Charlie Chaplin was born as Charles Spencer Chaplin on 16 April, 1889 in Walworth, South London. Charlie lived with his single mother and brother in the district of Kennington. His mother had no permanent source of income except the occasional dressmaking and nursing that she did. So the family of Charlie’s was always living in the midst of hardship and poverty. Charlie was sent to a workhouse when he was seven years old because his mother was not able to look after him.
In 1898, he and his brother went to Norwood School, which was an institution meant for poor children. His mother was sent to Cane Hill mental asylum as a result of developing a psychosis. She was in and out of the mental asylum till her death in 1928. For some time Charlie and his brother lived with their father. But he had become an alcoholic and died after two years. His brother joined the Navy while Charlie roamed the streets looking for food and a place to sleep.
He joined the Eight Lancashire Lads clog-dancing troupe and made a tour of the English music halls for two years. He was recognized for his dancing, but he himself was starting to show interest in performing comedy acts. He applied in theatre when he was 14 years old. He played many roles and was appreciated to begin with. Then came the first call of destiny for this young boy. His act in the play ‘Sherlock Holmes’ was so appreciated by the public that he was chosen to play the role in three nationwide tours. He stayed with this play for two and a half years till the age of 18.
By now his brother had selected acting and had become a star in a renowned comedy company. Sydney Chaplin managed to secure a role for Charlie in the play. Charlie started off by playing smaller roles, but went on to star lead roles by 1909.
Now he had received a call to act in a motion picture and built his debut in the 1914 movie, ‘Making a Living’. Though Charlie disliked the humor that was used in films, he expected it would be a great platform for better opportunities to come by. He was earlier seen in his legendary character of ‘The Tramp’ in the movie ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice’. Chaplin followed the tramp persona in all his next films. But soon he was at loggerheads with the director and was on the edge of being fired.
But because he was in demand he was given an opportunity to direct a movie with an assurance of $1500 in case it failed. But the movie ‘Caught in the Rain’ directed by Charlie became a big success. Slowly the fan base of Charlie’s was increasing. The comedy that he promoted was becoming famous with the audience.
He now joined the Essanay studio for $1,250 per week. Here he released his movies, ‘The Champion’, ‘A Night Out’, and the best of them was ‘The Tramp’ (1915). His fame had sky rocketed by now. There was merchandise and comic strips of his characters sold in various shops. Now he had become an America cultural icon. When he renewed his contract, he was one of the highest paid artists in the world when he agreed to work with Mutual Studios for an amazing $670,000 per year.
” To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” – Charlie Chaplin
His success continued with films like ‘The Gold Rush’, ‘The Kid’, ‘Modern Times’, ‘City Lights’, and ‘The Great Dictator’. He was liked by people all around the world. His movies ran to packed audiences in more than 50 countries. He courted some controversies in his later career regarding his personal life. His aura will remain forever and cannot be substituted in the next 100 years of world cinema. He was a global icon who was capable to relate to the common man and make anyone laugh naturally from a child to an old aged person at his various antics.
- 1976:BAFTA Fellowship
- 1974:DGA Honorary Life Member, Jussi
- 1972:Academy Honorary
- 1965:Erasmus Prize
- 1959:Bodil Honorary
- 1953:Blue Ribbon
- 1940:New York Film Critics Circle
- 1929:Academy Honorary