|Charles Chaplin (1899 - 1977)
Charlie Chaplin was born in London in 1899. His parents were both music hall entertainers. His first stage appearance, at age five, was singing a song in place of his mother who had become ill. From age 17 to 24 he was with Fred Karno's English vaudeville troupe. While touring the United States in 1913, Mack Sennett persuaded him to sign a contract and join his Keystone film studio.
Chaplin's first film, Making a Living, premiered in February of 1914. He did 35 films that year, among which Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), in which he originated the gentleman tramp routine.
As his international reputation grew, Chaplin moved to Essanay, to Mutual and to First National studios. Finally in 1919 he formed United Artists along with Douglas Fairbanks Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. His first full-length film, The Kid , came out in 1921. In the 1920s and 1930s he wrote, performed and produced (sometimes he even composed the soundtrack!) his best feature-length films, among which The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). While City Lights (1931) finds Chaplin defying the sound era with a critical and commercial success, Modern Times (1936), is a satire of the world of assembly line factories, in which the machines dominate the men. In 1940 he performed his first all-talking film, The Great Dictator (1940), satirizing and denouncing the growing power of Hitler and nazi-fasiscm.
Chaplin's personal life, including his four marriages, a 1944 paternity suit, and his refusal to accept U.S. citizenship, gained him adverse publicity in America. In 1953, accused of Communist sympathies, he was denied reentry into the U.S..He settled in Switzerland with his wife, Oona O'Neil. There he stll wrote and performed some films: Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), A Countess from Hong Kong (1966). In 1964 he published his memoirs, My Autobiography (Leter, in 1974 he wrote My Life in Pictures).
He returned to the States only in 1972, to receive a special Oscar honoring his lifetime contributions to movies. In 1975 he was named Knight Commander of the British Empire.
Charlie Chaplin died in his sleep, in his estate in Switzerland, in the Christmas day of 1977.