August 28th, 2006
Charlie Chaplin
About the Actor

Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest and widely loved silent movie stars. From “Easy Street” (1917) to “Modern Times” (1936), he made many of the funniest and most popular films of his time. He was best known for his character, the naive and lovable Little Tramp. The Little Tramp, a well meaning man in a raggedy suit with cane, always found himself wobbling into awkward situations and miraculously wobbling away. More than any other figure, it is this kind-hearted character that we associate with the time before the talkies.

Born in London in 1889, Chaplin first visited America with a theater company in 1907. Appearing as “Billy” in the play “Sherlock Holmes”, the young Chaplin toured the country twice. On his second tour, he met Mack Sennett and was signed to Keystone Studios to act in films. In 1914 Chaplin made his first one-reeler, “Making a Living”. That same year he made thirty-four more short films, including “Caught in a Cabaret”, “Caught in the Rain”, “The Face on the Bar-Room Floor”, and “His Trysting Place”. These early silent shorts allowed very little time for anything but physical comedy, and Chaplin was a master at it.

Chaplin’s slapstick acrobatics made him famous, but the subtleties of his acting made him great. While Harold Lloyd played the daredevil, hanging from clocks, and Buster Keaton maneuvered through surreal and complex situations, Chaplin concerned himself with improvisation. For Chaplin, the best way to locate the humor or pathos of a situation was to create an environment and walk around it until something natural happened. The concern of early theater and film was to simply keep the audience’s attention through overdramatic acting that exaggerated emotions, but Chaplin saw in film an opportunity to control the environment enough to allow subtlety to come through.

Chaplin was known as one of the most demanding men in Hollywood. Regardless of the size the part, Chaplin walked each actor through every scene. Chaplin knew that a successful scene was not simply about the star, but about everyone on the screen. He demanded that the entire cast work together in every performance. Without this unity he could not express the subtlety of character that was so important to him. The only way to achieve that unity was to maintain complete control over every scene. This constant attention to detail ran many features over-time and over-budget, but the public reaction assured him and the studios that what he was doing worked. As his popularity increased he took more liberties with filming. Movies such as his 1925 hit, “The Gold Rush”, demanded unending reworking of scenes and rebuilding of sets.

Chaplin typically improvised his story in front of the camera with only a basic framework of a script. He shot and printed hundreds of takes when making a movie, each one a little experimental variation. While this method was unorthodox, because of the expense and inefficiency, it provided lively and spontaneous footage. Taking what he learned from the footage, Chaplin would often completely reorganize a scene. It was not uncommon for him to decide half-way through a film that an actor wasn’t working and start over with someone new. Many actors found the constant takes and uncertainty grueling, but always went along because they knew they were working for a master.

Though Chaplin is of the silent movie era, we see his achievements carried through in the films of today. With the advent of the feature-length talkies, the need for more subtle acting became apparent. To maintain the audience’s attention throughout a six-reel film, an actor needed to move beyond constant slapstick. Chaplin had demanded this depth long before anyone else. His rigor and concern for the processes of acting and directing made his films great and led the way to a new, more sophisticated, cinema.

  • Ariel

    This article was extremely well written and very informative. Thank you.

  • Jeff

    I especially like these sentences: “For Chaplin, the best way to locate the humor or pathos of a situation was to create an environment and walk around it until something natural happened. The concern of early theater and film was to simply keep the audience’s attention through overdramatic acting that exaggerated emotions, but Chaplin saw in film an opportunity to control the environment enough to allow subtlety to come through.”

  • tamo

    Chaplin was very good man.

  • mack

    I’m doing an Essay on Chaplin And I need The date of posting.

  • john

    Chaplin was a silly head

  • comer

    did chaplin win any awards

  • jacob

    He Roxs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Just me

    Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin Look-a-Like contest and won 3rd place.

  • Ricky Gillingham

    Thanks for the info!!
    Chaplin was truely a great man!!

  • teri

    yeah!
    an honorary academy award!

  • taylor

    the artical is really well written

  • melissa geise

    i am doing a report on chaplin in english and he is a pretty cool guy!I LUV U!!!!!!

  • Katrin

    Charlie Chaplin was an amazing comedian i love his movies

  • marjon mina

    nice one

  • jani sanket

    he was very comedy man.

  • Davy De Los Santos

    i have seen a couple of chaplin films and they were pretty funny this was verry well written and informative.

  • nicole

    i’m doing a project on him thanx 4 da good stuff!!!!!!!

  • jilljo

    Thanks. I’m doing a history project for him and it requires a lot of research. This article really helped. Anyone know any other great places to get stuff on chaplin?? Thanks again

  • Justin GFND

    chaplin was bomb shizzle

  • Sophie Lewis

    Charlie chapman is a legand we are learnin about him in Drama and we have just been given homework to research him! We have been acting out silent movies at skwl its wiked :P

  • britty

    vvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyy interesting

  • jess and paige

    hey there charlia, fasinating info thx :)

  • MadMadMargo

    I took a film class where we were encouraged to study films by turning off the audio. The point was, can you follow the story without the audio? The silent movie era gave us directors and actors that were able to communicate the story without audio.

  • Jamey

    Did Charlie Chaplin win any awards?

  • Jamey

    Did Charlie Chaplin get any awards?

  • Ibtesam

    It was interesting and i want to say hi ppl!

  • Ibtesam

    It was very interesting.

  • melissa n paige

    charlie was my only true love in my tradjic life…..god help my sad soul

  • Ana

    he was also proposed for a “Nobel Prize for Peace” in 1948. The French Association of Cinematographic Critics, with the approval of all the members addressed a letter to the the president of Shorting Norway a request in which they proposed Charlie Chaplin for Nobel Prize for Peace. However an answer to this proposal never arrived.

    In 1972 he received an Oscar. Here you have a link to a video from the ceremony
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Pl-qvA1X8

  • Tina

    academy award

  • gayle

    I need to know what was the message about society that his work showed for a high school project

  • arielle

    THIS THING IS GREAT!!!! tHAT LITTLE TRAMP WAS HILARIOUS….. WHAT A SHAME THAT HE DIED… :(

  • dan

    this is a very well written piece on one of my favorite actors!

  • chad keith

    WOW… not very thorough

  • chad keith

    WOW…

  • milissa

    does charlie chaplin has anything to do with gangsters or some seriuos history or he is jst famous for his acting???

  • Robz Heard

    I need more information about Charlie chaplin but this article was fantastikkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kevin

    See the movie CHAPLIN starring Robert Downey Jr. After seeing it I bought a Chaplin DVD box and now realize how innovative he was.

  • lizzy

    this was helpful cuz im doing a social studies project on chaplin

  • Libby:}xx

    this is helpful because i am doing homework on charlie!x thankyou

  • Koolade

    doing projects concerning this guy seem to be pretty common. I as well am doing a Research Paper and he has to be apart of it. Thanks for the info.

  • Anup

    HE was one who is still known as versatile person

  • Joe

    Charlie is cool :DD

  • Elise :)

    He seems the the ideal of his time, very funny, I am doing a project on him for hero and zero, its hard to find the zero !

  • Patricia

    I am also doing an essay on the great Charles Chaplin, and I would greatly appreciate the date too.
    Thank you for all the information it is very helpful!
    =^-^= patty
    A.K.A ArctictFox

  • ricardo jose

    one wonders if the xx symbol used in the great dictator was the real reason the twenty committee was named the twenty committee?

  • nico

    charli chaplin est un gros blin

  • thibaut baron

    charlie chaplin is very very bad.

  • Lou Poulette

    Just found out that I am related to Charlie Chaplin and Buffalo Bill Cody. WOW

  • donj

    charlie chaplin was an insperation to MANY generations. I treasure the chaplin films that I own.

  • OMG

    wow this is a very nice site well done

  • umesh

    charlin chaplin is my favorite coz his acting is mind blowing !

  • Dakota

    Charlie Chaplin is so amazing! He did so much in his life! I was him for Halloween in 8th grade!

  • Emma

    When will you are this documentary again? Do have others?

  • Emma

    Chaplin was an excellent actor, as well as director. He certainly inspired a lot of comedians and other actors.

  • Morgan

    He wasn’t that good of an actor. Frankly, he was some poor man who used immature and pointless stunts to get a cheap laugh. He’s a poser.

  • Rae

    Good Good,
    well written, awesome

  • nate

    Charlie Chaplin was the best comedy actor of his time he captivated the audience with humor. “A comedy with a smile and pehaps a tear:

  • WT

    Chaplin Was Interesting?

  • Parvana

    Thank you for information. I’m an exchange student from Azerbaijan in U.S. and this article helped me to do my essay in my history class=))

  • George Beke

    Charles Chaplin was a big star, he was very creative and his concept has stood the test of time, he is a classic.

  • Rachael

    Morgan: The times were different back then. Humor was differen.t

  • Tahir

    Charlie was a good actor . lovely and i love that man,

  • Vaish

    Wow.. Its so informative!!!!!!! He is an Outstanding personality

  • cheese

    Miss him sooooooooooo much

  • Moses

    was indeed a great man his way of life made him leave long, he died a very peaceful death and on a very special day-Christmas. He is certainly with the Baby Jesus.

  • Carl Schultz

    Chaplin did not tour America in ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ as suggested in the article. Chaplin toured America twice in Fred Karno’s music hall revues. During his second Karno tour, in 1913, the show was seen by Keystone Films comedy director Mack Sennett, attending the performance in the company of his leading lady, Mabel Normand. Sennett was so impressed by Chaplin’s performance–particularly his turn as a comic drunk–that he requested Keystone’s owners, Adam Kessel and Charles Baumann, to contact Chaplin and offer him a contract. Chaplin did not actually meet Sennett until Chaplin reported for work at Keystone in December of 1913.

    Chaplin’s first films at Keystone were produced in late 1913, but were not released until early February, 1914. The first film in which Chaplin appeared as the Tramp is usually said to be the improvised “Kid Auto Races in Venice” but actually was “Mabel’s Strange Predicament.” “Kid Auto Races” was filmed subsequent to “Mabel’s Strange Predicament,” but released two days earlier, on February 07, 1914.

  • Carl Schultz

    Chaplin did not tour America in ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ as suggested in the article. Chaplin toured America twice in Fred Karno’s music hall revues. During his second Karno tour, in 1913, the show was seen by Keystone Films comedy director Mack Sennett, attending the performance in the company of his leading lady, Mabel Normand. Sennett was so impressed by Chaplin’s performance–particularly his turn as a comic drunk–that he requested Keystone’s owners, Adam Kessel and Charles Baumann, to contact Chaplin and offer him a contract. Chaplin did not actually meet Sennett until Chaplin reported for work at Keystone in December of 1913.

    Chaplin’s first films at Keystone were produced in late 1913, but not released until early February, 1914. The first film in which Chaplin appeared as the Tramp is usually said to be the improvised “Kid Auto Races in Venice” but actually was “Mabel’s Strange Predicament.” “Kid Auto Races” was filmed subsequent to “Mabel’s Strange Predicament,” but released two days earlier, on February 07, 1914.

  • severusrocks

    nice article. Thanks Carl Schultz for revising.

    love charlie, there’s no other word besides love. his films bring joy, laughter and perhaps tears. his music are so beautiful, i can’t get enough listening to them. Charlie Chaplin is world icon, nobody can compete. One of the greatest inspirations ever, the greatest if i may say. He gracefully spoke through his films, no need for words.

    Very grateful also the wonderful biopic film ‘Chaplin’ was directed by one of the greatest (Richard Attenborough) and played by one of the greatest (Robert Downey Jr.).

    He is one of the few people that i wish would live forever.

  • KOUSHIK DUTTA

    He is the hero of heroes in Hollywood Cine World.

  • russ wakefield

    I’m trying to research a silent movie organist named Georgia Templeton (actual name Georgana Smith)
    Said to be Charlie Chaplin’s favorite silent movie organist.
    She was my organ teacher in Spokane Washington in the 1960s. She died in Roseburg Oregon in the late 60s. was probably in her late 70s when she died.
    What i know is she was born of vaudeville performers, belonged to the chicago musicians union, and had a musical photographic memory.
    Would appreciate any information on this woman.

  • scott rowland

    Charlie Chaplin My Autobiography and Charlie, The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin, (by David Robinson), are thourough in details of his life and art. He won academy awards in 1932, 1972 (Screenplay “Limelight”), and 1973 lifetime achievment.

  • Nick

    extremely well written article and incredibly helpful, thanks

  • dopey

    chaplin was a very funny man!

  • MAJID

    Hi Dears
    I read some sentences from him.I think he was verrrrrrry clever & verrrry sensitive but with open eyes.
    It was wonderfull &surprized.
    Would anybody send me (email) complete serie of his sentences.
    Thanck you very much.

  • Charlie Chaplin

    good stuff.

  • aibek

    Chaplin was very good man

  • Temesgen

    Never can be created like him

  • Jessie

    I love Charlie Chaplin. Very funny man. :D He really did contribute to acting. I’m an actress and I adore him. He’s amazing <3 Very well written.

  • saurabh

    i love chaplin moives

  • sarah

    i loved it so much wish that it was in color o well

  • lorianna

    I think Charlie Chaplin is a great actor all his miraculous acting is wonderful! I just wish he was still alive so I can see his talkitive movies instead of the non-talking movies, although its still great! PBS thank you for the info on Charlie Chaplin I couldn’t have done my project without you!!

  • lorianna

    Very well written, charlie was an orphan when he was about seven years old. Charlie was 5′5″ when he was a grown up. He also died on Christmas day in 1997. I feel so bad! :( :( :( <:(. Is he married? And does he have any children?

  • lori

    My mom was a director!!

  • Anna

    charlie chapin had 4 different wives and eight children in total.

  • alex benitez

    I LOVE THE MUSTASHHHHHHHH <3 :)

  • Billie Ahern

    I’m related Him(:

  • Farhan

    The first thing that comes in my mind when i see chappy is…. ‘hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!’ from his slapstick comedy, a very funny man was he…

  • Liz Craig

    When will the video documentary be posted online? I missed most of it and would love to see the rest.

  • preeti

    he was geneous actor..

  • francis iyakaremye

    charlie was very amazing comedian ,i don’t think any body will perform comedy or film as well as him.

  • tutti_licker

    i think he was a very interesting man. I wish this website added some of his quotes.

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