Biography: Charlie Chaplin
(April 16, 1889 December 25, 1977)
Charlie Chaplin, who brought laughter to millions worldwide as the silent "Little Tramp" clown, had the type of deprived childhood that one would expect to find in a Dickens novel. Born in East Street, Walworth, London on 16 April, 1889, Charles Spencer Chaplin was the son of a music hall singer and his wife. Charlie Chaplin's parents divorced early in his life, with his father providing little to no support, either financial or otherwise, leaving his mother to support them as best she could. Chaplin's mother Hannah was the brightest spot in Charlie's childhood; formerly an actor on stage, she had lost her ability to perform, and managed to earn a subsistence living for herself, Charlie, and Charlie's older halfbrother Sidney by sewing. She was an integral part of Charlie's young life, and he credited her with much of his success. Sadly, she slowly succumbed to mental illness, and by the time that Charlie was 7 years old, she was confined to an asylum; Charlie and Sidney were relegated to a workhouse (a government facility for orphaned and abandoned children) not for the last time. After 2 months, she was released, and the family was happily reunited, for a time. In later years, she was readmitted for an 8month stretch later, during which time Charlie lived with his alcoholic father and stepmother, in a strained environment.
Charlie Chaplin's first taste of show business
Sidney left home first, working first on a sailing ship, and later on the stage, opening the door for Charlie to follow in his footsteps later. Young Charlie felt more alone than ever without the presence of
his brother, his closest friend and confidant.
However, there was a bright spot as well in
Chaplin's 9th year he toured with a stage
company, the 8 Lancashire Lads, with a kindhearted
couple who led the troupe, and gave Chaplin his
first taste of stage life. He also met a young Stan Laurel as part of the troupe.
At the age of 12, Charlie's father died quite young. At the age of 14, Charlie's mother is readmitted to the asylum, while Sidney is out of town on an
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extended trip. Charlie provides for himself as best he can, desperate to avoid returning to the
workhouse, until Sydney returns home. With Sidney's return, young Chaplin's luck begins to turn for the better. He wins a part in the stage play "Jim, A Romance of Cockney" to glowing reviews. Later in the same year, he earns the part of Billy in a stage adaptation of "Sherlock Holmes," again to sterling reviews, and tours with the company playing that part. The tour continues through the next
year, and Hannah is again released, seemingly in her right mind. All seems to be going well, until Hannah relapses, and is institutionalized for the next 7 years; Charlie is 16 years old.
Charlie Chaplin tours with the Karno troupe, and enters films
Charlie continues in his acting career, as his brother Sidney joins the Karno troupe, again opening the way there for Charlie. Charlie joins the Karno troupe the next year, again working alongside Stan Laurel. Two years later, Chaplin (along with the rest of the Karno troupe) tours the United States' vaudeville circuit. Two years later, in 1912, Charlie returns with the Karno troupe to the USA, but this time decides to stay. The next year, Chaplin leaves the stage to join Mack Sennet's Keystone Films Studio, marking a milestone both in his own life and in the history of film.
Charlie Chaplin's famous Tramp character is born
The pace of film making in early Hollywood seems impossible by today's standards. In just two months, Chaplin appeared in the following Keystone films: Making a Living, Kid Auto Races, Mabel's Strange Predicament, Between Showers, A Film Johnnie, Tango Tangles, His Favourite Pastime, Cruel, Cruel ...
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