Actor. From his screen debut in 1914 to his last completed film in 1967, he created a legacy of 80 mostly silent films, a career as an iconic actor, writer, director, producer, composer and choreographer, and as creator of the "Little Tramp" character, a man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane and humorous walk. Born in Walworth, London, England, his parents Charles and Hannah Chaplin were both theatre performers. Charles Sr. deserted the family and the unstable Hannah with a history of mental problems was on her own. Charles and his brother Syd spent their lives in and out of charity homes and workhouses during their mother's bouts of insanity. Young Charles was a talented singer and he began his acting career at the age of eight, touring with troupe “The Eight Lancashire Lads”. At 18, he was with Fred Karno's vaudeville troupe touring the United States. Motion Picture mogul Mack Sennett was in the New York theatre during a performance resulting in a contract with Keystone Movie Studios. While at Keystone, Chaplin appeared in and directed 35 films, starring as the “Little Tramp”. Upon leaving Keystone, he became nomadic, signing with many different studios, such as Essanay, Mutual and First National. Tired of contractual restrains, he set out with his brother Syd, now his manager, to construct his own highly profitable and successful Chaplin Studios. In 1919, he and several Hollywood big name stars formed United Artists. His output included “Tillie's Punctured Romance", first feature length comedy film ever produced, "The Kid", "The Gold Rush", The Circus", and 1940’s "The Great Dictator", which was his first talking motion picture. The film, a scathing comedic satire of German dictator Adolph Hitler and fascism in general, grossed over $5 million dollars, and earned five Academy nominations. Commercially successful and famous, his personal life was marked by scandal and political controversy in both England and the United States. He was married four times, first to actress Mildred Harris, then to actress Lita Gray, then to actress Paulette Goddard, then finally to Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’ Neill, and had a total of 11 children. In 1952, plagued with tax problems and under accusations from the United States State Department of communist leanings and moralistic issues mainly in the form of paternity suites, Chaplin fled the country settling in Switzerland. He authored two autobiographical books, "My Autobiography" in 1964 and a companion volume, "My Life in Pictures" in 1974. He won a special award for "The Circus" which he directed, wrote and produced and appeared at the very first Oscar awards in 1929. Chaplin returned to America in 1972, attending the 44th Academy Awards where he received an Honorary Oscar. At the height of his worldwide fame, comic books, dolls and toys were created which command a pricey amount today. His Beverly Hills residence known as "Breakaway House" located on Summit Drive was designed by Chaplin and constructed by studio carpenters. Over the years after his hasty departure, it fell apart and eventually was demolished. In 1977 Charlie Chaplin suffered a stroke, lapsed into a coma of short duration, and died in his Swiss manor at Corsier-sur-Vevey on Christmas Day that year at age 88. A private service and burial took place at the nearby village cemetery. A few months after his burial, his body and coffin were removed and held for ransom. It was located three months later buried in a cornfield some ten miles away, returned and re-buried; the perpetrators were caught and convicted. The first motion picture actor to appear on the cover of "Time" magazine on July 6, 1925, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and his image has appeared in two sets of United States commemorative postage stamps. A statue in both Leicester Square, London, and in front of the Alimentarium in Vevey commemorates the last part of his life. He has a memorial plaque at Saint John's, (the “actors church”) in London.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield