30 Interesting Facts About Charlie Chaplin You Didn’t Know: Was He the Best Comedian of All Time?


Chaplin is arguably one of the most important artists produced by the cinema. He is a towering figure in world culture and a universal icon.

  1. He was born Charles Spencer Chaplin on April 16, 1889 in East Street, Walworth of South London according to him. His parents Hannah Chaplin and Charles Chaplin Sr. were both music hall entertainers. He had two half brothers, Sydney John Hill and George Wheeler Dryden.
  2. Chaplin childhood was full of poverty and hardship. He was sent to workhouse at the age of seven. The council housed him at the ‘Central London District School’ and ‘Norwood Schools’ for paupers. He is the best example of rags to riches.
  3. After his mother was sent to Cane Hill mental asylum, he and his brother Sydney went to live with their father, an alcoholic. They were rescued by ‘National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.’
  4. With the help of his father he became a member of ‘Eight Lancashire Lads clog-dancing’ troupe, who toured the music hall of Great Britain. He abandoned his studies and with his mother’s relapse, he registered with theatrical agency in London’s West End. He was cast in H.A Saintsbury’s ‘Jim a Romance of Cockayne’ for his first role as a newsboy. The show was closed after two weeks.
  5. He secured a role in the Charles Frohman’s production ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ as Billy the pageboy. His performance was well appreciated and was called to London to play the role alongside William Gillette. In May 1906, he joined the juvenile act Casey’s Circus, where he developed popular burlesque pieces and was the star of the show. He became an accomplished comedic performer by July 1907, however an attempt for solo act was a failure.
  6. After initial hesitation Fred Karno’s prestigious comedy company signed a contract with Chaplin after two week trial. He progressed with series of minor role before starring in the 1910 ‘Jimmy the Fearless,’ which brought him success and considerable press review.
  7. In October 1910, he led the Vaudeville circuit that toured North America. His performances were reviewed as one of the best pantomime artist ever seen here. His role of a drunk called the Inebriate Swell drew him recognition.
  8. He made his film debut in the one-reel film ‘Making a Living,’ which was released on February 2, 1914. He didn’t like the film, but received one review as comedian of first water. It was in his second film ‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament,’ that Chaplin donned his famous Tramp costume. He wore baggy pants, tight coat, small hat, large shoes and a moustache to add. However, the Tramp costume was first made to public in the film ‘Kid Auto Race at Venice.’ The film was shot later than Mabel’s Strange Predicament but released two days before it.
  9. The Keystone Studio boss Mack Sennett allowed Chaplin to direct his next film after he promised to pay him $ 1500 if the film failed. On May 4, 1914, with the release of ‘Caught in the Rain,’ Chaplin made his directorial debut and was highly successful. Then on he directed almost all his films for Keystone Studio.
  10. In November 1914, he had supporting role in his first full length feature film ‘Tillie’s Punctured Romance,’ directed by Sennett. The film was a commercial success and his popularity increased.
  11. He took the cue from his earlier film Tramp and applied the compassion further in ‘The Bank’ in which Chaplin created sad ending. This was an innovation in comedy film and he was appreciated for his work. By 1915, Chaplin became film industry’s first international star. He became a cultural phenomenon with number of songs written about him and also he was featured in cartoons and comic strips.
  12. In 1915 he starred and directed his final release for the Essanay Company a two reel film by the name ‘Carmen E Charlot,’ which was later released with four reels, reinserting outtakes Chaplin had discarded even splicing in multiple takes of the scenes already included. The film was named ‘Burlesque on Carmen.’ His popularity demanded higher value and he signed new contract with Mutual Film Corporation that amounted to $ 670,000 a year. At 26, he was the highest paid person in the world.
  13. In March 1916 he was given his own studio to work with a contract, he was to produce two-reel film ever four weeks. He recruited Albert Austin, Eric Campbell and Henry Bergman to produce number of films such as ‘The Floorwalker,’ ‘Fireman,’ ‘The Vagabond,’ ‘One A.M’ and the ‘The Count.’ The film ‘One A.M’ is the first film Chaplin starred alone, except for brief scene of Albert Austin playing a cab driver.
  14. During the filming of the movie ‘Easy Street’ where he enacts the role of a cop, the lamppost used in the famous scene between him and Eric Campbell, fell on Chaplin and he was hospitalized.
  15. In the 1917 film ‘The Immigrant,’ his character is shown as kicking an immigration officer was cited as an evidence of his anti-Americanism. He was forced to leave the United States during the McCarthy ‘Red Scare’ period in the 1950s.
  16. Chaplin was criticized by the British media for not participating in the First World War. He was not invited by the British or the American government. He had even registered for the American draft. He contributed to the World War by embarking on the Third Liberty Bond Campaign, touring the United States for a month raising money for the Allies of the First World War. He also produced propaganda film and donated it to the government.
  17. In June 1917 he signed a contract with First National Exhibitors’ Circuit for $ 1 million. He was to complete eight films. After his contract with Mutual, he was looking for new distributer with independence. He built his own studio with all production facilities in five acres of land in Sunset Boulevard. He had all the freedom over making his picture. In April 1918, he released ‘A Dog’s Life,’ his first film under new contract. The film was described by the French film director, Louis Delluc as ‘cinema’s first total work of art.’
  18. In September 1918, he quietly married 17 year old actress Mildred Harris, to avoid controversy after he came to know of her pregnancy. They were eventually divorced in April 1920, which he felt to be irreconcilably mismatched.
  19. In August 1919 he started his next project ‘The Kid,’ with four year old Jackie Coogan as his co-star. The film deals with poverty and parent-child separation issue and it was the longest picture of Chaplin to date. It was released in January 1921 and it became a success in 50 countries.
  20. After spending $ 1 million and 15 months of filming with new leading lady Georgia Hale, ‘The Gold Rush’ was premiered in August 1925 and became one of the highest grossing films of silent era with a profit of $ 5 million.
  21. On November 25, 1924 he married Lita Grey in Mexico after he came to know of her pregnancy. He could have been charged under statutory rape under California law, as she was 16 years of age. They were separated in 1927, after an out of court settlement for $ 600,000 was arranged.
  22. At the first Academy Awards he was given special trophy for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing ‘The Circus.’
  23. Chaplin continued to making silent film even after the introduction of sound films in 1930s. He believed ‘talkies’ lacked the artistry of silent film and was hesitant to change the formula of success.
  24. The film ‘City Lights’ premiered in January 1931, received positive review from the press with one journalist wrote ‘nobody but Charlie Chaplin could have done it.’ The film has an audience appeal to defy penchant for talkies. The British Film Institute cities it has finest Chaplin accomplishment.
  25. In October 1940 he released the most eagerly awaited picture of the year, ‘The Great Dictator.’ He played duel role and used spoken dialogue in the film for the first time. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards.
  26. In 1940s he was involved in paternity law suit filed by Joan Barry with whom he was involved once. He was ordered to pay for the child support until Carole Ann turned 21 years.
  27. He along with his family boarded RMS Queen Elizabeth on September 18, 1952 for the premier of his film ‘Limelight’ in London. He received a cablegram from the attorney general informing him of revoking his re-entry permit.
  28. In 1972 he was offered an Honorary Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After initially hesitant, he returned to America after twenty years for the award. He received 12 minute standing ovation.
  29. In the ‘1975 New Year Honors’ Chaplin was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
  30. On December 25, 1977, Chaplin died at home after suffering a stroke in his sleep. He was 88 years old. On March 1, 1978, his coffin was dug up and stolen for ransom. It was re-interred in the Corsier cemetery with reinforced concrete.

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Charlie Chaplin Facts

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