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Charles Chaplin - 8/14
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Charles Chaplin Profile

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977) was born to music hall entertainers in London and, with his older half-brother Sydney, danced for pennies on the streets during his hard-knocks childhood. At age 17 Charlie joined a comedy troupe that toured the U.S., where he was spotted by Mack Sennett and hired for his first film, Making a Living (1914).

After creating the wistful, naive character of Charlie the Tramp, Chaplin emerged as the best-loved screen clown of all time in a series of silent comedy shorts, first for Keystone and then for the Essanay and Mutual production companies. In 1918 Chaplin joined First National and, the following year, co-founded United Artists. His first full-length film was The Kid (1921). In 1929, at the first Oscar® ceremonies, he was given a special award "for versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus (1928).

Despite his enormous success in the U.S., Chaplin was plagued by political and moral controversies and moved to Switzerland in 1952. In 1972 he would win another special Oscar® honoring his lifetime achievements. In 1975 he was named a Knight Commander of the British Empire.

Among Chaplin's triumphs were The Gold Rush (1925), a Yukon adventure that timelessly blends comedy and pathos and is considered by many to be his masterpiece; Modern Times (1936), a look at the machine age that mixes brilliant slapstick with its social commentary; The Great Dictator (1940), a daring satire of Adolf Hitler and Chaplin's first full talkie; and Limelight (1952), a touching story of love between an aging music-hall clown (Chaplin) and a beautiful young ballerina (Claire Bloom).

by Roger Fristoe

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