Charlie Chaplin

Tom Bigelow
U.S. History
Hour 6
Talented actors can come from anywhere, in any situation, and Charlie Chaplin backs that idea up all the way. Born on April 16, 1889, in Walworth England, he could have lived a difficult childhood. But, like any young child, he didnt understand the position his family was in, and was never really upset with his life. He went on to become one of the most famous comedy actors of all time, and his films sparked a whole new chapter in the book of film making (Milton).

Charlie Chaplins life of fame didnt start out very glamorously. Charlies brother and parents lived in a three room garret, and were in a fairly poor part of Kennington Road. The hard times got harder when his father died of alcoholism when Charlie was just a year old. His mother was a stage actress and singer, but she had a weak voice. At times, a simple cold would give her laryngitis for prolonged periods of time, but she continued to work when she was ill. When she was singing, her voice would often crack, and vanish to a whisper. She eventually lost her job, and the affect was tremendous. The three of them moved into one twelve by twelve room, and continued to fall farther into poverty. The room had one bed, an armchair that unfolded to make a single bed, a table for dining, and kitchen supplies (Chaplin). Chaplins mother became so temperamental that she had to be put in an asylum until she was better, and the family finally climbed out of the pit they were in.

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Charlie had his first stage performance when he was just six years old. His mother was singing at a club when her voice went out, and was laughed off the stage. The stage manager had to do something to keep his guests occupied, so he sent young Charlie to the rescue. Charlie sang, danced, and talked with the audience, and, at one point the guests threw some money onto the stage. He immediately stopped singing, told the audience he would resume after he picked it up and began to gather it, making those in attendance go crazy with laughter. The manager came to help, but Charlie thought he was going to keep it, so he followed the manager off the stage, and didnt go back until the money was in his mothers hands. This probably would have made a very amusing movie to add to Chaplins incredibly long list (Chaplin).

The first film made by Charlie was Making a Living in 1914, which is sort of an ironic title, since he made his living with a film career. He went on to make 35 films that year, making him a very popular and sought after man (Robinson). Charlie loved to make people laugh, and that may have been his formula for success in films. His favorite reaction is a double laugh with one action. A classic example of this is in the film The Adventurer, when he is in a balcony, eating ice cream. As he licks the ice cream, a piece of it falls off, and goes down his pant leg, producing the first big laugh. Shortly after, the ice cream falls out, onto the neck of the rich woman below the balcony, producing the next laugh. This is one complete action, but two separate jokes. The reason the ice cream falls onto a rich woman is that people dont like the rich, so the look down upon them. But, if the ice cream had fallen onto a poor woman, the audience would feel sympathy for her, and Charlie believed in justice (McCaffrey).
Charlie was first signed to work for the Keystone Film company, which he worked with for a year. He then switched to the Essanay company, with whom he worked for three years, and made fifteen films. In 1916, he began to work with Mutual Films, and ended his career there after two years and twelve films. The First National company was next on the list, and Charlie made nine films with them from 1918 to 1923. Chaplin ended his track record with United Artists, for whom he worked for thirty-four years, and made nine feature length films. Quite an illustrious career compared to many of todays actors (Robinson).

When you make 35 films a year, you must be a very wanted and popular person, which could be why Charlie worked for five different companies in his career. Chaplin accomplished that in 43 years of film making, both in front of, and behind the camera. His films are so witty that they are still watched and studied to this day, and his fans can only increase after they watch one of his classics. The humor and charm in many of his films isnt heard, because he didnt make talkies until 1931 (McCaffrey).

Charlie wasnt out there to make money, he wanted people to laugh at his films, and he was very good at it. Although during the middle and latter part of his career he had a $150,000 a year salary, he continued to strive toward one goal: getting people to come to the theaters, laugh, and have a great time. His films were immensely popular, and with good reason. He was consistently funny, and kept the audience in suspense as to what the next joke would be. This helped give Charlie a long career, as an actor and a director (Chaplin).

Charlies impact on the comedy will be forever endowed, and his films were the building blocks for an empire that is known as Hollywood today. His rags to riches story is remarkable, not only for his situation of poverty, but the respect and friendships he gained along the way. No other actor of his time left such a dent in the film business. Maybe it was his funny appearance of that black derby hat and square moustache combined with great acting that made him so beloved by the world, but whatever the reason, he will always be hailed as a godfather to the comedy.


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