Charlie Chaplin – the life story of the greatest comedian

This is Charlie Chaplin – the life story of the greatest comedian, English actor, film producer and composer. He was born on April 16, 1889, in London, and died on December 25, 1977, in Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland.

In the following text, I will describe to you the difficult life path that he went through and became the most famous comedian of all time!

He became known around the world through the alter ego of “Wanderers”, and today he is considered one of the most influential people in the film industry. His career lasted almost 75 years, and he achieved the most success during the silent film era.

He produced his own films, and from 1919 he also had complete control over them, as he founded his own distribution company, called United Artists. In addition, he wrote, directed, rewrote and composed music for his films. He received the honorary award of the Academy for “the incredible effect he achieved with moving films, the art of this century”, in 1972. His films are still among the best films of all time.

Early life

His parents were Hannah and Charles Chaplin Sr. Although there is no exact information about his birth, Charlie believes that he was born in South London. His parents were married for four years before they got him. After the wedding, Chaplin acknowledged his son Hannah, even though he was not his child. They worked as court musicians. Although they never divorced, they moved away in early 1891. So Hannah the following year gave birth to a third son, George Wheeler Dryden, whose father was a fellow musician, Leo Dryden. Since he lived with his father, Charlie did not see his half-brother for the next 30 years.

Charlie spent his early childhood with his mother and older half-brother in London. Since she had no money and her father did not want to help them, his mother was forced to send him to a home for neglected children at the age of seven. A year later, he returned briefly to his mother, after which she sent him home again. The boys then ended up at Norwood Schools Home for Orphans.

When his mother suffered a nervous breakdown in 1898, after which she was hospitalized, Charlie and his brother were forced to live with a father they barely knew. He was already a heavy alcoholic at the time, and due to the abuse, the then Social Service intervened several times. Two years later, his father died at the age of 38 from cirrhosis of the liver.

Hannah was briefly released from the hospital, after which she was brought back again. Charlie was 14 at the time, and lived alone until his brother, who had gone to the Navy two years earlier, returned. During that period, he often slept outdoors and was hungry. His mother died in 1928.

At the age of five, he took the stage for the first time. With his mother’s encouragement, by the age of nine, he became interested in performing. Through his father, he managed to get a place in the Eight Lancashure Lads dance group, with which he performed from 1899 to 1900. Although he still went to school while performing, at the age of 13 he stopped being interested in education. So he did various jobs in hopes of one day becoming an actor. At the age of fourteen, the agent offered him a role in the play “Jim, a Romance of Cockayne”, which was interrupted after two weeks of performance due to poor attendance.

Shortly after that, he acted in the cover of the play “Sherlock Holmes”, which was shown on as many as three tours around the country. His acting was so good, that he received an offer to play next to the real Holmes in London. At the age of 16, he acted in plays “West End” produced by “Duke of York’s Theater”. In early 1906, he left the show.

Career and private life

Chaplin soon started working for a new company, and went on tour with his brother, who also wanted a career as an actor. He starred in “Repairs” and “Casey’s Circus”, and after their completion he became a successful comedian. He tried to build a solo career, but he did not succeed. Meanwhile, his brother became one of the leading entertainers. In February 1908, he managed to secure Chaplin a two-week probationary period, after which Charlie was awarded a contract with Fred Carnot.

After several minor roles during 1908, he landed the lead role in “Jimmy the Fearless” two years later, after which he received rave reviews. Thanks to that, he got the main roles in plays, and was named the best pantomime artist. His most successful role was that of the Inflated Drunkard, which made him even more noticeable.

Six months after his second U.S. tour, Chaplin received an offer for a film role in a New York film company. He signed a contract worth $150 a week in September 1913. He arrived in Los Angeles in early December, and began working for Keystone Studio on January 5, 1914.

He first appeared in the film on February 2, 1914, in “The One-Reeler Making a Living.” Although Charlie did not like the film, one critic noticed it and praised its performance. For the second appearance on the screen, Charlie created the character of the Tramp, by which he became recognizable.

It was about the movie “Mabel’s Strange Predicament”, but the Tramp was shown first in “Kid Auto Races at Venice”, which was shot after the first movie, but was released earlier. After the success with the character, Chaplin tried to impose his ideas on the directors, which is why he was almost fired during the shooting of his 11th film, “Mabel at the Wheel”.

Still, the audience loved him too much which is why the boss kept him, and let him direct the next film himself, but Charlie had to pay $1,500 if the film failed. “Caught in the Rain” was published on May 4, 1914. It was the actor’s debut achievement in terms of directing. The film proved to be extremely successful, after which he directed all the films in which he appeared. It took him about seven days to make one short film.

After gaining a large fan base, he appeared in a feature film called “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” for the first time in November of that year. As the film was a success, his popularity increased, but his boss did not give him a salary of a thousand dollars a month, as Charlie demanded.

He therefore received an offer from the Essanay Film Company in Chicago for $1,250 per week, as well as a $10,000 bonus, which Chaplin accepted in December 1914. There he met the actress Edna Purviance with whom he made 35 films in eight years, and they were in a romantic relationship until 1917.

After that, Chaplin started investing more time in his films, changed the character of the Tramp, and for the first time in the comedy “The Bank”, the film ended with an unhappy ending, which was an innovation in the film industry. In early 1915, Chaplin became a phenomenon. Souvenirs in his form were sold at every step, and several songs about him were written. He became the first international star in the film industry, and received an offer of 10 thousand dollars a week in the “Mutual Film Corporation”.

Because of that, Chaplin, at only 26, was one of the highest paid people in the world.

Opening your studio

“Mutual” was also given to him by a private studio, which Chaplin opened in March 1916. He made many films for the company, which were very successful, and he often referred to the years in “Mutual” as the happiest period of his life.

Although he was criticized for not fighting in the First World War, although Charlie enlisted in the army in America and England, he was still a favorite person, which could be seen in many imitators, which is why Charlie at one point had to sue them. , because they were violating his brand.

In June 1917, he signed a $1 million contract with First National Exibitor’s Circuit for seven films. As a result, Chaplin was able to build his own studio on Sunset Boulevard, which he opened in January 1918.

He continued to make works of art, mostly war-themed. Some of them are “A Dog’s Life”, “The Bond” and “Sholder Arms”. That year, he also shot the first comedy about the war, despite the concerns of his company, and the project proved to be very successful. After so many good projects, Chaplin founded United Artists in 1919. The company’s setting was revolutionary in the film industry, and it allowed partners, who were all artists, to control the creation of films completely on their own.

Before founding the company, Chaplin married 16-year-old Mildred Harris for the first time, because she was pregnant, and he wanted to avoid a scandal. However, it turned out that her pregnancy was a lie, so the actor had difficulty making movies because of everything.

Finally, on July 7, 1919, she gave birth to a son, Spencer Chaplin, who died three days later. The marriage ended in April of the following year.

Because he wanted to express his pain in the film, nine months later he created “The Kid” in which the Tramp takes care of a four-year-old boy. It was Chaplin’s longest film, as it lasted 68 minutes, and for the first time it was also a combination of comedy and drama. It was published in 1921, and due to its huge success, it was shown in 50 countries three years later.

Charlie then decided to return to England after almost ten years, where he made “The Idle Class”, “Pay Day” and “The Pilgrim”, which was his last short film.

As he had the freedom to make the films he wanted, Chaplin started working on the love film “A Woman in Paris”, in which he did not play the main role, but Edna Purviance. It premiered in September 1923, and was praised for its innovation, but the audience wanted to see it on film, so it failed financially. The actor was disappointed, and soon withdrew the film from the public.

After that, he dedicated himself to filming the comedy “The Gold Rush”. Filming began in February 1924. It cost a million dollars, because he filmed in several locations and with as many as 600 statics, and he also used special effects. It was finally released in August 1925, and became one of the best-selling films in the silent film era in America. He earned five million dollars.

While filming the comedy, Chaplin married for the second time, again for the same reasons as Harris. She was 16 and he was 35, which means he would have been charged with rape if he hadn’t married her. His son Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. was born on May 5, 1925. Shortly afterwards, he had another son, Sydney Earl Chaplin.

However, Chaplin was unhappy in his marriage, and he spent time in the studio so as not to be with his wife, after which she left home in 1926 with her children.

During the divorce, Lita revealed scandalous details about her marriage to the actor, after which the audience demanded that his films be banned in America. To avoid an even bigger scandal, Chaplin gave her $600,000 in compensation, the largest amount in a U.S. court to date.

In January 1928, he made the film “The Circus”, which proved to be successful. On the occasion of the awarding of the first Academy Award, Charlie received a special trophy for his amazing acting and films.

While working on his last film, the first sound film appeared in America. Chaplin was very skeptical, because he believed that sound would divert attention from the art of movement and expression in film. Because of that, he ignored the new technology, and started working on a new silent film. After 21 months of filming, Charlie released City Lights in January 1931.

At that time, silent films were already a thing of the past, but his film was a great success, earning 3 million dollars. This project was later declared his best achievement.

After the film, Chaplin decided to rest, and went on a sixteen-month trip to Western Europe. He also spontaneously went to Japan, where he was almost assassinated. Upon his return to America, he felt very lost, but fortunately, he met a 21-year-old actress, Paulette Goddard, with whom he began a relationship in 1932.

Since he was not yet ready to work on a new film, he wrote a book about his travels, called “Woman’s Home Companion”. After that, he became interested in the problems in the world, as well as politics, which led him to record “Modern Times”. The film did not have a dialogue this time either, but like the previous one, it had background music, which Chaplin composed himself. The film received mixed reviews, and the audience did not adore it so much because of its involvement in politics. Yet today, that film is considered a cult achievement.

“The Great Dictator”

Charlie and Paulette got married during a trip to the Far East, which they went on after the film was released, but they moved away by 1938, although she starred in his next film, “The Great Dictator”. They divorced in Mexico in 1942.

During the 1940s, Chaplin encountered various controversies, and his popularity began to decline. The reason for that was mostly his interference in politics, and many compared him to Hitler, because of the similarities in growing up and physical appearance. So Charlie decided to make a comedy about him, which was extremely risky, and he replaced the character of the Tramp with a Jewish barber. The film was released in 1940, with great publicity.

He used sound for the first time in the film. Although the project was successful, the audience did not like the end in which Charlie himself looks at the camera and talked for five minutes about stopping the war and fascism. The film won five “Oscars”, including those for “Best Picture”, “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Actor”.

In the mid-1940s, Charlie found himself in a major scandal and in court. Namely, the obsessive Joan Barry persecuted him after they broke off their love affair – she stated that she was pregnant. The actor denied it, which is why she sued him. Because the FBI was just waiting for an opportunity to tarnish his name in public because of his political views, he was accused of sexually exploiting Joan, for which he could get 23 years in prison.

Although he was acquitted of that charge, the actor was ordered to pay alimony, because Carol Ann was declared his daughter, although blood tests showed the opposite. Contributing to the controversy was the announcement two weeks after the trial that Charlie, then 54, had married eighteen-year-old Oona O’Neill. The couple remained married until his death, and they had eight children over the next 18 years.

In April 1947, he published “Monsieur Verdoux”, which became the actor’s first critical and commercially unsuccessful film due to his political views. Chaplin was expelled from the stage during the premiere of the film, and the audience demanded his boycott.

Because of the previous scandal, that failure, as well as his desire to speak publicly about politics during the Second World War, Chaplin was called a communist, and his image was completely tarnished in America. The FBI re-launched the investigation, although the actor claimed that he was not a communist, but someone who advocates for peace, but in 1947, the possibility of his expulsion from the country was considered.

Autobiographical film “Limelight”

In 1951, Chaplin made the autobiographical film “Limelight” in which he talked about his childhood, but also the decline in popularity in America. His children, as well as his half-brother, were in it. Since the action took place in London, Charlie decided to do the premiere there as well, so he boarded a ship with a family of 18 members in 1952, and said that he had no plans to return to America.

That also became impossible, since the FBI decided to ban him from entering until he came to talk to them, regarding his political views. This greatly disappointed Chaplin, and he never decided to return, but he did not want to say anything in public, since all his property was in America. “Limelight” was a great success in Europe, but it was boycotted in America.

After that, the actor sent his wife to sell the property they had in America, and in 1953 they moved to Switzerland. She became a British citizen, and he sold shares in his studio, which had been in financial crisis since 1940. However, he remained a controversial figure, especially since he received the International Peace Prize, a World Peace Council led by the Communists.

In 1954, he made “A King in New York”, which critics called his most bitter but also the most open film of his career. The film was released in 1957, and received mixed reviews, mostly because Chaplin did not do well in the role of director in England. The film was shown in America only in 1973.

After his seventieth birthday, Chaplin began processing his films, and America turned again to his work rather than political views, after which his films were praised there again. In 1964, Chaplin published My Autobiography, which became the best-selling book in the country.

He made his last film in 1967, after signing a contract with Universal Picture. The film was in color for the first time, and was called “A Countess from Hong Kong”. The project failed, after which Chaplin could no longer record due to health problems.

Return to the USA

In 1971, he received the honorary award of the Cannes Film Festival, and the following year, for the first time in 20 years, he went to America to receive the honorary award of the Academy, where he received the longest applause in the history of the ceremony, which lasted 12 minutes. He also received the Venice Film Festival Award.

On December 25, 1977, Chaplin died of a heart attack in his sleep. The funeral held two days later was private according to his wishes. On March 1 of the following year, his body was stolen by two thieves, hoping to get a ransom from his wife. However, they were caught in May, after a major police operation, and his body was found buried in the village of Novil. It was returned to the original cemetery, after which it was fenced with concrete.

Thanks for helping the site!



I hope you liked Charlie Chaplin’s biography?

If you have questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments!

For more motivational stories you can visit

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *