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Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent era.
Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona "the Tramp" and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.
His career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death in 1977, and encompassed both adulation and controversy. Chaplin's childhood in London was one of poverty and hardship. As his father was absent and his mother struggled financially, he was sent to a workhouse twice before the age of nine. When he was 14, his mother was committed to a mental asylum.
Chaplin began performing at an early age, touring music halls and later working as a stage actor and comedian. At 19 he was signed to the prestigious Fred Karno company, which took him to America. Chaplin was scouted for the film industry, and began appearing in 1914 for Keystone Studios. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base.
Chaplin directed his own films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the best known figures in the world.
Silent features (1923–1938)
A Woman of Paris and The Gold Rush Having fulfilled his First National contract, Chaplin was free to make his first picture as an independent producer. In November 1922 he began filming A Woman of Paris, a romantic drama about ill-fated lovers. Chaplin intended it to be a star-making vehicle for Edna Purviance, and did not appear in the picture himself other than in a brief, uncredited cameo.He wished for the film to have a realistic feel, and directed his cast to give restrained performances. In real life, he explained, "men and women try to hide their emotions rather than seek to express them".A Woman of Paris premiered in September 1923 and was acclaimed for its subtle approach, then an innovation.The public, however, seemed to have little interest in a Chaplin film without his presence, and it was a box-office disappointment.The filmmaker was hurt by this failure – he had long wanted to produce a dramatic film and was proud of the result – and withdrew A Woman of Paris from circulation as soon as he could.
Chaplin returned to comedy for his next project. Setting his standards high, he told himself: "This next film must be an epic! The Greatest!"Inspired by a photograph of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, and later the story of the Donner Party of 1846–47, he made what Geoffrey Macnab calls "an epic comedy out of grim subject matter."
Tramp is a lonely prospector fighting adversity and looking for love. With Georgia Hale as his new leading lady, Chaplin began filming the picture in February 1924. Its elaborate production, costing almost $1 million, included location shooting in the Truckee mountains with 600 extras, extravagant sets, and special effects. The last scene was not shot until May 1925, after 15 months of filming.
Chaplin felt The Gold Rush was the best film he had made to that point. It opened in August 1925 and became one of the highest-grossing films of the silent era with a profit of $5 million. The comedy contains some of Chaplin's most famous sequences, such as the Tramp eating his shoe and the "Dance of the Rolls". Macnab has called it "the quintessential Chaplin film". Chaplin stated, "This is the picture that I want to be remembered by" at the time of the film's release.
Commemoration and tributes Several memorials have been dedicated to Chaplin. In his home city, London, a statue of Chaplin as the Tramp, sculpted by John Doubleday and unveiled in 1981, is located in Leicester Square. The city also includes a road named after him in central London, "Charlie Chaplin Walk", which is the location of the BFI IMAX.The former Museum of the Movin Image held a permanent display on Chaplin, and hosted a dedicated exhibition to his life and career in 1988. The London Film Museum hosted an exhibition called Charlie Chaplin – The Great Londoner, from 2010 until 2013.
Chaplin's final home, Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, is being converted into a museum to be opened in 2016, exploring his life and career.The nearby town of Vevey named a park in his honour in 1980 and erected a statue there in 1982.In 2011, two large murals depicting Chaplin on two 14-storey buildings were also unveiled in Vevey.Chaplin has also been honoured by the Irish town of Waterville, where he spent several summers with his family in the 1960s. A statue was erected in 1998,and since 2011 the town has been host to the annual Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival, which was founded to celebrate Chaplin's legacy and to showcase new comic talent.
In other tributes, a minor planet, 3623 Chaplin – discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Karachkina in 1981 – is named after Chaplin. Throughout the 1980s, the Tramp image was used by IBM to advertise their personal computers.Chaplin's 100th birthday anniversary in 1989 was marked with several events around the world, and on 15 April 2011, a day before his 122nd birthday, Google celebrated him with a special Google Doodle video on its global and other country-wide homepages. Many countries, spanning six continents, have honoured Chaplin with a postal stamp.
Chaplin's legacy is managed on behalf of his children by the Chaplin office, located in Paris. The office represents Association Chaplin, founded by some of his children "to protect the name, image and moral rights" to his body of work, Roy Export SAS, which owns the copyright to most of his films made after 1918, and Bubbles Incorporated S.A., which owns the copyrights to his image and name.
Their central archive is held at the archives of Montreux, Switzerland and scanned versions of its contents, including 83,630 images, 118 scripts, 976 manuscripts, 7,756 letters, and thousands of other documents, are available for research purposes at the Chaplin Research Centre at the Cineteca di Bologna.The photographic archive, which includes approximately 10,000 photographs from Chaplin's life and career, is kept at the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland.The British Film Institute has also established the Charles Chaplin Research Foundation, and the first international Charles Chaplin Conference was held in London in July 2005.