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Charlie Chaplin
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Kennington, London
Born on 16th of April 1889
Died on 25th of December 1977

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Charlie Chaplin was born Charles Spencer Chaplin on 16th April 1889 and died 25th December 1977. He was an English comedic actor, writer, filmmaker, composer and musician and considered one of the finest clowns ever captured on film. He was born in Walworth, London to parents who were both entertainers in music hall. His parents separated when Charlie was 2 years old and he and his elder brother Sydney lived with their mother, Hannah Hill, known under the stage name of Lily Harley, around the Lambeth area. Chaplin's mother suffered from mental illness and was admitted to an asylum on several occasions. His father died of alcoholism when Charlie was 12 years old, and he and his brother spent some time living in the workhouse and school for paupers. The brothers grew very close and gravitated towards the Music Hall as their best opportunity for a career. Charlie made his professional debut as a member of a juvenile group called The Eight Lancashire Lads and when he was 14 he appeared in his first acting role. He then went on to begin a career in vaudeville which eventually took him in 1910 to the United States as a featured player with the Fred Karno Repertoire Company. He became an immediate hit with American audiences and was offered a motion picture contract off the back of his work with the Fred Karno troupe. In 1913 he joined the Keystone Film Company where his first film appearance was in a short comedy, 'Making A Living'. It was while he was at Keystone that he developed his tramp character and learned the craft of film making. The tramp first appeared in the film, 'Kid Auto Races at Venice' in 1914, when Chaplin was aged 24. At the end of his Keystone contract, Charlie signed a much more lucrative deal with the Essanay Company in 1915. His brother Sydney arrived from England and took Charlie's place with Keystone as their leading comedian. Charlie also started his own company which included Edna Purviance and comic villains Leo White and Bud Jamison. In 1916 he signed with the Mutual Film Corporation where he produced a dozen two-reel comedies, the most famous of which included 'Easy Street', 'One AM', 'The Pawnshop' and 'The Adventurer'. He added several more performers to his stock company and in 1918 assumed control of his productions. He constructed his own studios in Hollywood and entered an agreement with First National Exhibitors' Circuit. At the outbreak of WWI, Chaplin turned his attention to a national tour on behalf of the war effort, and made a film the US government used to popularize the Liberty Loan drive titled, 'The Bond'. He then produced a comedy dealing with the war titled, 'Shoulder Arms', after which his popularity knew no bounds. In April 1919, Chaplin joined with actress Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffiths to found the United Artists Corporation. However, he was obliged to finish his contract with First National, and came out with his legendary masterpiece, 'The Kid' introducing the great child actor, Jackie Coogan. In 1918 he married the first of his four wives, child actress Mildred Harris, who was aged 16. They had one son who died shortly after his birth. They divorced in 1921. Chaplin made 8 feature length pictures with United Artists in Hollywood, starting with 'A Woman of Paris' in 1923, followed by the silent comedies, 'The Gold Rush' and 'The Circus'. In 1924 he married Lita Grey, 19 years his junior, after she became pregnant with the first of their 2 sons. They divorced in 1928 with Chaplin paying Grey a record-breaking settlement, on top of $1 million legal costs. After the arrival of talkies in 1927, Chaplin made 'City Lights' in 1931 and 'Modern Times' in 1936 which were silent movies with music and sound effects as he was reluctant to commit fully to sound, believing that 'actions speak louder than words'. His dialogue films were 'The Great Dictator', released in 1940 as an act of defiance against Adolf Hitler, 'Monsieur Verdoux' (1947) and 'Limelight' in 1952. In 1936 he had secretly married another of his protÈgÈs and leading ladies, Paulette Goddard. The couple divorced amicably in 1942. After this Chaplin had a brief but disastrous fling with actress Joan Berry with whom a long paternity suit ensued, with Chaplin proving he was not the father but having to support the child anyway. During his legal battle with Joan Berry, Chaplin met Oona O'Neill and married her in June 1943 when he was 54 and she had just turned 18. The marriage lasted until he died and the couple had a total of 8 children together. Chaplin was seen as somewhat of a communist in the United States, and many of his films made from the 1930s onwards were seen as openly political. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of 'un-American activities', and whilst on a brief trip to London for the premiere of 'Limelight', his re-entry permit to the USA was revoked. Chaplin then made his home in Vevey, Switzerland, only to return briefly to the US in April 1972 to receive an Honorary Oscar. Chaplin's final 2 films were made in London: 'A King in New York' in 1957 and 'A Countess from Hong Kong' in 1967. As with all his previous films, he wrote, appeared in, directed and produced both films, as well as writing the music for them, with the theme song from 'A Countess from Hong Kong' reaching number 1 in England. Chaplin wrote and published many songs and was also the author of some 4 books. His health began to fail in the late 60s and in 1975, aged 85, he was knighted by the Queen. He died 2 years later and was buried in Switzerland.

Links:
http://www.charliechaplin.com/article.php3?id_article=3 Biography site
http://www.chaplinmuseum.com/ Chaplin Museum

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