Inspiring Stories

Charlie Chaplin

His mother, Hannah – maiden name Hill – was descended from a travelling family. In the 1880s, the Black Patch was a thriving Romany community on the industrial edge of Birmingham. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Charlie Chaplin was a Gypsy from the West Midlands.

Variety first mentioned Charles Chaplin, as he was billed, in his American stage debut, before he had made any films. In 1910, the British-born entertainer was appearing in a revue, “The Wow Wows,” at New York’s Colonial Theater. The review said the 29-minute show was performed in three scenes, describing Chaplin as “typically English,” with a manner that was “quiet and easy” as a group pretends to initiate him into a secret society, but they’re really getting revenge on him. Variety said the show dragged when Chaplin wasn’t onstage, and predicted he “will do all right for America.”

Chaplin created the character of The Tramp, aka The Little Tramp, an optimistic do-gooder in ill-fitting clothes, in a 1914 film, “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” and the character appeared in such classics as “The Gold Rush” and “City Lights.” The Tramp made his final appearance in “Modern Times” (1936), which is basically a silent film, long after talkies had taken over Hollywood.

Among Chaplin’s enduring films are “The Great Dictator,” “Monsieur Verdoux” and “Limelight”; his final film was the 1967 “A Countess From Hong Kong,” starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, with Chaplin in a minor, scene-stealing role.

In 1952, the U.S. government, in the midst of a red scare, labeled Chaplin an “unsavory character,” because of his much-younger wife and allegations that he was a Communist. At a press conference, U.S. Attorney General James P. McGranery said the filmmaker was “a menace to womanhood.” In 1972, Chaplin (1889-1977) was given an Honorary Oscar as a belated thanks and apology. His appearance at the awards show marked his first visit to the U.S. in 20 years, and he was given a record 12-minute standing ovation.

Born: April 16, 1889, London, England
Died: December 25, 1977, Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland (aged 88)

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