Thursday, April 16, 2009

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin, the English film director and actor, regarded as the greatest comedian of all time, was born today (April 16) in London, 1889.

Charlie's father died when he was a child, leaving the family in straitened circumstances, and his first regular education was in the school at Hanwell Poor Law Institution. These hard times are often mirrored in the poignant contrasts of humour and sadness which are a feature of his early films. By the age of eight he was a seasoned stage performer, but his skill in comedy developed under Fred Karno. As a member of his vaudeville company he went to Hollywood in 1914 and entered the motion picture business, then in its infancy, making 35 films in his first year.

In these early comedies he adopted the bowler hat, out-turned feet, moustache and walking cane which became the hallmark of his consummate buffoonery in The Kid (1920), The Gold Rush (1924),The Champion (1915), Shoulder Arms (1918), etc.

His art was essentially suited to silent film and, realising this, he experimented with new forms when sound arrived, as in City Lights (1931), with music only, and Modern Times (1936), part speech and part mime.

Eventually he entered the ordodox sound film field with the satirical caracature of Adolf Hilter in The Great Dictator (1940).

In Limelight (1952) he acted, directed and composed the music and dances. His left-wing sympathies caused him to fall foul of the rabid anti-Communist factions of post-war America, and he emigrated to Switzerland the same year. Later, the biting satire of A King in New York (1957) mocked the American way of life.

He was knighted in 1975.

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