Chalire ChaplinBy never saying a word, he spoke every language, becoming the most famous man in the world, making today


One of the world’s first movies stars, Charles Spencer Chaplin (b. April 16, 1889, London, England) was a monumental talent; writer, actor, director, producer and a talented composer who scored his own films.

His Little Tramp character, a hapless Everyman beset by every imaginable misfortune, always triumphed over the slings and arrows of a hilariously wicked fate, never losing his naïve optimism and good cheer, delivering a kick in the pants to evil at every opportunity.

Charlie Chaplin practically defined the Silent Era of movies, making scores of wildly popular films, but the advent of sound film seemed to spell an end to his career. For a few years that was the case, until he came roaring back with the classic “Modern Times” in 1936, then stunned the world with the timely and scathing “The Great Dictator” in 1940, considered one of the finest movies ever made, and containing one of the world’s greatest and most impassioned political speeches.

The son of Music Hall entertainers, Chaplin endured an insecure and poverty-stricken childhood that would inform his work as long as he lived. He had known hunger, deprivation and humiliation, and his cheerful resilience in the face of hardship struck a chord with audiences everywhere.

As a young comic stage performer, he was invited to work in the fledgling Motion Picture industry during a tour of America, where he proceeded to transform the genre with innovation after innovation, and by 1915 was earning $10,000 a week (about a $250,000 in today’s dollars).

Chaplin was one of a handful of people who made the USA the world’s premier movie maker, but America returned the favor by publicly prying into his private life in the 1940s, then hounding him out of the country as a result of the shameful Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, and he lived his remaining years in Switzerland.

America eventually came to its senses, its apology coming in the form of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1972, where he received an unprecedented 12 minute standing ovation before accepting his Oscar for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”. In 1977, this artistic giant left us, but we will always have the Little Tramp.

• Suggested Activities: Tripping the big fat villain with your cane, rolling your eyes innocently.

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