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|Also Known As:||Charles Spencer Chaplin,Sir Charles Chaplin,Charles Chaplin,Charlie Chaplin||Died:||December 25, 1977|
|Born:||April 16, 1889||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||London, England, GB||Profession:||Cast ... director actor screenwriter composer producer|
nd William Randolph Hearst mistress, Marion Davies. In the mid- to late-1930s, some controversy sprang over whether or not Chaplin had married star Paulette Goddard, though the two were living together for a number of years in the actor¿s Beverly Hills home. Perhaps most troublesome was his brief fling with aspiring actress, Joan Barry, who later claimed that Chaplin was the father of her daughter. A highly public and tawdry court battle ensued that ended with a judge dismissing a negative blood test as evidence and ordering Chaplin to pay for child support. At 54 years old, Chaplin married O¿Neill when she was barely 18 and proceeded to father eight children with her, the last coming when he was 73. Chaplin and O¿Neill stayed together for the remainder of his life.
Almost 20 years after he was effectively exiled from the country that once claimed him as his own, Hollywood welcomed the Tramp back, presenting Chaplin with an Honorary Academy Award amid the loudest and longest ovation in its history ¿ a full 12 minutes when all was told. His speech consisted of a simple ode of thanks for being invited while stating that words for such a moment would seem futile. The frail man of 82, who had long since given up radical politics, also picked up an Oscar the following year for writing the score of "Limelight," which was eligible since it had not played the Los Angeles area before 1972. His final great tribute came when Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1975. With his very name inextricably linked to the very idea of movies, Chaplin¿s stature and legacy only stood to grow following his death on Dec. 25, 1977 after years of declining health that led to diminished speech and the use of a wheelchair. Despite some personal failings and public outcry over his politics, The Little Tramp brought countless joy and sublimity to a world always in desperate need of laughter. Writer James Agee perhaps said it best: "Of all comedians, he worked most deeply and most shrewdly within a realization of what a human being is, and is up against. The Tramp is as centrally representative of humanity, as many-sided and as mysterious, as Hamlet, and it seems unlikely that any dancer or actor can ever have excelled him in eloquence, variety, or poignancy of motion."Tramp and his conflict with "normal" social expectations, forming what might be called the so-called marriage group. "The Gold Rush" (1925), featuring the famous feasting on shoe leather scene, suggested that his striking it rich might make him an acceptable mate, but he was back on the road in "The Circus" (1928) after failing to fulfill the heroine's vision of romance. Audiences rewarded the director's bold move of resisting sound for "City Lights" (1931), proving they would still see a silent film if Chaplin was the star. The fourth-biggest grosser of the year told the story of the Tramp¿s love for a blind flower girl, and though he facilitates the operation that gives her sight, the abrupt conclusion suggests she will not share her life with a lowly tramp ¿ an ending widely considered to be one of the most moving in cinema history.
Silence was the medium in which the Tramp lived, but for "City Lights," Chaplin's concession to sound was providing musical scoring and sound effects. From that point on, he composed the scores for all his sound films, as well as adding musical tracks to silent classics. No longer able to resist synchronized sound, he finally bid farewell to the Tramp in "Modern Times" (1936), allowing him his only talking sequence on film, a jumble of gibberish in the form of a song and dance number. When he took to the road this last time, it was also finally in the company of another, Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's wife at the time, albeit secretly. He had made only four films in 11 years, but his output slowed even further with his final three American films coming in the next 16 years. "The Great Dictator" (1940), his first full-talkie, combined slapstick, satire and social commentary, casting Chaplin in the dual role of a Tramp-like Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel, the Hitler-like dictator of Tomania. In addition to the send-up of Hitler as a maniacal clown, Jack Oakie weighed in unforgettably as Benzino Napaloni of rival country Bacteria, a hysterical take-off of Mussolini. At the time, however, Chaplin courted public controversy for his unorthodox support of a second European front alongside the Soviet army. Still, the film was a smash success and earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor, Best Writing and Best Picture.
The Tramp had been a character of 19th century sensibilities, a leftover from a Dickensian world. But with "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947), Chaplin proved he was firmly in the 20th century with a resonant film of his times. Another political fable, "Verdoux" presented him as a man who marries rich, repellent ladies and murders them to support his beloved wife on an idyllic farm. The startling transformation of their precious Tramp into a murderous Bluebeard turned his once adoring public against him. But his creative expression was right on target for a post-Holocaust world. Equating Verdoux's murderous trade with acceptable professions ¿ munitions manufacturing, stock trading, banking ¿ was clearly years ahead of its time, and its wry humor and pacifist sentiments made it quite contemporary compared to later decades. Under fire for his liberal views in an era defined by Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist tirades, Chaplin released a final affectionate tribute to his art and its traditions, "Limelight" (1952). But because of his public support for a joint front with the Soviets during World War II, he became a target of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, who revoked Chaplin¿s re-entry permit after learning the actor had briefly left the country for his native England. Having never become an American citizen, Chaplin settled with his family in Switzerland, while "Limelight" failed to receive American distribution until 1972.
"Limelight" functioned as Chaplin¿s cinematic swan song. In his most autobiographical and most underrated work, Chaplin played Calvero, an old, drunken has-been comedian struggling for a comeback ¿ a superb commentary on his own fabulous career, one which saw the triumph and decline of the physical comedy he had brought to silent films from the English music hall. For the last time on celluloid, he exercised classic pantomime bits that recalled the Tramp, like taming a flea and imagining himself a great lion tamer. Chaplin's hilarious routine with the great Buster Keaton ¿ the only time the two appeared together ¿ before Calvero collapses and dies is his last significant screen image, a fitting finale to a wondrous career. Meanwhile, public reaction against Chaplin was so rabid that his first European film, "A King in New York" (1957), a slight satire on American consumerism and political paranoia, remained unreleased in the United States until 1973. Chaplin's final film as a director, "A Countess From Hong Kong" (1967), in which he merely made a cameo appearance as a waiter opposite stars Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, was even more disappointing, suffering as had its predecessor at the hands of a low budget, tight schedule and a production team of strangers.
Throughout his career, Chaplin was involved with numerous women, some of who he married; others he did not, while siring a great number of children, particularly with his last wife, Oona O¿Neill, daughter of famed playwright Eugene O¿Neill. He had a longtime affair with aforementioned costar Edna Purviance before he married child actress, Mildred Harris, when she was 16 ¿ a penchant for underage girls he displayed throughout his life. Following the death of their newborn child, they divorced in 1920 and Chaplin moved on to a high profile romance with Polish actress Pola Negri. He next married the 16-year-old actress Lita Grey, with whom he had two sons, while reportedly carrying on with starlet a
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