Charles Spencer Chaplin
was born in London
in April of 1889
. His parents were entertainers too, and wanted him to follow in their footsteps, so they gave him an early start. He grew up around entertainers and limelight, and one night his mother took ill, and only young Charlie knew her song. Chaplin was first on stage before an audience at the age of five. He joined vaudeville
and spent his youth on the road touring with musicals and burlesque shows.
In 1913 he joined the Keystone Kops and moved to Hollywood. His first movie was called Making a Living and he then appeared in over thirty shows his first year in Hollywood. His years in Hollywood are typified by his creation of his tramp character: a man with a silly moustache, a bowler hat which didn't fit, and a bamboo cane. In 1921, his first full length film was released, called The Kid. He produced and directed it himself. At the height of his popularity, as a joke he entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest under an assumed name. He finished third place!
Charlie Chaplin aquired awards and was honored often in his lifetime for this talent, and Chaplin was one of the first Hollywood celebrities to experience both the pros and cons of being in the public eye. He was the first comedian ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine in 1925. There were other advantages to his success, but he was constantly hounded by the papparazzi. He was wrongfully accused of fathering a child, and there were other slanderous scandals. Chaplin was constantly harrassed by the IRS for his questionable tax practices. and was constantly scrutinized for his political and moral views. After World War II, America was inundated in paranoia and unprecedented accusations of a number of people including Chaplin himself, due to the Red Scare. He was ordered to appear before the House Un-American Activities Council in 1947 but he refused to appear. It wasn't that he ever claimed to be a communist that they questioned him, but that he had never joined any political party whatsoever.
In the 1950s he exiled himself from the United States and lived the rest of his life in Switzerland. However he did return once to Hollywood in 1972 to recieve a lifetime achievement award from the Academy Awards. Charlie Chaplin was named Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1975. and Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. He died Christmas day 1977 of natural causes in Vevey, Switzerland.
After his death, his body was stolen from the cemetary in 1978. The police found it two months later. In 1987 his bowler and cane were sold at auction for $150,000.00. In 1992, Robert Downey Jr. portrayed Charlie Chaplin in a full-length motion picture based on the amazing talent's rocky but fantastic life. Charlie Chaplin's place in Hollywood history is unprecedented. His humble vagabond character is an icon of the silent film era and 20th century comedy. He is credited for having been in over one hundred films total. Chaplin was married four times and fathered eleven children.