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Charlie Chaplin Biography

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Last updated date: 25th Jul 2024
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About Charlie Chaplin

Known as one of the greatest comedians to ever grace the earth, Charlie Chaplin was born Charlie Spencer Chaplin. A world-renowned personality, he is remembered for his extraordinary comic timings and his ability to emote without words. In the history of motion pictures, Charlie Chaplin stands out as one of the most prominent figures. Here, we will learn about his childhood, Charlie Chaplin date of birth, Charlie Chaplin death date, nationality, achievements and more. 

Early Childhood

The date of birth of Charlie Chaplin was 16th April 1889. He was born in London England to actor parents. The real name of Charlie Chaplin was Charlie Spencer Chaplin and it was inspired by his father’s name, a versatile actor and entertainer. He spent his early childhood years with his mother, a popular singer and actress before she was confined to a mental asylum. Charlie also had a half-brother named Sydney. 

Given to look after themselves, both the brothers found themselves in numerous residential schools and bleak workhouses. In the year 1897, Charlie was able to become a member of a clog-dancing act, the ‘Eight Lancashire Lads’ as an entertainer. 


Charlie had already gained favour as a tap-dance artist among the ‘Eight Lancashire Lads’, when at the age of 12, he got a chance to act on stage, essaying the role of ‘Billy’, the page boy and then went on to act in William Galette’s Sherlock Holmes, where he played a small role. 

Post this, Charlie Chaplin began his career as a comedian with the Casey’s Court Circus’ vaudeville act. It was the year 1908 when he joined the Fred Karno Repertoire Company as a part of the pantomime troupe. It was here when Charlie Chaplin’s status quickly escalated to that of a star and eventually took him to the United States of America. His portrayal of the Drunk in the sketch ‘A Night in an English Music Hall’ was an immediate hit with the American audiences so much so that in Fred Karno Troupre’s repeat tour of the USA in 1912, Charlie was offered a contract of a motion picture. 

With his Vaudeville commitments expiring in 1913, Charlie agreed to appear before cameras when he joined the Mack Sennett and the Keystone Film Company. This was Charlie Chaplin’s first entrance into the world of cinema. 

The first onscreen character that he portrayed was that of a mercenary dandy, which, claim historians, did not showcase his talents in the best light. He was then ordered by Sennet to come up with an image that would work better on screen. This was the moment when the iconic too small coat, too large pair of pants, floppy shoes and battered derby completed with a postage stamp moustache look of Charlie Chaplin that we all know and love was born. He also adopted a cane as an all-purpose prop to complete his look. This eventually gave birth to his on-screen alter ego the ‘Little Tramp’  in his second Keystone film ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice’, an immortal presence until today. 

In the vast array of characters portrayed by Charlie Chaplin, however, he was not always confined to the role of a tramp. His characters in the parts that he played were often employed as a fireman, store clerk, waiter, etc. A more apt description of his character portrayal was the archetypical misfit, usually left out by the ‘polite society’, not so lucky in love and of the like. He was also depicted as a survivor, someone who is able to plunge out of his sorrows and move on jauntily to newer adventures. 

The tramp, however, had more of a universal appeal for the character was cheeky yet casually savage. Combined with a gallantry that is unexpected of such a character and the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity struck a chord with a majority of the audiences. The portrayal of this character made Charlie Chaplin the biggest movie star within months after his debut as the same. The 35 comedy films that Charlie Chaplin had with Keystone is usually regarded as the gestation period of the ‘Tramp’ with caricature usually shifting up to be the character. 

On completion of his contract with Sennet, Charlie Chaplin moved on to work with the Essanay Company in 1915. During his time with Essanay studios, the element of paths was incorporated into his comedy by Charlie Chaplin in shorts such as The Tramp and Burlesque on Carmen. 

Given the rise in his popularity, Charlie then moved on to sign an even better deal with the Mutual Film Corporation where he was required to make twelve two-reel comedies. Some of the popular works from this association include The Rink (1916), One A.M. (1916), The Vagabond (1916) and Easy Street (1917). 

In the year 1918, Charlie Chaplin entered a contract with First National Film Corporation where he was required to produce eight short films. Some of the notable works under this include Shoulder Arms (1918), The Pilgrim (1923) and The Kid (1921), his first starring feature. 

Independent Achievements

Charlie Chaplin was famous for being a perfectionist. He went to great lengths to achieve the desired outcomes in his films. He went on from producing for other film studios to building his own production company, United Artists, which he co-founded with D.W. Griffith, and husband and wife Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (both of whom were superstars). From his own company, Charlie Chaplin produced three movies between 1923 and 1929. This included his masterpiece and only dreams, The Gold Rush (1925), A Woman of Paris (1923) and The Circus (1928). After a  number of successful films, Charlie Chaplin produced his first sound picture in the year 1940, The Great Dictator, regarded as his most overt political satire. This film performed well on the box-office and also earned Charlie Chaplin his only Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category. Among his greatest works from the latter years include Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957) and A Countess from Hong Kong.

Personal Life

Charlie Chaplin’s personal life was rather a tumultuous one. It was after his contract with the First National Film Corporation when Charlie Chaplin got married to Mildred Harris, a 16-year old who worked as a film extra. They, however, got divorced in the year 1921. Charlie Chaplin then again married Lillita MacMurray in 1924, 16-years old at the time, and later became known to the world as Lita Grey, the film star. But this marriage was also short-lived as the couple got divorced, rather noisily, in the year 1927. Post this, in the year 1932, Charlie courted Paulette Goddard, who starred in a number of his productions but the couple separated in 1942. Charlie again re-married in 1943, the 18-year old Oona O’Neill. He was the father of 8 children from his last marriage with Oona O’Neill, along with one son from his marriage to Lita Grey.

Final Years

Charlie Chaplin, in his final years, was conferred with several honours. In 1972 he accepted the Special Academy Award for the immeasurable effect that he projected in the making of motion pictures the art form of this century. His final public appearance was in 1975 when he was knighted. Charlie Chaplin passed away on 25th December 1977.  In addition to being an author and a producer, Charlie Chaplin also honed a number of other skills, he was a musician, played a variety of instruments and authored at least four books. He was truly a remarkable personality whom the world remembers with great fondness.

FAQs on Charlie Chaplin Biography

Q1. Explain the Importance of Charlie Chaplin? 

Ans. Charlie Chaplin is one of the most prominent figures in motion-picture history. His portrayal of comedic characters on-screen revolutionized motion pictures. He was not only an actor and a comedian but also a writer, director and producer. For his immense contribution to the world of motion pictures and making them an art form of the present century, he was presented with a Special Academy Award in the year 1972.

Q2. What is Charlie Chaplin best remembered for? 

Ans. Although Charlie Chaplin portrayed a number of characters on screen, he is best remembered for the characterisation of ‘the Little Tramp’, a recurring silent film character. The comedic relief provided by this character in the oversized pants, tiny coat, battered derby, floppy shoes combined with the postage stamp moustache and cane is Chaplin’s most widely circulated representation. Audiences loved this character for its many traits that tickled their nerves. 

Q3. What is Charlie Chaplin’s Nationality? 

Ans. Sir Charlie Spencer Chaplin, was a British national.