the_tramp_thumb

Chaplin: The Dictator and the Tramp

The Dictator and the Tramp is a collection of essays about Charles Chaplin (1889-1977)[]

  • Pau_merton_book_thumb

Silent Comedy by Paul Merton

“The tiresomely idiotic debate on Keaton versus Chaplinis, in my experience, overwhelmingly used by proponents of Buster to attempt to rubbish Charlie…”

Politica de confidentialitate



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