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The Little Tramp in a scene of City Lights © Breve Storia Del Cinema | Flickr
The Little Tramp in a scene of City Lights © Breve Storia Del Cinema | Flickr

15 Things You Should Know About Charlie Chaplin

Picture of Andrea Fiorini
Andrea Fiorini
Updated: 30 November 2016
Born in London in 1889, Charlie Chaplin moved to the United States when he was only 14 to pursue his success. It was here that he easily broke into the cinema industry thanks to his lively personality and talent; becoming one of the first comedy geniuses of all time. With his much-beloved character Little Tramp, he is considered to have been one of the best actors and directors of the silent film era. Behind the art, however, there are many curious things you didn’t know about Charlie Chaplin himself.

 

  1. He started performing as a child

Both Charlie Chaplin’s parents were in the entertainment industry. At age five, during a music hall show, he replaced his mother who was suffering from laryngitis, singing his first song Jack Jones in front of a crowd of soldiers. A few years later, he took part in the juvenile clog-dance troupe, working with another famous enfant prodigue, Stan Lauren. This definitely confirms the fact that he was born talented!

  1. He didn’t win a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest

This is an incredible anecdote from the life of the actor. In 1915, Charlie Chaplin took part in the ‘Charlie Chaplin Look-A-Like Contest’ in San Francisco. He didn’t win the competition, but he did make third place. The judges said he wasn’t as similar to Charlie Chaplin and the audience didn’t recognise that he was the real one!

  1. He was the first actor to appear in Time Magazine

Charlie Chaplin was the first actor ever to appear in Time Magazine in the 6th July 1925 issue. The magazine is famous for its influential and controversial covers and this was a big step for the actor.

  1. He was a great musician and composer

Charlie Chaplin composed the music for many of his own movies, despite never having had proper music training. In fact, he wasn’t even able to read or write music sheets. He also composed the music for his movie Limelights, which gave him the chance to win his only Oscar!

  1. He became richer than the president of the United States

During this time, the president of the United States was paid $75,000 per year. In 1916, after Chaplin signed a contract with the Mutual Film Corporation of New York, his payment was increased to $670,000 per year, making this one of the highest payments ever seen.

  1. He refused the Talkies

Becoming one of the most iconic representatives of silent cinema, Chaplin refused to adopt audio and dialogue for his latest movies, while sound technology in the film industry was witnessing an incredible rise. He continued with his own idea of cinema, convinced that sound would ruin the Little Tramp. However, he gradually introduced music and other sounds as a device in his movies City Light and Modern Times. In 1940, The Great Dictator was the first and only full sound movie to be produced by Charlie Chaplin.

 

  1. He never became a citizen of the United States

Charlie Chaplin never became an American citizen, despite having lived in the United States for almost 40 years. After the movie Modern Times, he gained a reputation as a communist sympathiser. In 1952, the U.S. government revoked his permit, meaning Chaplin was not allowed to return to the United States after a holiday to England. As a result, Chaplin moved to Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life – and only returned to the United States in 1972, to accept his honorary Oscar.

  1. He had four younger wives and 11 children

Charlie Chaplin’s first marriage was at the age of 29 with his first wife, 16-year-old Mildred Harris, in 1918. After their divorce, in 1924 he married the actress Lita Grey, when she was also 16. When the actor was 47, he married his third wife, Paulette Goddard, who was 28 years old. His fourth and final marriage was with 18-year-old Oona O’Neill in 1943, when Chaplin was 54. She gave birth to 8 of the 11 Chaplin children, and they lived together until Chaplin’s death.

  1. He saved Disney

In 1937, Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, its first feature-length animated movie. Walt Disney was unsure about the possible accomplishment of the movie, but Chaplin believed in this project and encouraged Disney to complete and distribute Snow White. Chaplin was confident about the huge success of the movie. They became business associates and Charlie Chaplin played an important role in the spread of Disney’s name.

  1. He had blue eyes

The audience had always believed that Charlie Chaplin had brown eyes. This is due to the black and white cinema era; most people were not able to recognise that Chaplin had fabulous blue eyes!

  1. He knew Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was a guest of honor during the premiere of Chaplin’s movie City Lights in Los Angeles on the 2nd February 1931.

  1. There is an asteroid called Charlie Chaplin

When Lyudmila Karachkina discovered a main-belt asteroid on the 4th October 1981, four years after the death of the actor, she decided to call it 3623 Chaplin. Not many actors can say they have had the same honour!

  1. His daughter interpreted his mother in his film biography

In 1992, Geraldine Chaplin portrayed the role of her grandmother Hannah Chaplin in the movie Chaplin, the adaption of the actor’s life.

  1. He met Gandhi in London

On the 22nd September 1931, Charlie Chaplin met the pacifist leader in Canning Town, East End Dock — one of the poorest London boroughs — before Gandhi attended a conference.

 

  1. He only received a star on the Walk Of Fame in 1972

The only time Chaplin returned to the United States after his exile was in 1972, when he finally received his first Oscar and a star on the Walk of Fame. The project to give him a star had begun 20 years prior to release, but was initially refused due to his political views.