Charlie Chaplin Biography
Learn about Charlie Chaplin, who, through his portrayal of 'The Tramp' became the undisputed king of silent comedy in the twentieth century.
Charlie Chaplin grew up in the London slums that were prevalent in Victorian England. It is a testament to his character that he was able to become the best-known actor ever in silent comedy, after enduring a childhood grafting in the workhouses and orphanages so graphically depicted in Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’. However the encouragement given to him as a child, willing him to go on and use his dancing and singing skills, stuck with him, and he was determined to be a success. He became one of the most loved child actors in London at that time, under the careful nurturing of his agent and half brother Sid.
Although Charlie Chaplin enjoyed a long and fruitful career in most aspects of filmmaking, he is undoubtedly most well known for his portrayal of ‘the tramp’, a short man with a black moustache who waddled like a penguin, in several films. By 1920, Chaplin was earning $10,000 dollars per week, which in those days was an absolutely astronomical amount. It was in films such as ‘The Kid’, where he played the role of ‘the tramp’, that he became legendary. ‘The tramp’ is reminiscent of the nineteenth century, and Chaplin’s experiences of that time were obviously drawn on to make this apparent to the audience. His character appeared ostentatiously refined, and that is where the humour of ‘the tramp’ stemmed from. For example, in one scene in ‘The Gold Rush’ Chaplin is seen to be eating a boiled shoe as if it is poached salmon! The actions of ‘the tramp’ were also out of character with the behaviours of the era that the film was set in, and this too was a great tool for generating humour.
Later in his career, Chaplin’s naivety caused him to be suspected of holding extreme political views. He create the anti Hitler satire ‘The Great Dictator’, but because of it was accused of backing communism. His 1947 creation ‘Monsieur Verdoux’ was also considered to cut a bit too close to the bone, and was banned in Memphis.
Because of these problems in the United States Charlie Chaplin moved to Switzerland. It was here that he spent many of his happiest years, away from the bright lights of the big city, and with the people he loved. He later produced a comedy in London, ‘The King In New York’ (1957), in which he uses humour to attack the suspicious nature iof the American government of that time. The king of silent comedy only returned to the United States once to receive an Oscar in 1972. At the ceremony the masses who had turned out revelled in his unique brand of comedy. He was knighted in 1975, but two years later on Christmas day, he died of natural causes at his home in Switzerland.